• Choosing Wellness: How Choices and Daily Habits Can Improve Your Health

    August is National Wellness Month, which was created to reinforce the importance of practicing self-care, managing stress, and promoting daily health routines to improve health. By increasing awareness of overall wellness – physical function, nutrition, mental and emotional health, and social well-being – one can find happiness and fulfillment, both as an individual and in the community.

    What Is Self-Care?

    “Self-care exists on a spectrum,” said Kelly Rivadeneyra, LCSW, Assistant Director of the Mental Health Center at Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB). “For some people, self-care involves more indulgent ways to take care of oneself, like a massage, although massage certainly has therapeutic benefits. Also on that spectrum is the practice of small daily habits that offer delayed gratification, like taking a walk or practicing deep breathing.”

    Kelly views self-care as stewardship of your own wellness. You manage and supervise yourself and practice discipline in your habits on a daily basis, even when the motivation isn’t there. This is the component of self-care that you can’t necessarily see.

    “We have oral hygiene that prevents the risk of negative consequences ranging from cavities to more serious oral diseases,” Kelly said. “We should think of mental health hygiene in the same way. What are we doing daily to promote wellness and prevent negative long-term consequences? Adequate sleep, proper nutrition, regular body movement, stress management, and activities that keep the mind sharp are all examples of mental health hygiene.”

    The key is to achieve and maintain a sense of balance by giving the necessary attention to all aspects of wellness through self-care and, when necessary, various types of counseling.
    Coping Skills for Reducing Stress

    One reason why stress levels feel so high is because a person seems to live in a constant state of “fight or flight.” In other words, they respond to most forms of stress as if they were facing a dangerous or threatening situation, which can have a negative impact on their well-being, both mentally and physically.

    “When the fight-or-flight response is activated, the nervous system becomes dysregulated,” Kelly said. “This can cause breathing to become fast and move into the upper chest as the heart rate starts to increase. The body is shifting into survival mode. But there are techniques you can use to trigger a relaxation response that tells the body that there’s no danger or threat. It’s okay to calm down.”

    During counseling, NFSB clinicians will often suggest mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing to restore and maintain a sense of calm. This can help you become more aware of and focus on the present moment.

    “These skills give you the opportunity to make a choice about how to respond to what’s happening internally and externally,” Kelly said. “They allow you to slow down, soothe yourself, and regulate your nervous system, which is often stimulated by inside and outside stress.”

    You Can Choose How You Feel

    “Wellness is all about the choices we make,” Kelly said. “These don’t have to be huge, life-changing decisions. Even if it’s just going outside for a walk to breathe fresh air and catch some daylight, or practicing deep breathing before you go to sleep, these are small choices that contribute to better overall wellness. Try something you haven’t considered before. This may include counseling to express your feelings without judgment and find the support you need to improve your wellness.”

    If you or someone you know would like to discuss ways to improve your overall wellness, schedule an appointment at NFSB. Immediate appointments are available and we’ll always respect your privacy. Call 973-667-1884 extension 1.

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