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Since my personal tragedy in December 2020, I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and overall wellness.
While I never thought of doing anything to harm myself because of the sheer intensity of grief, I did—for a period of time—go to bed every night hoping I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.
I didn’t think this was something out of the ordinary. But my friends freaked out and, for a while, I had a few who would check in on me every day.
All that talk about grief and loss led me down the path of examining my mental health and well-being. Going to therapy really helped me make sense of my grief. I’ve also learned that dealing with loss sometimes feels like a full-time job. I have to manage it every single day. Some days are good, while others, not so much.
I’ve also learned that I have to learn to live with grief for as long as I am alive. That’s just how it is.
That’s when I started to read more about overall wellness and found that there are six pillars to a person’s well-being:
>> Physical wellness
>> Sense of community
>> Heart health
>> Financial stability
>> Sense of purpose
>> Spiritual well-being
I did a quick survey of these six spaces in my own life, which helped me understand where I am right now, what I need to work on, and what aspects of wellness I’m succeeding at. I genuinely recommend that you do the same for yourself.
I think I’m in better physical shape now than ever. I recently took a picture of myself wearing the exact same pair of jeans and shirt from well over a decade ago, and not only did I fit into the pants and the top, but I looked happy in both. I’m older in 2022, obviously, but happier with where my body is at.
I also remember how physically weak I used to be in my teens and 20s. I’m definitely stronger now and building my stamina every single day. I eat better. I work out. But the flip side is that I don’t sleep well anymore. Back in the day, I was one of those whom others envied. I could easily sleep for 10-12 hours, and even an earthquake couldn’t wake me up. Yeah, well, that ship has sailed. Insomnia runs on my mother’s side of the family, and as I get older I’m moving away from the health benefits of my dad’s side of the family (who all sleep 10 hours a day well into their 80s!). These days, I get a few hours of sleep a night, if I’m lucky. I’m learning to deal with the mental toll this takes on a person, but overall, I give my physical wellness a solid B+.
Sense of Community
Again, I feel better here than ever before. I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of extended family and friends, many of whom I didn’t reject when I was younger but did ignore a bit. It’s the arrogance of youth…you think there’s time. And then December 2020 happened and I realized that there really isn’t much time at all. Life changes quickly and suddenly, so we have to live every day as if it’s our (and everyone else’s) last.
I’ve gotten better at keeping in contact with those I’d lost touch with. I’m also committed to giving back to my community of choice as much as I can. Working two full-time jobs and writing every spare second means I’m not able to volunteer, but I’m generous with my money. For now, that’s going to have to do. When it comes to my sense of community, I give myself a B.
When it comes to my physical heart, I try to eat right and work out in moderation, as too much working out can also be lethal to the health of your heart. And since heart problems are hereditary in my family, I try to watch out for my blood pressure and sugar intake.
As for the metaphorical health of my heart? Well, that’s a different story. The loss I experienced less than two years ago has left me heartbroken—still. The grief, which hollowed out a part of my heart, hasn’t healed. Sometimes, the heartbreak feels physical and tangible and real. As much as I try to take care of it—therapy and time with friends help—this is a long process; and while I know I’m putting my heart through a lot, it’s something I have no control over. Again, I’m a work in progress. I give my heart a solid B.
This one has always been a high priority for me. Since I was young, it’s been important for me to be financially stable and independent. Given my creative ambitions, my financial ambitions ended up taking a backseat in my 20s, but I eventually figured it all out. Better late than never!
When I finally started focusing on my financial well-being, I realized I needed to hustle like hell and save every penny I could spare. I’m not too sure what a financial planner would think of my finances, but just for effort and understanding why financial wellness is key to my life, I give myself an A-.
Sense of Purpose
Man, I was such a purposeful person in my teens and 20s. I was driven and had so many goals and ambitions. I’ve said this before, but I wanted to win an Oscar—that’s how lofty my goals were. The reality of life meant that as I got older, my goals and purpose shifted. In fact, I’m no longer as anal about having a purpose in my life. Some days, just waking up and putting one foot in front of the other feels like a big win.
But I’m also intentional about my life. I realize that it needs to have meaning. That I’m too old to not give a sh*t about issues. The more I learn about unfairness and discrimination, the more I try and speak up. I give back to two causes closest to my heart: women and children. I’m passionate about the issues that impact them, and I have a clear sense of purpose about what to do for those causes. I also root for the underdog and throw my might toward them when I can. Again, just for sheer effort and care, I give myself a solid B+ here. But I know I can do better.
I’m not big on meditation or yoga or Pilates. I’d much rather binge-watch a TV show than sit on a meditation cushion. I’m too distracted and have too many thoughts in my heart to really take a moment and destress. But I still think I’m a fairly spiritually content person. I just think we all find our spirituality in different things. I find it in travel. I find it playing with children—I’m the only one who will happily babysit children of any age just for the pleasure of their company, zero money required. I find it sitting on my bed with my blanket and my laptop, sipping hot Indian chai and watching a favorite TV show (“Bosch” for now). That de-stresses me.
But for the grief that’s taken a spot in my heart, I’m happy for the most part. I feel fulfilled—or I’ve made my peace with the path my life’s taken. Some may call it settling. I call it choosing fulfillment and wellness over angst. I’m still 99 percent agnostic with an intrinsic hope that God exists. I pray when I can, without expecting anything back. And I feel like I have my spiritual well-being pretty well nailed down, which is why I’m giving myself an A.
How about you? Did you find this list helpful? How did you grade yourself? Let me know in the comments below!