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This is a condensed excerpt of the chapter on health and well-being from the new book Evidence-Based Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Nursing and Healthcare: A Practical Guide to Success. Click here for free access to the full chapter through 02/15/2020.
Although nurses, other clinicians, and healthcare leaders take great care of others, they often do not prioritize their own self-care.
Burnout and depression now affect over 50% of clinicians in the United States and compromise the quality and safety of healthcare, as nurses and physicians who are experiencing poor mental and physical health are at greater risk of making medical errors. A recent national study of over 2,300 nurses from 19 healthcare systems throughout the country found that depression was the leading cause of medical errors. In this study, nurses who reported poor mental or physical health had a 26% to 71% higher likelihood of making medical errors. It is critical that healthcare leaders and clinicians prioritize their own self-care so that they can achieve optimal health and well-being for themselves, support a high level of wellness in their staff, and deliver the highest quality of safe care to others.
The Nine Dimensions of Wellness
Taking time each day to monitor and attend to your own well-being can have multiple rewards for you, from physical to emotional and financial health and well-being.
Presented here is an overview of the nine dimensions of wellness, designed to start you on your journey toward optimal well-being. Each dimension of wellness is vital and interconnected. Just as you are told by a flight attendant to place an oxygen mask on yourself first before you put one on your child, you cannot take good care of your family, your staff, or your patients unless you first prioritize your own health and well-being and engage in good self-care.
Physical wellness is not just limited to exercise; it includes healthy eating, engaging in regular preventive care and health screening, proactively taking care of health issues that arise, and sustaining healthy lifestyle practices on a daily basis. Focusing on self-care now will have lasting positive effects on your long-term health and well-being.
Emotional wellness includes the ability to identify, express, and manage the full range of your feelings. It also includes practicing techniques to deal with stress, depression and anxiety, and seeking help when your feelings become overwhelming or interfere with everyday functioning.
Financial well-being includes being fully aware of your financial state and budget, and managing your money to achieve realistic goals. When you analyze, plan well, and take control of your spending, you can make significant changes in how you save, spend, and feel. Almost three in four Americans surveyed in a recent American Psychological Association (APA) study (2015) said they experience financial stress. Financial stress can affect your physical and emotional well-being. According to the APA, high levels of financial stress are associated with an increased risk for ulcers, migraines, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, and may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as binge drinking, smoking, and overeating.
Just as a flexible body indicates physical health, a flexible mind indicates intellectual health. When a person is intellectually healthy, he or she has a value for lifelong learning; fosters critical thinking; develops moral reasoning; expands worldviews; and engages in education for the pursuit of knowledge. Any time you learn a new skill or concept, attempt to understand a different viewpoint or exercise your mind with puzzles and games, you are building intellectual well-being. Studies show that intellectual exercise may improve the physical structure of your brain to help prevent cognitive decline.
Engaging in work that provides personal satisfaction and enrichment and is consistent with your values, goals, and lifestyle will keep you professionally healthy. After sleep, we spend most of our time at work, so ask yourself if your work motivates you and lets you use your strengths or abilities to their full potential. Burnout, stress, and dissatisfaction at work should prompt an evaluation of your career wellness. Even if you cannot change where you work right now, you can change your approach to the stressors and challenges you face at work.
Social wellness can be defined as our ability to effectively interact with people around us and to create a support system that includes family and friends. Evidence shows that social connections not only help us deal with stress but also keep us healthy.
A review of more than 100 studies of the benefits of the arts (music, visual arts, dance, and writing) found that creative expression has a powerful impact on health and well-being among various patient populations (Jacobs, 2015). Most studies agree that engagement in the arts decreases depressive symptoms, increases positive emotions, reduces stress, and, in some cases, improves immune system functioning.
Creative wellness means valuing and participating in a diverse range of arts and cultural experiences to understand and appreciate your surrounding world. Expressing your emotions and views through the arts can be a great way to relieve stress. Do not let self-judgment or perfectionism get in the way. Allow yourself creative freedom without worrying about whether you are doing it well, and take time to appreciate the creative efforts of others.
Increasing awareness of your surroundings can improve overall well-being. Being environmentally well means recognizing the responsibility to preserve, protect, and improve the environment, and to appreciate your connection to nature. Environmental wellness intersects with social wellness when you work to conserve the environment for future generations and improve conditions for others around the world. Research has demonstrated that green space, such as parks, forests, and river corridors, is good for our physical and mental health. Your environment is not limited to the great outdoors though; it also includes everything that surrounds you—your home, your car, your workplace, the food you eat, and the people with whom you interact.
Spiritual wellness is largely about your purpose, not religion. You can seek spiritual wellness in many ways, including quiet self-reflection, reading, and open dialogue with others. A spiritually well person might explore the depth of human purpose, ponder human connectedness, and seek answers to questions like, “Why are we here?” Spiritual wellness includes being open to exploring your own beliefs and respecting the beliefs of others.
Protect and Cultivate Your Health and Well-Being
Changing your wellness habits is not easy; it typically takes 30 to 60 days to make or break a new habit. Setting goals for your well-being can make a significant positive difference in your life and in the lives of others. When trying to make changes, set SMART goals: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Most people are not successful with their health and wellness objectives because they set goals that are unrealistic. For example, if you only exercise for 15 minutes, twice a week, do not set a goal to exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week. A more realistic goal is 15 minutes three times a week or 20 minutes twice a week.
- Nine Dimensions of Wellness: Optimize Your Personal Health and Well-Being - January 16, 2020