We have been discussing wellness. In Part 1: Wellness Awaits Each of Us, Why Is That Only Some People Choose It?, we examined three insights – Pain, Perspective, and Purpose. In Part 2: Wellness Awaits Each of Us, Why Is It That Some Don’t Choose It?, we explored three underlying explanations – Needs, Norms and a New Normal, and Network of Enabling. In Part 3, we will conclude this series with another important wellness question.
As do many other individuals, I believe that wellness is a journey. For those of us who have chosen to travel its path, we find ourselves working our programs or processes on a daily basis. There is no question – it is hard work! And, it is worth it. At times, however, many individuals working their wellness routines find themselves in relationships with loved ones, friends, family members, co-workers, etc. who are traveling a different path – one of unhealthiness. Today, we are going to explore…
While others await wellness, how do we embrace a restorative response?
When we begin embracing a restorative response by implementing healthy practices in order to safeguard our well-being, it is important to note that there is risk involved. Unhealthy individuals may interpret our boundaries or healing actions in a negative way or be offended by them. They may even feel judged by us. As we make changes in our relationships with them, they may distance themselves from us, express anger toward us, and create their own alliances with others. We must remember two important principles in wellness: 1) We are responsible for ourselves and for our health. 2) If and when we compromise our healthy ways of being to please or placate others, we start down a path of unhealthiness. How then do we embrace a restorative response while others await wellness? Let’s get started.
A restorative response is built around self-care – doing what we know to be good for us!
Self-care is an extremely broad topic which can apply to a myriad of situations or circumstances. We are going to break it down into four restorative steps which specifically address how to take care of ourselves when others are not in a healthy place.
Step One: Silence the noise or voices around us.
When an individual’s unhealthiness is causing chaos, confusion, unrest or any type of interference with our well-being, it is extremely important to silence the noise or voices around us. It is not uncommon, especially in families or other institutions/systems that involve large numbers of individuals, for the fallout of dysfunction from one individual to spill over into the lives of others. This, in turn, creates additional turmoil. In order to regain a healthy perspective on our current healing reality, we must begin our self-care with stillness and quiet. Implement the following:
- Give yourself permission to detach from the noise or voices.
- Give yourself as much time as needed.
- Communicate respectfully and firmly to others of your need to detach.
- Expect resistance or anger. Prepare self-care statements in advance.
- Remain detached until you are clear on your boundaries (next steps).
Being still isn’t about pushing others away. Being still affords us the time and space to protect our wellness path.
Step Two: Self-assess by determining how you feel and what you need.
It is natural for feelings of guilt or over-responsibility to start creeping back into our minds, especially if family, friends, or co-workers exhibit unhealthy attitudes or behaviors in response to Step One. Therefore, it is important to self-assess as soon as we have silenced the noise or voices around us. Because writing, journaling, or informal brainstorming help in clarifying our thoughts and feelings, I highly recommend the following:
- Get on your computer or get out some paper. Begin by writing down how you are feeling. Are you mad, resentful, sad, other? Don’t hold back. Get those feelings out!
- Next, write down why you are feeling this way. Who or what has contributed to these feelings? Describe the specific behaviors that interfere with your healthy ways of being.
- Lastly, write down what you need in order to take care of yourself. These needs provide the foundation for your self-care. Take your time. Be very specific.
Over the holidays, I was feeling stressed and over-whelmed by several crisis situations in my family. Even after a healthy attempt at intervening in one situation, matters became more complicated and chaotic. I knew that once I returned home, I needed to silence the noise and the voices running rampant in my head. I needed to pull away from the intense communications flowing through the family. I did so by respectfully communicating to others my need to detach for a period of time. I then began sorting through my feelings. As I spent time reflecting and writing, I was surprised at my level of grief. It just kept surfacing, time and time again. And so, I determined that I needed additional quiet time to process my sadness. I did just that.
Self-care requires examination of what is jeopardizing our wellness. Self-assessment provides the necessary tools for effective inventory and intervention.
Step Three: Selective investment into people.
After we have silenced the noise and determined our needs through self-assessment, we then must shore up or set up healthy boundaries to safe-guard our health. When there are other individuals in our lives who are not choosing wellness, we must carefully examine how and to what degree we are investing into them and/or if we should continue investing in them at all. Although this may sound strange to some, we can choose to invest selectively into people. In other words, we can put boundaries around our investments into others. Because there is much to say about boundary work, for now I am going to provide you with three criteria to consider when implementing selective investment. (*Note – see below). Ask yourself and answer the following questions. Again, I encourage you to write down your truths as you continue down your path to wellness.
- How much do I want to give of myself in this relationship, system, or environment?
- How much do I want to give away of my resources in this relationship, system, or environment?
- After my last investment in this relationship, system or environment – What did I learn from it? What worked well for me? What didn’t? How did I feel? What am I going to do differently next time?
- Lastly, do I need to discontinue this relationship altogether?
Once all the questions are thoroughly answered, begin acting upon these new boundaries – begin implementing selective investment. This is no easy task; it takes hard work and persistence. However, the feelings of renewal are well worth it!
Last summer, I had lunch with a teacher friend of mine. I will call her Claire. We taught high school English together for several years. After I retired from teaching, she took over the Department Chair position – a stressful job indeed! As we talked, Claire shared how depleting and demanding running the English department had become. After three years of dealing with incredible conflicts regarding policies, unruly personalities, and insubordination on multiple levels, Claire stepped down from her leadership role. However, in order to take care of herself, Claire also began investing selectively into her relationships with her co-workers. Claire carefully monitored the amount of time she spent at the lunch table where many of the toxic conversations took place. She removed herself from gossipy small-talk and refrained from attending TGIF’s or other group gatherings where negativity flourished. As for staff meetings, Claire carefully selected her seating, participated in positive ways, and left when the meeting concluded. Although Claire was deemed unsociable and aloof by a few of her colleagues, she remained committed to her wellness. As Claire described, “Holli, it doesn’t matter what they think of me. I know how much better I feel, and I am enjoying my teaching so much more. I never realized how unhealthy the environment was until I stepped away from it and stopped investing into it.”
Our degree of investment into others is a predictor of degree of wellness – either positive or negative. Selective investment affords us the healing alternative of managing our own emotional portfolio.
Step Four: Surround ourselves with healthy support.
Lastly, in embracing a restorative response, it is important that we surround ourselves with healthy support. Although this includes individuals who nourish our spirits and/or who are like-minded in their wellness journeys, it is important to think about places, hobbies, interests, and events which contribute to our sense of well-being. Again, I suggest spending time reflecting upon and writing down whom or what you want to invite and integrate into your well space. Keep a pulse on how you are feeling and what you need as you make decisions which support your self-care.
I remember my friend Claire sharing with me that in support of her self-care she re-embraced a past love – playing her piano. She dug out her music, began taking lessons again, and spent hours practicing, feeling refreshed and renewed with every note.
Healthy support nourishes our spirits and our souls. It re-centers and re-focuses us on our wellness paths.
In closing, it is important to remember that for many of us who have chosen to travel a path of wellness amidst an environment which is contrary to what we embrace, we can often feel alone and we may even question our own direction. We must remember that we, too, are on a journey. By looking back and seeing how far we have come, we can rest in knowing our road ahead is filled with peace and promise. We can trust our truth – it is well with our souls.
* Note – For more information on boundary work and selective investment, please refer to “Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition Chapter 9- Revive and Restore
Publisher’s Note: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”