From young adults to Olympic athletes, anyone can experience challenges with their mental well-being. Talking about mental health can be difficult — add the stigma that society attaches to poor mental health and it can often prevent a person from seeking out the help they need.
When gymnast Simone Biles announced she was stepping back from competing in the 2021 Olympic finals because of her mental health, it showed others that when our mental wellness is out of balance, we can’t perform to the best of our ability.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be damaging to both our physical and mental health. Stress, uncertainty and fear caused many of us to experience decreased well-being and increased distress. But the more aware we are of our mental health, the easier it can be to focus on the areas in which we may be struggling — and ultimately help restore balance.
Finding balance when you feel overwhelmed
“Between social media, news updates and our daily routines, it’s easy for many of us to quickly feel overwhelmed,” says Dr. Michael Roubicek, LCSW, Clinical Psychologist with the Fresno Bariatric Program.
“In those moments when we start to feel overwhelmed, we really need to stop for a second, breathe and think about what can we control in that moment. Focusing on what we have control over will help decrease those negative feelings of panic and worry and help us to start balancing other parts of our overall well-being.”
Roubicek works with bariatric patients at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, helping them prioritize mental health throughout their weight loss journey.
“It’s important to understand that if [anyone is] going through a life-changing event — whether that’s bariatric surgery or maybe a big change in your family,” Roubicek continues, “you need to remember to also look at other parts of your life in those moments to make sure you balance everything in your wellness wheel accordingly.”
What is a wellness wheel?
The wellness wheel is an illustrated wellness model that is made up of eight areas, or dimensions. The dimensions on the wheel are interconnected and each is important to maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the eight dimensions of our wellness wheel are:
Emotional wellness involves being able to cope effectively with the difficulties of life, being emotionally aware and having healthy relationships with yourself and others. People with healthy emotional wellness are confident, have control over their feelings and behavior and have good coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult situations.
Spiritual wellness is about having a sense of purpose and meaning in life that revolves around your personal beliefs and values. Spiritual health can involve a connection with nature, self-reflection, meditation, prayer and more. Being spiritually healthy means you have strong values, a feeling of inner peace and meaning in life.
Intellectual wellness is about exercising the mind, learning new things and expanding upon your knowledge and skills. Being intellectually healthy can help you with mental growth, which helps with your concentration, memory and critical thinking skills.
Physical wellness involves eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, doing enough regular physical activity and preventing and managing illness and health conditions. Not being physically healthy can lead to numerous health problems or diseases. Developing a healthy lifestyle and making healthy choices will improve your overall wellness.
Environmental wellness refers to being in a nurturing and healthy environment as well as having awareness and respect for the environment around you, which can greatly impact how you feel. For example, people who live in countries that have a lot of rain and cloudy days might suffer from seasonal depression which can affect their emotional health, social health, spiritual health and possibly more. Having a positive environment around you, as well as doing your part to take care of the earth, will help you to feel overall more fulfilled.
Financial wellness refers to being financially literate, in charge of your finances and responsible with your money. Struggling with finances and having an unsettled financial situation is a problem that can cause a lot of stress to you and your family. Organizing your finances in a financial planner is one way to stay on top of your money. Having ongoing awareness of your current financial situation and future financial plans can help improve your everyday life.
Occupational wellness involves having a fulfilling and enriching occupation — whether that be professional or academic work. A common cause of stress for many Americans is their job and the demands that come with it. Having a work-life balance is extremely important to your overall health and wellness. The first step to achieving this is having a job that you enjoy and are passionate about. It is also important to have a positive work environment and be surrounded by people who support you and your goals.
Social wellness involves having a strong support network, feeling connected to other people and having a sense of belonging. Feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected from others can lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes. Healthy relationships we make with family and friends are essential to our wellbeing, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Prioritizing mental health
“Understanding and prioritizing our mental health is like a balancing act,” says Roubicek. “But if we stop and take time to find that positive balance in our wellness wheel, we’ll ultimately find ourselves with a more positive quality of life.”