How to build a wellness strategy that works for you
Have you ever explored the wellness perks, benefits, and discounts included with your health insurance plan or your employee benefits package? This can be a great place to start building a wellness strategy to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. If you get your insurance through work, ask your benefits specialist what wellness-focused benefits are available through your plan.
Another place to check for these benefits is on your health insurer’s website. Many have a section of the website devoted to wellness and offer tools to help you assess your current health and wellbeing. Look for online resources offering information on everything from healthy eating and exercise to living with chronic pain or staying healthy while being a caregiver. You may also find free or discounted services like online nutrition coaching, mental health and counselling services, gym memberships and exercise programs, and the support of an advocate or care navigator.
The building blocks of your wellness strategy
Not everyone will want to focus on the same areas when creating a personalized wellness strategy. The first step is to think about the main categories of wellness and decide which ones you’d like to work on. Those categories include:
- Stress management
- Mental wellness
- Social connections
- Digital wellness
You’re more likely to stick to your strategy if you don’t try to tackle everything at once. Pick two or three areas or habits you’d like to work on first and start small. For example, add a cup of vegetables or fruit to two meals a day, take a 15-minute walk four or five days a week, or set aside 5 minutes each night before bed to destress with breathing exercises, meditation, or journaling.
Here are some thoughts to help kickstart your wellness strategy building:
- Nutrition: Consider adding more whole foods to your daily diet, for example fruit, lean meats, nuts, legumes, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. Cutting out highly processed foods like commercial baked goods, chips, candy, cured meats, sugary drinks, frozen and boxed dinners, and sugar-added cereals and yogurts can help you manage your blood sugar and cholesterol and lower the risk of developing a wide range of chronic health problems. A health advisor can connect you with a registered dietitian who can help you build your healthy eating plan.
- Activity: Being active doesn’t mean you have to run 5 miles or do heavy weightlifting. Any activity can have a positive effect on your physical and mental wellness, whether that’s working in your garden, social dancing, taking a walk with a friend, or riding a bike. If you find it’s tough to be active on a regular basis, pair up with friends and family members and do the activity together or engage in a little friendly competition to see who logs the most active days per week.
- Stress management: It can help to start by identifying the sources of your stress. Some you can’t avoid, but there may be things that are adding to your feeling of being stressed that you can mitigate. Parents can trade off time watching each other’s children so everyone gets some down time. Rather than spending hours on housework on the weekend, do one or two smaller chores each day during the week and free up some time to relax and recharge on the weekend. Learn to say no thanks to new tasks when you’re busy, overcommitted, and stressed. Try to build some stress management activities into every day—10 minutes of yoga after work, listening to music or reading, or talking with a friend.
- Sleep: Many of us don’t get enough sleep or enough good quality sleep. We have some great tips for better sleep in these two posts.
- Mental wellness: If you’re living with anxiety, depression, substance or alcohol use disorder, ADHD, an eating disorder, PTSD, or any other mental health issue, talk with your primary care provider and ask for a recommendation for a mental health provider with experience treating people with the issue you’re experiencing. There are also online counselling resources you may want to try. Check with your health insurer to see what options they offer or ask your primary care provider for a recommendation.
- Social connections: Isolation and loneliness not only impact your mental health, they can also have a negative effect on your physical health. Try to arrange a regular get together or call with friends or family a few times a week. Ask a co-worker to join you for lunch or a walk. Volunteer with a community organization or at your place of worship. Join a hobby group like a book club or tabletop game club.
- Digital wellness: Your phone, tablet, and computer can be invaluable tools. But like anything, moderation is key. Take some time to think about how social media is affecting your mental health. Are you too wrapped up in your online game and missing chances to connect with the people around you? Are your eyes almost always on your phone? Set aside some digital free time every day and step away from your devices about an hour before bed for better sleep.