How Can We Stay Well at a Time Like This? Addressing the 8 Dimensions of Wellness - Week 2
The 8 Dimensions of Wellness
Last week we started our series on the 8 dimensions of wellness. As a quick review, the 8 dimensions of wellness are (in no order) social, emotional, financial, occupational, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and environmental dimensions (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Some of the aspects of the 8 dimensions include:
Social: community, friendships, socialization
Emotional: feelings/emotions, exercising self-care, reducing stress
Financial: work, financial health (checking/savings accounts; retirement), debt
Occupational: work-life balance, work relationships, vocational accomplishments
Spiritual: beliefs, practices (meditation, prayer)
Intellectual: education, personal interests, intellectual conversation
Physical: a healthy body (nutrition, physical activity, sleep, routine health maintenance)
Environmental: home/work environment, changing scenery, caring for our earth
We went over the social and emotional dimensions last week. This week, we’re going to work to gain a deeper understanding of the financial and occupational dimensions.
The Overlap of Financial and Occupational Wellness
As one could assume, the financial and occupational domains are interconnected in many ways. For many of us, our occupation is directly correlated with our finances. But there’s so much more to these domains than just a job and money. The overlap of the financial and occupational domains leads us to ask ourselves questions like:
Does our job allow us to pay our bills and meet other obligations?
Does our job provide us the resources we need to participate in activities we enjoy?
Are we working in a field that we really enjoy?
How does our chosen career impact our overall wellness?
If we’re not working or if we are disabled, do we have enough resources to independently support ourselves?
Outside of our actual vocation, financial wellness allows us to:
Save for things that are in line with our goals such as our first home, a vacation, or our retirement
Plan for emergencies so we can be prepared for the unexpected
Avoid fees (such as overdraft fees) from our financial institution
Avoid debt or manage debt by planning to pay it off
When we are looking at financial wellness, simple things like regularly balancing a checkbook have big benefits. Balancing our checkbook helps us see where our money has gone and prevents us from over drafting our account (and paying astronomical fees). Finding a high interest savings account is another straightforward way to allow our money to work for us. Having emergency savings is so important to help us avoid a catastrophic outcome if the car needs repairs or the heating unit needs to be replaced. Of all the things we can do to enhance our financial wellness, however, having a budget is probably the most beneficial (as well as being the one requiring the most time and commitment). A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive as many people believe it to be. Instead, a budget is the way you tell your money where to go instead of your money telling you where it’s going. It's a plan for your financial future. There are many free financial budgeting tools available to help you successfully track your income and expenses.
Paying off debt is another valuable way to improve our financial well-being. The options for paying off debt are many and it can feel overwhelming at times. If our debt is manageable and we can chip away at it, we can begin to pay it off in several ways. We can “snowball” it by setting a budget and paying off the smallest debt first. Once we have paid the smallest debt off, we take the money we were paying toward the first debt and apply it to the second smallest debt. Another way to pay off the debt is by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, thereby saving us money in the long term. If we find that our debt is unmanageable and we are unable to keep up with it, we have the option of seeking assistance from a reputable credit counselor. This blog post from Experian highlights ways you can find a reputable counselor and provides helpful information as well as red flags to avoid:
Financial wellness has been found to be closely tied to mental and physical health. A 2013 metanalysis completed in the UK identifies a cross-correlational relationship between unsecured debt and depression, suicide, substance use disorders, self-reported poorer health, long-term disability, chronic fatigue, back pain, and a poorer overall quality of life (Richardson, Elliott, & Roberts, 2013). This research highlights the vital importance of good financial health not only for our wallet but also for our mind and body.
We addressed some of the areas of the vocational domain above when we discussed financial wellness. Our occupational domain stands apart from vocational wellness in several ways. Wellness in the occupational domain permits us to:
Form relationships with coworkers – we spend an average of 30% of our lives at work so it’s natural to form relationships with your coworkers
Achieve balance between our personal interests and our vocational activities
Find meaning and purpose in our work
Experience a sense of accomplishment and achievement in our lives
Contribute in a positive way to our work environment (our gifts, talents, and knowledge)
Achieving occupational wellness means that we engage in a career (or volunteer work) that fits with our values. Our vocational activities offer us satisfaction and stimulation. Part of achieving vocational wellness might mean changing jobs if we are not experiencing a sense of satisfaction with our current job, if our current employer doesn’t respect our time away from our job, or if we are in a toxic work environment. A toxic work environment has been linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety as well as difficulty sleeping and somatic symptoms so finding a work environment that aligns with your values is critical to your mental health (Cleveland Clinic, 2022)
On the other hand, if our vocation isn’t offering us the sense of satisfaction we are looking for, we might want to consider changing career paths altogether. It’s not always easy to change careers but it happens more often than we might think. When we’re considering a change in our career, it’s important to consider what we want from our vocation. Setting some goals around our career can help us explore our options and solidify a path forward. Northwestern University’s (Northwestern University, 2022) student affairs division has a great webpage with some goals to consider:
Think outside the box – we should challenge gender career norms and stereotypes as well as any other barriers that limit our career options
Explore our interests, skills, preferences, values and needs and choose a career that reflects these
Develop effective job-related skills – remember when we discussed our social domain last week? We talked about how wellness in the social domain allows us to enhance our communication skills, practice conflict resolution, establish healthy boundaries, and develop emotional resilience. It turns out that all these skills are important to our vocational domain, as well (see how the domains are all interconnected?).
A significant part of vocational wellness is finding balance between our vocational activities and our personal lives. Wellness in the vocational domain means we are scheduling time for leisure activities such as spending time with friends, practicing self-care activities (meditation, massage, prayer or other spiritual activities, vacations, etc.), or just relaxing at home with an enjoyable book. This work-life balance is critical to our overall sense of well-being.
In part 3 of our series, we will address the spiritual and intellectual domains of wellness. For this week, I challenge you to consider your wellness in the financial and vocational domains. Find one of two areas of these domains you want to address and decide to improve these areas. This might mean you set your budget for the rest of the month, or you look at your work-life balance. Doing one thing this week to enhance your financial or vocational wellness will pay off in the long run, resulting in lower stress and improved overall well-being.
As a final thought, if you are struggling to cope and need professional help, please seek it out. If you’re not sure where to go and you’re in the United States, SAMHSA has a hotline you can call to find services in your area:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
This is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service providing resources and helping connect you to mental health and substance use disorder services (available in English and Spanish). You can also visit the SAMHSA service locator online:
As always, if you’re in crisis, call 911 or visit your local emergency room for a mental health screening. Other resources for mental health support are available, as well:
~ 24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network - call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
~ Crisis Text Line - Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
~ Veterans Crisis Line - Send a text to 838255
~ The Trevor Project (LGBTQ youth focused) - 1-866-488-7386
~ SAGE National LGBTQ+ Elder Hotline - 877-360-LGBTQ+ (5428)
~ RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
~ National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline - 1-866-331-9474