Thursday, 2 April 2020

A Personal Comment on Wellbeing During COVID-19

The term unprecedented has been loitering in our news reports over the past few weeks. Meaning never done or known before, it is certainly an apt description of what’s occurring globally. With news of Aotearoa increasing our ‘Alert Level’ after only mere days of the models introduction, it was with haste that preparations were made to organise ourselves for working and living in self-isolation.

After a week of confinement in my own home, adjusting to this new normal, and having plenty of time to reflect, the idea of wellbeing has been on my mind. Last year I led the wellbeing initiative, alongside Fe Tomich, for Auckland Central Community of Schools. During this time we attempted to find a robust, research informed definition of what it meant to be well. Many great minds had attempted this task and few stood out above the rest. Throughout the rest of this personal comment, I will be referencing two definitions, both simple yet profound. To be well means/refers to:

feeling good, functioning well and doing good” 
“the balance point between an individual’s resource pool and the challenges faced”

Some of the challenges that I have faced in this last week were surprising. Before the week began, I was genuinely excited about spending more time at home. It meant being around family, as well as the removal of traffic, early wake times, formal attire and some of the more mundane elements of my day-to-day. This gave a sliver of hope among the uncertainty of what was to come. The first few days were interesting and stressful, requiring more from me than I had anticipated.

After a few more days, it became apparent that an undercurrent of anxiousness was present. Though waves of stress, concern and worry weren’t unexpected, especially in this situation, what was unexpected was how it presented itself. Though details of this are unnecessary, the occurrence (and in this case, the persistence) of said stress highlighted my own need to rebalance my resource pool to ensure that I felt good, functioned well and was able to do good.

My current strategies have heightened my sense of wellness and though we’re not out of the woods, I am certainly feeling more equipped for the coming weeks. Having conversed with colleagues, friends and family, it’s apparent that my experience was not uncommon. With that in mind, I wanted to offer a few thoughts and a couple of questions that may help to motivate and clarify actions you could take in order to rebalance your own resource pool and improve your own sense of wellbeing.

In a meta analysis of research investigating wellbeing, one of the greatest findings was that ‘it’ is highly unique to an individual.  Shin and Johnson (1978) defined wellbeing as a “global assessment of a person’s quality of life according to (their) own chosen criteria.” Following on from this, the world health organisation defined quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.” Additionally, wellbeing is not a single entity, rather it is a web of interconnected facets that all contribute to your resource pool. Autonomy, environmental mastery, positive relationships with others, purpose in life, realisation of potential, self-acceptance, ability to fulfil goals and life satisfaction are all at play when creating wellbeing. Essentially, the result (of feeling well) we’re hoping to achieve is the same but the path travelled to get there will differ from individual to individual.

What this means for us, is that we are charged with the responsibility to identify what being well looks like for us and take the appropriate action to achieve this. How exactly can we do this? One way is to identify elements of wellbeing that stand out to you e.g. environmental mastery. From here,  think about their importance to you and what it would look like / feel like in your current circumstance e.g. environmental mastery might mean taking control over the physical space you’re working in:
  • Could you set-up an office space that is filled with natural light or a breeze of fresh air? 
  • Could you adjust the hours in which you work and the length of breaks? 
  • Could you spend time practising and exploring online tools that you’re needing to use in the coming weeks?

Once you’ve ascertained specifics, make a plan to put these in place. Start with something small and allow the momentum to build. 

Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet or quick fix to wellness. This will take time, grace and grit. Remember though, while our current circumstances are out of our control, when it comes to your wellbeing, you’re in charge. Within you is the capacity to enact what it takes to feel good, function well and do good. Some encouragement for you over the coming weeks:

Mai i te kōpae ki te urupa, tātou ako tonu ai
From the cradle to the grave, we are forever learning

1 comment:

  1. Great read Andy. I like how you emphasise how different and unique wellbeing is for everyone. I think that's an important point when we are looking out and checking in on others.