Editor’s Note: This is a 3-part blog covering the eight dimensions of wellness:
- Part 1 covers an introduction to wellness and Physical Wellness
- Part 2 covers Emotional Wellness, Spiritual Wellness, and Social Wellness.
- Part 3 covers Environmental Wellness, Occupational Wellness, Financial Wellness, and Next Steps
This blog series discusses the idea of health and wellness in the workforce and how a healthy workforce means employees are more resilient and adaptable to change. In Part 1, we introduced the concept of the eight dimensions of wellness and detailed the first of those dimensions: Physical Wellness. In Part 2, we continued to unpack the dimensions by discussing Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Social Wellness. If you have a chance to go back and read the first two parts of this article before continuing on, we recommend it.
Environmental wellness involves creating a safe and healthy environment that generates positive feelings and emotions. This can be achieved by reducing exposure to stressors and creating a peaceful and comfortable living space. By creating a positive environment, individuals can reduce stress and improve overall wellness. Ideas to consider improving environmental wellness include:
- Try to live life more naturally. Replace chemical cleaning products with more natural alternatives. If finances allow, purchase an air purifier to reduce allergens and improve air quality. Open your windows to get fresh(er) air.
- Get outside! Many studies have shown that simply spending time outside in a safe place lowers blood pressure, enhances our immune system function, reduces anxiety, and improves our mood (Robbins, 2020). That is undoubtedly an incentive to get outside more! A whole body of research is dedicated to studying the outdoors on our bodies, called ecopsychology. Trust the professionals. We need to get outside more.
- Scroll responsibly (#SorryNotSorry). Perhaps an unpopular opinion here, but that’s ok…we need to limit our screen time and social media scrolling. Screens, in general (especially those that emit blue light), can affect sleep, create brain fog, and increase the risk of obesity. Using screens for social media and scrolling often has devastating effects on our mental health. Limit your scroll and remember not to compare someone else’s highlight reel to your reality.
Occupational wellness involves finding fulfillment and satisfaction in one’s work. This can be achieved by pursuing a career that aligns with one’s interests and values or by finding meaning in one’s job. If you are a first responder reading this or have a loved one that is a first responder, you probably know how much work can impact mental health. While we cannot control the calls for service or organizational stress, we can control our response and initiative to increase our own occupational wellness. Here are some ways to increase occupational wellness:
- Seek training and education. By increasing your knowledge and skill in a multitude of areas, you become a more desirable employee – for your current organization and others, should you go elsewhere. Be a sponge and soak up new information and ideas every chance you can. Also, it’s ok (and encouraged) to immerse yourself in viewpoints that differ from your own. What a boring life we would live if everyone we knew agreed with everything we said, thought, and believed. By actively seeking different perspectives, we foster an open mind and an overall sense of curiosity.
- Be a cup-half-full type of person at work. Awful day/month/year/decade? Awful supervisor/colleagues/calls? Find one good thing or aspect in the challenging or painful situation(s). Perhaps that last reporting party (who was about as pleasant as a cactus in a swimsuit) will make you appreciate nice people more. Or the last few hardships have highlighted your perseverance and strength. Turn your pain into a purpose, your bad days into strength-building days. Finding a silver lining will promote resilience and the ability to adapt to future challenges.
- Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy. Sit down and really reflect on things you do at work that you enjoy. Maybe you are a problem-solver and derive satisfaction from solving complex tasks or cases. Perhaps you are a people person and enjoy being with your work tribe. Regardless of what you enjoy, and no matter how small, try to do more of that each day!
Financial wellness involves managing one’s finances in a responsible and sustainable way that lessons stress around money situations. Financial stress can be a significant risk factor for suicide, as individuals may experience feelings of hopelessness and despair when facing financial difficulties. By managing finances responsibly and seeking help when needed, individuals can reduce financial stress and improve their overall wellbeing. Here are some ideas to boost financial wellness:
- Find a way to budget in whatever way is easiest for you. Options include pen and paper, app, Excel spreadsheet, whatever works for you. Write down all your sources of income for an average month. Now write down all your expenses and bills for an average month (this might require you to go back and add up how much you spent eating out, shopping, going to the movies, etc.). Now look at both figures…are you spending more than you make? What areas can we be better in, and how can we apply that to this month? Use this information as you set limits in your budget. Develop a zero-based budget by giving every dollar an assignment and track your spending. Don’t look at budgets as a bad thing…budgeting is the best way to live within our means and accomplish financial goals.
- Add up your debts (minus your mortgage). All of them. Sounds stressful, but it is important. It might sting at first (maybe you’ve never known how much debt you have), but once we have a baseline of our current financial situation, we can make a game plan for the future. Be sure to include everything – credit cards, store cards, student loans, car loan amount, IRS debt…all of it except the mortgage. Next, list each debt from smallest to largest, regardless of the interest rate. Be encouraged to work hard and attack each debt from smallest to largest. Finance guru Dave Ramsey calls this the “debt snowball.” From a psychological perspective, when we see success or traction (such as paying off our smallest debt and getting it out of our lives), we will find the motivation to continue and attack the next debt.
- Get used to using cash or debit only. Relying on credit makes it hard to get ahead. Even if you swear you are one of those that pay off the debt amount each month. Try to live without debt—bonus points for using cold, hard cash. From a psychological standpoint, when we pay for goods and services, we have an immediate pain response which is balanced with the anticipated benefits of the received purchase. Using cash increases our brain’s pain response, and using a card decreases the brain’s response (Raghubir & Srivastava, 2008). A reduction in pain means we are more likely to spend.
Next Steps: Recognizing and Applying the Dimensions in the Workplace
The overview above can be applied to better identify where there might be gaps in the offerings and needs of organizations in enhancing employee wellness. Recognizing the intersection of health and work is fundamentally important to improving employees’ lives, which impacts their overall productivity and effectiveness on the job. Poor wellness can lead to absenteeism, decreased job performance, and even job loss. All these adverse effects of poor health and wellness can lead to significant repercussions for the individual, their organization, peers, family, and the community. Prioritizing wellness in the workplace is not a simple item on a checklist. Establishing an organizational culture that promotes wellness requires education, resources, and genuine attention to the eight dimensions. Through consistent communication about the value of working toward a life of wellness and building an awareness of what it means to consider the whole person, organizations can play a critical role in improving the lives of their employees. This article is the first of a series that will describe and explain ways to enhance and sustain wellness in the workplace.
About the Authors
Stephanie Kiesow, M.S. is a writer, author, speaker, and law enforcement veteran. Stephanie worked for three police agencies on the Central Coast of California during her 16 years of service and served as a contract worker for the Alcoholic Beverage Control, Police and Fire Dispatcher, and Police Officer. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the California State University at Channel Islands and her Master’s Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Liberty University. Stephanie also holds many certifications from various organizations, including ones that involve psychological autopsies.
In 2022, Stephanie left her job as a police officer and now helps departments and corporations increase organizational safety and wellness through anecdotal and science-backed methods. In particular, she emphasizes the impact of “workicide” and its importance in suicide prevention and postvention. Stephanie has been a contributing writer for a handful of organizations and has been invited to speak as a guest on several podcasts. When not writing, teaching, or presenting, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband and young sons and taking care of her beloved dogs, cats, and chickens.
Erin Craw, Ph.D. earned her doctorate in communication from Chapman University in Southern California, emphasizing in health and interpersonal communication. Her research interests are at the intersection of health and interpersonal communication as it relates to social support, stigma, and resilience. Her dissertation explored police officers’ preferences for support and factors influencing mental health-related disclosure decisions.
She is particularly interested in translational research that improves access to needed support for underserved populations and those who face extensive barriers to gaining assistance. As the daughter of a police officer (36 years) and granddaughter of a firefighter (40 years), she has a true passion for research that informs mental health-related interventions for first responders, enhances communication surrounding mental health, and improves access to support. Erin’s research has been published in Health Communication, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Communication Education, and the Journal of Applied Communication Research. She has also been invited to be a guest on several podcasts to discuss how her research can help enhance new approaches to improving mental health support and communication.
At Youturn Health, Erin manages the public sector accounts, ensuring that clients successfully access needed support.
Robbins, J. (2020, January 9). Ecopsychology: How immersion in nature benefits your health. Yale E360. Retrieved May 5, 2023, from https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health
Raghubir, P., & Srivastava, J. (2008). Monopoly money: The effect of payment coupling and form on spending behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14(3), 213–225. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-898x.14.3.213