Heather earned her MS in Health Sciences at The University of Memphis, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and currently works at Hutchison School teaching wellness and training athletic teams.She loves Friday pizza & movie night with her husband and kids, the Smoky Mountains, and yoga. She hates body shaming. And she will be joining us monthly to talk about wellness for the next six month!
It’s Sunday morning. Last week I missed a field trip permission slip deadline, pretended not to notice the wrinkles in school uniforms that were left wadded in the dryer for 2 days, sent one kid to school with an empty lunchbox, and twice dropped kids off after the late bell rang. I have no real groceries in the house, but I remember the muffin mix that has been in the cabinet for roughly 15 months. It’s my morning to redeem my motherhood. The anticipation of the adoration that will soon beam from my children’s eyes builds as I gather the kitchen equipment, and then read the instructions on the back of the box.
“Aw, FFFFFFFFFFUDGE!” (Except I didn’t say “fudge”.)
“Eggs!!???? AND milk???!! Seriously??” Basic ingredients I didn’t have.
My husband looks up. It’s not his first rodeo. He lets out a resigned sigh, and without saying a word, puts on his shoes and heads to Kroger.
He knows the muffins won’t work without all the parts. Neither will wellness.
Let me first define what I believe wellness to be. It’s a trendy term that’s thrown around a lot these days, and sometimes feels as though no one knows what we’re talking about. I define wellness as living in a mindful manner by which one makes daily choices for the purpose of increasing happiness and fulfillment and decreasing illness and disease.
In essence, practicing wellness is how you make yourself awesome.
A few years ago, I made a shift from my long-time career as a personal trainer to a holistic wellness educator. As a trainer, I noticed that my clients were strong and in good cardio condition, but that many weren’t completely well. Some of my clients seemed more tired, sick more often, lacking in fulfillment and motivation, and generally less awesome than I knew they could be. I realized that exercise, in and of itself, did not make a person well. What was missing? My exercise and workout principles were sound, and my clients were long-term and consistent. What was I missing as a trainer, coach, and educator?
I realized our scope of wellness needed to broaden drastically.
I believe the crux of why health and wellness does not “work” for so many people is because we’re trying to make the wellness mix without adding the other essential ingredients. It turns out, the back of the box tells us that, in addition to exercise, you will also need:
- Ample sleep
- Good nutrition
- Stress reduction
- Time management
- Life balance
All of these components are equally important in the wellness mix, and if one is missing, it throws off everything else. Many of my personal training clients practiced some of these elements of wellness, but not all, which is why they never seemed completely well to me.
These essentials of wellness apply to everyone, ages 2 to 92. I realized I needed to teach how each of these components impacted the others, and vice versa.
- If adults or children don’t get adequate sleep, then they won’t have the energy to exercise or play, and will be more likely to choose sugary foods for energy…
- If adults or children don’t eat nutritiously, then they won’t perform well in school or work, which can lead to stress…
- If adults or children have high levels of stress, then sleep and clarity to manage time suffers…
- If adults or children don’t manage time well, then all elements of wellness are impacted: we stay up too late completing tasks or homework, we grab fast food for dinner, we “have no time” for exercise or to participate in activities that balance our life…ALL of which increase stress and perpetuate the cycle of UNwellness.
We can’t just focus on one component and expect to be fully well. It just doesn’t work that way.
If you are starting on your wellness journey, then what aspect would I suggest beginning with?
You were expecting me to say “sign up for a Couch-to-5K program” or “start eating kale chips,” weren’t you? Nope!
Somehow sleep has become devalued, optional, and even considered a waste of time in our culture that seems to place busyness as a top priority. Without enough sleep, all other necessary parts of wellness seem insurmountable. Just ask any parent with a baby in the house and they’ll remind you…
There’s nothing like the anguish you feel from getting only 3-4 hours of sleep the night before.
Don’t even think about starting an exercise program until you are disciplined to get enough sleep consistently. Don’t expect good grades or pleasant demeanor from your kids unless you help them by prioritizing their sleep as highly as you would feeding them dinner.
Especially as we head into “flu season” (a.k.a., lack of sleep and excess sugar season), try making sleep a non-negotiable priority in your family this month and notice how much healthier and happier you and your kids are!