In my opinion, we do not find health in a vacuum. There’s no way to live life as a complete well “being” if the various pieces of our lives are not well. So what does this mean? Well, let’s look at two figurative examples:
- Nurse Jane goes to the gym three times a week. She loves to jog, bike, and swim. On her days off you might find her hiking in the mountains or walking her dog in the park. One of her favorite things to make is an avocado-egg white-tomato sandwich on whole wheat toast. Oh yes, and top it off with an easy-peesy kale and berry smoothie! However, Jane has been having trouble at work. She is easily distracted, forgetting medications and physician orders. Jane’s co-workers cannot understand why she can’t seem to remember her on-call shifts and where she is when it’s time to count the narcotic drawer.
- Nurse Steve is one of those guys who “ doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.” He helps out whenever he can. He is always on time. Steve is present, mindful, and calm. He never seems to get upset and no one on the unit can remember if they ever saw Steve show any negative emotion. Steve is very peaceful, grounded, and patient. But Steve does have some troubles. His coworkers are worried about his weight and blood pressure. They’ve offered him healthy snacks and encouraged him to take a walk during break times. But Steve just seems content eating his fast food and surfing the web at lunch. His teammates are worried about his physical health and how much longer he can keep up his unhealthy habits.
Two very different nurses. Two interesting and diverse scenarios. In the first example, a nurse enjoys exercise and healthy eating, but her mental health is in shambles. In the second example, a man exudes healthy mental and emotional health, but doesn’t spend time, effort, or energy on his physical well-being. Neither one of these pictures is an image of HEALTHY.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” ~World Health Organization
Just because someone is skinny or appears fit does not make them healthy. If you see someone working out long hours at the gym and eating well, but partying and abusing substances on the weekends, they are not an image of total well-being. If a nurse does really well on the job and is everyone’s favorite teammate, but the personal life pieces (physical health, relationships, financial health, mental/emotional health) are falling apart, s/he is not healthy either.
We’ve got to take care of ourselves–our total selves. It’s all about balancing the parts within the whole. Balance can be a nerve-wracking word. Many people get uncomfortable when they hear it or they tend to disagree, arguing that real ‘balance’ is never fully possible.
On one hand, I agree: the pendulum never stops swaying. On the other hand, balance is what we all must strive for in order to achieve total and holistic wellness.
So what can we do?
- Be easy on ourselves. If you don’t get to work out every single day, or if you’re unable to cope with every single stressor, it’s OK. You’re human. At times you’ll have more space for healthy choices. At others, you just have to stay afloat. Putting less pressure on ourselves creates an environment of greater health.
- Do one thing at a time. I know we are nurses and we want to multi-task, but multi-tasking doesn’t work. Research has shown that when your attention is split between two or more tasks you are less efficient and effective at any one of them. Same goes with our health. Pick one area to focus in on and make changes there first. Don’t try to tackle healthy eating, exercise, and meditation all in one day!
- Follow your energy. Do what excites you first. Pick the healthy options that you find fun and enjoyable. Being healthy shouldn’t feel like work. Make it easier on yourself by doing what you want to do. When you follow your energy you’re more likely to get it done. You’re more likely to have success!
In what other ways have you been able to successfully balance all that it takes to be healthy? How have you been able to be well in multiple aspects of your life: physical, mental, emotional, social, financial, relational, career, and/or spiritual? I’d love to hear from you!
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