2012-08-03 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Creating An Attitude Of Wellness
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES Summer bespeaks vacation, rest, relaxation, a break from the fast pace of the rest of the year. We instinctively live life a bit differently in the summer. Dress down Fridays, Summer Fridays are nods that businesses give to their employees in order to acknowledge the stress-less summer.

My question is: Why is summer the only season that we have license to relax? As July winds to a close, the attitude of carefree living begins to wane as well. The onset of August means to most that the summer is all but over. Anticipatory anxiety sets in about “back-to-school” mandates. Even those of us who will not be going back to brick and mortar school have an ingrained sense of returning to the structured life that we remember from those years. Certainly, our bosses will not be so generous with the Fall or Winter Fridays. Probably not so keen on the dressing down days, either.

Why is that?

Who told us that we can only relax in the summer or when we are on vacation? Who sold us this bill of goods that has created the ubiquitous stress of life and given our workplaces a bad name as the domiciles of stress?

Without delving into the history of factory workplace philosophy and other contributing sociological factors, we can be certain of one thing. YOU are the creator of your own destiny. YOU do not have to buy into this attitude.

The sensations, sights, smells, sounds of summer are yours on a daily basis. Creating an attitude of wellness is as simple as remembering. One simply brings into consciousness the memory of happy times in order to evoke that feeling that makes you feel exactly the way you did in that instance.

I spoke with several people this weekend who were reveling on the beach and simultaneously lamenting the fact that they had to return to work the next day.

The lamentation was not about content of work. It was about context. Wellness is not an attitude in most workplace environments. ork has been decoupled from wellness. In fact, your work should be the activity that feeds you, stimulates you and challenges you to continue the pursuit of your goals. In many cases, it is. In most, it is not. Aside from the fact that there can be the need to take a job you don’t love in order to provide for your family, the work world is largely one of confined space and the Puritanical work ethic taken to the max.

Common sense dictates that we, as complex whole human beings, need a complexity of environmental cues to nurture our bodies, minds, spirits. We need time to pursue an endeavor that gives us monetary rewards, we need time to recreate in nature, we need time to form and nurture intimate relationships, we need time to sleep, we need time to be in the all-healing silence.

Basically, we need time. Cre-ating an attitude of wellness means that we create a prioritized hierarchy of needs (a la Maslow’s scale) and implement it. We need time and the truth is, we have all the time in the world.

A recent NOVA show eloquently demonstrated the illusion of time. Time, as we know it, is an illusion. The sum and substance of this notion is made graphically real via mathematical equations (a la Einstein). While it may be a lot to wrap our minds around, the truth is, time is an attitude. It is a state of consciousness. And we can create our own consciousness. In fact, in order to BE truly well, BE in a state of wellness, where all possibilities exist, you MUST create and cultivate this as an attitude that you live on a daily basis. Moment by moment.

Adages abound about the squandering of time. Ben Franklin said, “Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.”

Health crises and eulogies highlight the need to “stop and smell the roses.” Cartoons and columns sarcastically represent what we all know to be true. “If only I had spent more time with the kids… my husband ... my mother.”

All true but ... where is the creation story?

One thing I know for sure is that we are becoming an increasingly sick nation. Chronic disease is rampant and the reason that our healthcare system is in perilous danger. It cannot sustain the ever growing numbers of people that require long term care management. More than 85 percent of these chronic diseases are lifestyle related. Chronic pain tops the list of disabilities from which Americans suffer. Depression follows chronic pain.

Inactivity is one of the leading causes of chronic pain. As a specialist in this field for more than 32 years, I can tell you that the sedentary lifestyle that people pursue is rising exponentially with industry demand for unreasonably long work hours with little or no breaks. The skewed philosophy on the work ethic is completely out of synch with humanity and is telling the tale with more sickness, more depression and more chronic pain.

My patients, particularly the young people entering the work force, are telling me tales. The tales of long work hours, no lunch hour, no breaks in their day for walking out of the office to get some fresh air and exercise. Indeed, it is frowned upon to leave your desk. This is the outdated factory/school model. Where is the research that demonstrates that this is an effective approach to increased productivity? Clearly, it is not. The preponderance of research is showing that this type of lifestyle is wreaking havoc with our people.

Companies like Google get it. They have gyms and gardens and on-site dining and dry cleaning services. You can take a walk and do some of your errands. This is creating an attitude of wellness. If they can do it, so can you. I work from home.

While my work ethic demands that I “produce,” because I work with people in a “hands-on” healing service, I must be completely present with each person if I am to deliver the results expected. I am aware of the factors that nourish me and I partake of them intermittently throughout the day.

I leave my office when I know it’s time. I take a walk, prepare a bite to eat or make a cup of tea. I meditate for five minutes or do some yoga. I schedule my day in order that I am able to create a sustaining environment for me to work in.

On days where I am busier than usual, I balance it with after work relaxation. There must always be a balance. Creating an attitude of wellness follows the dictates of nature. Growth and productivity happen all the time in various seasons and cycles. The right conditions must be present for thriving.

I teach my patients to be advocates for themselves. If you are in a work environment where there is no room for breaks or a lunch hour, even 30 minutes, this is unacceptable. It is incumbent upon you to create an attitude of wellness. Bloom where you are planted. Ask for a meeting with the C-suite and explain your needs. Show them that when you do this, your work does not suffer. Demonstrate that an attitude of wellness increases productivity and adds to the ambiance of the office.

Creating a paradigm shift is not always easy but you can ride the wave. The shift is at hand. It will filter down from the top, innovative companies and become a template for smaller businesses.

While that is happening, you can create your own attitude by going within and nourishing yourself with memories of happy times, relaxing moments, and the sights, sounds, smells that accompany them.

Summer is always there for the taking. It lives in your heart, mind and spirit.

May the Blessings Be!

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