Ellen Clark, Licensed Clinical Social Worker from Work/Life Connections-EAP, explores wellness strategies that will aid Vanderbilt employees whose job requires them to help others on a daily basis.

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Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I am here today with my colleague, Ellen Clark, who has a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee. She is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of clinical experience. If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have heard the flight attendant instruct you to put on your own mask before helping another. This is great advice in several situations. Many of us at Vanderbilt work hard every day to support others, but if we are gasping for air, we can’t effectively aid anyone else. If your own needs are neglected, eventually you will run out of energy. It is in the best interest of us all if we learn how to help ourselves as we help others. Ellen, can you highlight the components of wellness for our listeners?

Ellen Clark: I think a good resource to look at is the work of Dr. Bill Hettler. He was co-founder of the National Wellness Institute and he developed a model of wellness that included six domains: occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional, and I will just review those really briefly. Occupational: where you are able to use your gifts and talents in a meaningful way for work. Physical: where you exercise, eat nutritionally, get adequate sleep, get medical care and preventative care. Social: where you contribute to the broader community and have meaningful social relationships. Intellectual: where you have mentally-stimulating activities and opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills. Spiritual: where you recognize our search for meaning and the purpose of human existence, and this might be demonstrated in having a consistent value and belief system that is in sync with how we conduct our lives. And finally Emotional: where we have awareness of our emotional world and acceptance of our own feelings, and that includes having positive feelings about ourselves and about life in general. So, that is kind of his wellness model that I think is helpful when we think about how we are doing in terms of work/life balance.

Rosemary Cope: I’m glad you brought those areas up because that underscores what we try to promote here at the EAP about having a balanced life so that we can be productive in all areas, work and at home, and Ellen, are there practices that we can use during our work day to encourage a stronger sense of well-being?

Ellen Clark: I am going to tell you what I do, Rosemary, because I find it is very effective to kind of sprinkle different activities throughout the day to help sustain me, both mentally and physically. I have a sitting job. I have a computer job, and as we know, sitting is as bad as smoking. So, I do try to get up and walk around as much as possible. I do tend to hold tension in my neck, so I do neck exercises throughout the day. That might be kind of looking at my chest, looking up at the ceiling, turning my head to the left, and then to the right, just to kind of release the muscles in my neck. When I go to the restroom, I try to go to a higher floor where I get exercise going up stairs. I sometimes do breathing exercises at my desk to give my brain a respite and just relax my body, and then I am leaving and snacking through the day to keep my blood sugar more steady. So, I usually have a mid-morning snack. It might be a small piece of cheese or a handful of nuts. Then, I might have a mid-afternoon snack of a cup of yogurt, but that kind of helps sustain me and keep me going throughout the day.

Rosemary Cope: That sounds like some really good ideas for every day. Over the long haul, what are your thoughts about maintaining wellness throughout our whole lives?

Ellen Clark: It gets challenging, depending on what developmental stage your family is in. Obviously, when you have children, you have to be a lot more intentional about it, but again, it goes to awareness, thinking of all the domains of health and kind of evaluating where are my strengths and where are my weaknesses, and when you recognize weaknesses, like maybe you don’t have a strong social network anymore because of x, y, z, well, maybe I need to reach out to old friends that I have kind of let go by the wayside. So, periodically doing a little domain check of wellness and see where you can beef up one area to another.

Rosemary Cope: Really, if I am going to see my PCP every year for a checkup, I ought to do a checkup on my own wellness also is what you are advocating.

Ellen Clark: Yes, absolutely, and it is good to hook it up with something like that, because otherwise, we can kind of let that go, but if you say, “Okay, when I have my physical every year, I am going to kind of look at my wellness chart and see how I am doing.” That’s a good way to do it.

Rosemary Cope: So, if one of our listeners would like more information, are there any online resources you would recommend?

Ellen Clark: That National Wellness Institute has a good website with a lot of good tips and handouts, so you could go to that website, and also, I think the EAP is a great resource for folks to come develop a personalized plan for wellness. So, use us as a resource.

Rosemary Cope: Thank you for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the “Add New Comment” link at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or a suggestion, please email it to us at health.wellness@vanderbilt.edu, or you can use the “Contact Us” link on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.

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