Good health is not merely the absence of physical illness. True health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being. "Wellness" takes this holistic concept of health and applies it to all dimensions of a person's life: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and occupational. Finding a healthy balance between these different dimensions of our lives is not always easy, and achieving true wellness is a lifelong journey.
When there is discord or lack of balance in the different areas of our lives or within ourselves, it may manifest itself in any of a number of symptoms, conditions or disorders. Here are a few to be mindful of:
Anxiety is the most common form of mental disorder and affects more than 23 million Americans each year. It includes: generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety is usually accompanied by a sense of fear or foreboding. Anxious people may feel easily startled, get sudden fears that something bad will happen, worry excessively, or exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviours. They may also experience physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, or trembling.
There are effective treatments for people with anxiety disorders. Generally, psychiatrists prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and medication. In addition to antidepressants and other drugs, psychiatrists also treat people with anxiety disorders with specially designed anti-anxiety medications.
Clinical depression, one of the more common categories of mental illnesses, is a serious brain disorder that affects the way nearly 19 million American adults feel, think, and interact. In contrast to the normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, clinical depression is extreme and persistent and can interfere significantly with a person's ability to function. People with depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Depression cannot be willed or wished away.
Finding the right treatment for depression can be as difficult as convincing someone that they need help. However, clinical depression is one of the most treatable of all medical illnesses and most people with depression can be treated successfully with antidepressant medications, "talk" therapy (psychotherapy), or a combination of the two. Experts agree that successful treatment also hinges on early intervention. And early treatment increases the likelihood of preventing serious recurrences.
Most people experience stress in some shape or form at different points in their lives. There are different types of stress, each with its own characteristics, symptoms, duration, and treatment approaches.
Acute stress is the most common form of stress; it comes on quickly but is not usually long-lasting. We are usually quite aware when we're experiencing this type of stress and tension (e.g. major deadline coming up, we suddenly lose our house keys, miss the last bus, etc.).
Episodic acute stress is apparent in those individuals that are always in a hurry, always late for appointments, always overtaking the other cars on the road. They take on too many responsibilities, and their interpersonal relationships can suffer. They may be ceaseless worriers and be prone to having aggressive personalities.
Chronic Stress is the most serious form of stress. Stressors (real or imagined) are experienced almost every day, perhaps for years, and the overexposure to stress hormones wreaks havoc on body and mind. This is the kind of stress induced from dysfunctional marriages and family life, chronic financial problems or poverty, job and career dissatisfaction, etc. Individuals suffering from this type of stress almost never realize the effect it has on their lives and hence do not often address it as an issue or seek the treatment they need.
Take a Stress Assessment (Mayo Clinic)
While we often tend to focus on our physical health or appearance, it is important to recognize the many other facets of our being human and pay attention to how our thoughts, goals and daily schedules are affecting both our physical and mental well being. If you recognize elements of stress, anxiety or depression in your life, or struggle with low self-esteem or body image issues, make a committment to investigate them further and address them. There are many tools, resources and health care professionals available and most importantly, there is hope. You owe it to yourself to create and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle which is satisfying and rewarding, and in so doing, enjoy the best "you" possible!
APA Help Center (Health & Emotional Wellness articles)
from the American Psychological Association
Mayo Clinic Stress Center
(iFred) International Foundation for Research and Education
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Canadian Mental Health Association
HeretoHelp (Wellness Module)