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A Look at Whole Health

Back up a few years and the big idea in health and wellness was “balance.”  We were all trying to find this elusive, equal balance in our lives without a strategy for how to accomplish it.  Between work, family, personal time and service, it felt like a daunting task and sheer will power to improve didn’t seem to work.  Personally, I felt like a constant failure in the balance game.  How on earth was I supposed to have equal time for myself when there was work to be done, kids to be fed and a house to clean? Apparently I wasn’t the only one struggling with this concept.

Since then, we’ve taken the idea of trying to find this equal balance in life and we’ve developed it into a realistic, understandable and measurable goal.  This idea is called “Whole Health” and it encompasses your whole being but breaks it down into the specific areas of Mental, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, and Relational.

When someone asks you, “how healthy are you?” chances are, you think of one or two areas that stand out for you.  Maybe you are going to the gym five times a week and training to run a 5k. To many people, and possibly yourself, you might be considered “healthy.” But what if, while you are killing it at the gym, you are completely lacking emotional growth and don’t have empathy for the world around you? Or what if you spend all your leisure time reading self-help books and listening to podcasts on how to increase your mental health, but in the meantime, you aren’t physically in shape and your relationships with your friends, family or co-workers are on the rocks?

Whole Health takes a look at each key area of your life and challenges you to get real about the health of each of those individual areas.  If you are like me, it’s so much easier to work on the areas that you are already successful in.  But, if you look at each section of your life like a video game, you might see that you only have 10% health in one of your key life areas. If that’s the case, it may be time to change part of your focus and build up your health in your weak area before you are caught off guard and life takes you out in an unsuspecting moment, or dare I say challenging time period, like a pandemic for instance.

So how does one determine the health of each area and then work on building their Whole Health?  Well for starters, you have to be willing to be honest with yourself. If you pause and truly think about it, you probably already know what your weak areas are.  Mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, relational.  Which of those areas do you avoid?  Which areas would you say you aren’t sure how you’re doing in or you already know you’re flat out barely surviving?

When I began my personal Whole Health journey, and agreed to be honest with myself, I had to admit that while I find it easy to press into emotional, mental, and relational health, I was feeling a bit upside down with some of my spiritual theology and my physical health was barely hanging on.  So what did I do about it?  Well, like any good Enneagram 2, I rationalized how exhausted I was from helping others, “which is why I struggled with my health and I simply did not have time to go get in shape.” But then I paused and checked my motives for why I was listening to even more podcasts on emotional health and figured I better practice what I preach to my clients.  Leaders don’t just lean on their natural talents.  They chose to press into the hard and stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones. While I was eating healthy, and taking my vitamins and daily thyroid medications, I was ignoring the fitness piece of my physical health.   Then the ‘ole fear of failure voice started whispering in my ear, “You’re too far gone.  You’ll look like an idiot at the gym.  You appear healthy on the outside but now everyone will know your dark little secret.  You’re out of shape, sister.”  Well shoot.  I had a decision to make.  Was I going to ignore the truth and keep growing my already strong sections of my life or was I going to humble myself and actually tackle the area that was sending distress signals?  Well I wouldn’t allow myself to be a hypocrite.  I can’t coach others if I’m not willing to do the work myself, right?  So the truth is, I got committed and I’m working on it.  Am I “slaying” it at the gym?  Nope. Not yet.   But that’s not my goal.  Instead, I’m committing to going three times a week.  I start out each time by walking at a brisk pace with a steep incline for 12 minutes and then go lift some light weights for about 30 minutes.  When I can do that without heaving, I’ll step up my game.  Progress, my friends, is my goal.  And I’m happy to say my little “health distress” signal is no longer blinking “empty” for that area of my life.  The goal here is not to be completely balanced in all areas, but rather avoid being completely off kilter.  I may never choose to put in the time to be as strong physically as I am relationally, but my personal goal that I’ve set is to make sure I keep my physical health, including my fitness, more of a priority in my life. These are my personal goals and must be set by each of us as individuals.

Maybe you’re like me or maybe you’re already in great physical shape but you honestly know, when you get real with yourself, that you are struggling in a different area.  Are you anxious, angry at God, or lacking empathy?  When’s the last time, you stopped telling someone to suck it up and keep going and instead just sat with them when they were sad?  Maybe you don’t even know that sadness is just as valid as joy.  If that’s the case, go grab yourself a kombucha, sit down and watch the 2015 Pixar film, “Inside Out.”  Being honest with yourself about each area of your life and evaluating the health of those areas is the first step.

Next, and this is for those who decide they are ready to tackle their Whole Health, it’s time to start digging in.  You can work on your own to read, listen and practice growing in your areas that are weak.  There are many great resources out there for each area if you are willing to put in the time.  You can also hire a leadership coach to help you through the process.  If you choose to go through the Integre Leadership program, you will have help to accurately determine and rate the strong to weak areas of your life, develop S.M.A.R.T. goals for how to grow your weak areas and have coaching and support along with attainable growth challenges throughout your journey toward Whole Health.

Whichever route you take, start with getting real with yourself and then lead well, through choosing to be vulnerable and getting outside of your comfort zone.  Be brave and tackle your weak areas and then feel the peace and fulfillment that comes from living a “Whole Health” life.

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