In this column I’ll introduce Reorganize, the fifth, and final level of defense against stress in my Five R’s of Coping Model. Reorganize is a lifestyle-based based approach to conquering your stress that revolves around developing high-level health and wellness to make you more hardy and stress-resistant. As you’ve seen in the first four levels of defense, to cope with stress effectively you need a lot of energy and resources. High-level health is your greatest source of coping resources.
Your health is more than just a state of being. This is an old way of viewing created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1947, over 70 years ago. WHO defined health as “the state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease.” Viewing health as a state of being is a static way of assessing how well you are doing. If you went in for a physical today and had a bunch of tests run you could get an evaluation of the state of your health. It doesn’t take into account if this state is an improvement in your well-being or a sign that you are headed down the path to illness.
Your health really exists on a continuum from low-level wellness to high-level wellness and covers more than just physical, mental, and social well-being. Wellness is a conscious and deliberate approach to life that focuses on balancing the seven dimensions of well-being (physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, environmental and occupational) as you strive for optimal functioning. All seven dimensions can work together to build a more stress-resistant lifestyle for you. Here is a quick run-down of the seven dimensions of wellness.
Your physical well-being isn’t just about how you look. It is really about how well your body performs its intended functions. It provides the energy your body and mind need to carry on all basic functions from movement (walking, lifting, carrying, etc.) to digesting the food you eat. It also provides the energy you need to cope with stress whenever it arises. While part of your physical well-being is influenced by your genetic inheritance, the majority of it (nutritional status, fitness level, body composition, etc.) can be enhanced by your daily health habits.
Your intellectual well-being involves your mind’s ability to process information effectively to solve problems and grow as a person. It includes issues such as creativity, spontaneity and openness to new ways of viewing situations. All of these intellectual traits can help you conquer your stress and can be developed and enhanced at any age.
Your emotional well-being involves being mindful of your feelings, accepting them and co-existing with them (bringing them along for the ride) as you meet your goals and live a values-based, purposeful life. Understanding and managing your emotions are key components of conquering your stress and can be enhanced despite your past mental and emotional problems.
Your social well-being involves being connected to others through various types of relationships and being part of a community. This community includes both formal (official membership criteria) and informal (open to all) networks that can be built and strengthened at any point in your life. Your social networks and connections can help you prevent potential stressors from creating stress in the first place.
Your micro-environment, the one most related to managing your stress, revolves around your home, neighborhood, school and worksite. This environment greatly affects your overall health and personal safety, as well as your stress. You can uncover the keys to building a more stress-resistant micro-environment that will provide you shelter from the storm of outside stressors.
Your spiritual well-being is based on a sense of interconnectedness with something beyond yourself. The belief can be secular or religious. It can be in a higher power, creative force, divine being or infinite source of energy. It can also be in another person or persons, animals, all living things or the universe itself. All forms of spirituality manifest themselves through a connection to something greater than yourself. You can use your spiritual strength to become more stress-resistant and overcome challenges that require resources beyond personal ones.
Finally, your occupational well-being involves issues related to work-related wellness. Occupational well-being encompasses everything from the safety of your particular work-site to the nature of your career. Worksite well-being includes physical (air, water, physical plant, machinery, etc.) and social (relationships with coworkers, management, health & wellness facilities and activities, etc.) factors. You can take personal steps to make your place of work more stress-resistant.
Remember: High-level wellness is your greatest defense against stress. It will give you the energy and coping resources you need to prevent many threats (potential stressors) from ever becoming actual stressors that trigger your stress response. It also gives you the energy and skills you need to eliminate or cope with your stressors and break your stress response cycle. Lastly, high-level wellness will help you bounce back from the effects of stress, refocus and get your life back on track.
Reorganize, as a line of defense against stress, is based on improving your level of well-being across all seven dimensions of your health. It focuses on using hardiness to create a more stress-resistant lifestyle. You can build hardiness through the daily practice of hardy health practices, such as regular exercise, connecting with friends or improving your spiritual practices. Practicing hardy health behaviors daily is habit forming. Once your hardy health behaviors become habits, they become the central part of a more stress-resistant lifestyle.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll never be stressed again, but I can assure you that you will stress less and live more if you practice hardy health habits daily. Over the next several columns I’ll take you through each of the seven dimensions of health and show you how to build hardy health habits.
Until the next time remember to Stress Less & Live More.
Dr. Rich Blonna is an expert in understanding how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. He is the author of several stress self-help books and courses and the popular college textbook, Coping With Stress in a Changing World 5th Ed; McGraw-Hill Publishing. He is a retired Professor Emeritus from William Paterson University in New Jersey. For over 25 years he has devoted himself to helping people just like you stress less and live more. www.drrichblonna.com.