Achieving Wellbeing During Uncertain Times

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The coronavirus pandemic has caused much uncertainty, stress and worry over the past few months. Even as businesses have begun to reopen and certain restrictions have been relaxed here in New York, there is still much uncertainty stemming from the imminent election, social unrest and the continued ripple effect of the COVID-19 virus on all aspects of our lives. Further, what is extremely inconvenient is the reality that our bodies do not handle stress very well.

Stress’ impact on both physical and mental wellbeing is well documented with symptoms such as headaches, depression, insomnia, weakened immune system, heartburn, high blood pressure and fertility problems – not a pretty list. What is one to do? After all, most the recent stressors listed above we have very little control over, and they are only recent additions thrown on top of all the other pressures many were already feeling from complicated relationship issues, raising kids, and career decisions, just to name a few. So, what can be done?

Thankfully, while we may not be able to eliminate all our stressors, there are certainly steps we can take to achieve or maintain personal wellbeing, even amidst so much uncertainty, keeping at bay the nasty symptoms list mentioned above.

Identify the Stressors

Achieving personal wellbeing begins with being honest with ourselves about the concerns causing our stress.  Perhaps you are new in your marriage and you haven’t wanted to admit that it’s not going as smoothly as you thought it would go.  Or perhaps you just changed jobs, but you don’t want to face the reality that it’s not meeting the expectations you had going into it.

Taking the time to sit down with a pen and paper and writing down your thoughts on each aspect of your life (relationships, social concerns, employment, financial health, missed goals, etc) will go a long ways toward developing a game plan to re-claim a positive and optimistic outlook on life.

Develop a Plan of Attack

For each concern you identify, ask yourself and record your thoughts on the following questions:

1. What do I need to take personal accountability for (i.e. letting myself stay up too late, buying too much junk food, eating out too often, bringing work stress home, having unrealistic expectations from those around me).

2. What are my current expectations for each of these? Are they realistic? What concessions to these expectations could I live with, at least in the short term?

3. What is my plan of attack to close the gap from where I am today and where I want to be in the short term and long term? Be sure to include realistic milestones that will help you measure your progress.

4. Review whatever you are comfortable sharing about from your notes with a trusted confident(s) that knows you well, requesting their honest input. Be sure to not be defensive and keep in mind you asked them to share their honest opinion.

5. Consider if there are any items on your list that you should review with a trained professional or counselor.  A good place to start would be your employer’s employee assistance program (EAP), a counselor from your place of worship, or often there are counseling resources provided through local non-profit organizations for specific concerns such as abusive relationships or addictions.

Elevate Your Heart Rate on Your Terms

This is the dreaded “remedy” for many of us, but exercise is scientifically proven to directly combat both many of the physical conditions we encounter as well as the symptoms we experience specifically attributed to stressors in our life. The reason for this is that physical activity provides a healthy outlet to release the “fight or flight” hormones being produced by our bodies and causing the unpleasant symptoms. Not only does exercise pump out the bad hormones, exercise also pumps endorphins, or “positive feelings” hormones, into our bodies. As you can imagine, this exchange is extremely beneficial to our bodies in reducing or eliminating the stress-induced symptoms mentioned earlier.

Exercise doesn’t have to include running marathons or turning into a gym rat. In fact, you should be intentional about setting attainable goals and starting “small” when it comes to exercise. Often, we think we are in better shape than we are and so the early attempts at exercise often leave us discouraged when we see how quickly winded we are or how sore we are the next day. For that reason, start small and ease into it, but have a plan for growth and turning up the intensity dial as you progress. The beginning is always the hardest, but if you can develop a consistent routine, it will become much easier! Consider some of the following ideas for exercise:

1. Walking your neighborhood or at a local mall

2. Running or biking on a scenic path near you or purchasing a treadmill or stationary bike and television for your basement

3. Gardening – maybe you weren’t a gardener previously, but there’s no reason you can’t become one to motivate yourself to get outside and chase away those pesky weeds!

4. Golf nine holes (without the golf cart)!

5. Kayaking – Upstate New York has many hidden gems between its state parks, finger lakes and numerous streams!

6. Dancing / Home Workouts – There are many online resources, some paid and many free, such as Fitness Blender on YouTube with varying degrees of intensity and targeted areas of focus.

What is Your Wellbeing Plan?

The times are certainly challenging but the one silver lining in all of this is that everyone is in the same boat; you are not alone! There is no better time than the current to decide what needless “noise” you can eliminate from your daily routine and what steps you can take to get your mind focused on your plan of attack for improving your personal wellbeing. Whether it’s having that conversation you have been putting off or beginning an exercise routine, an improved disposition and better health is right around the corner.

About the Author

Ben Lewis resides with his wife and four kids in Rochester, NY where he has lived since coming to Rochester for college in 2001.  After completing his Bachelors of Science in Mathematics at Rochester Institute of Technology in 2005, Ben went on to work at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield where he developed insurance rates for large fully insured and self funded employers.  During these years Ben also obtained his MBA in Finance from RIT.   With industry experience coming from a variety of rolls in finance, benefits consulting, marketing and even a brief stint as an HR Benefits Manager, Ben joined Consiliarium Group as a partner in April, 2019.  Brought on as the Strategic Healthcare Practice Leader, Ben’s responsibilities include heading up the Self Funded business unit, vetting emerging healthcare technology or vendor solutions, and championing the marketing efforts at Consiliarium.  

Ben’s ambition is to help employers empower individuals to pursue personal well-being by working with HR and Finance teams to employ smart, sustainable benefit solutions that meet individuals where they are at and simplify the journey for where they want to go.  When individuals are informed and empowered to become better consumers of healthcare, the results make it a win for everyone.