Much of what I’m about to share I learned the hard way – and I’m still learning. I’ve done a lot of inner work to release the false belief that taking care of myself was selfish. If you’re here, I suspect you can relate.
And today I want to have a heart-to-heart with you. Let’s talk about wellness and let’s make a wellness plan.
What is Wellness?
The term wellness means the active pursuit of optimal health in your daily life. And personal wellness initiatives can happen in different aspects of your life.
Health is a state of being. Wellness is a set of consistent actions you are taking to create results in your health.
What are the 5 types of wellness?
There are many aspects of personal health that we could go into. However, I often like to highlight 5 dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial.
When you focus on these areas of your health, it will improve your quality of life.
This dimension of your wellness has to do with your physical body.
When you establish daily practices to improve your physical health, you are practicing physical wellness.
One of the most neglected areas of our physical health relates to blood pressure. Not having our blood pressure under control puts our lives at risk. This is even more alarming for communities of color.
Nearly 80% of Black adults who have high blood pressure don’t have it under control, putting them at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Taking charge of our physical wellness can start with understanding the signs of high blood pressure and having your blood pressure checked often.
I’ve partnered with the RTP Heart Health Squad to bring you health education about managing your blood pressure. When you take action on this information you’ll enjoy better health. Understanding your BP numbers could mean the difference between low vs high risk for heart disease or stroke.
Before we move on to the next type of wellness, let’s discuss why I’m focusing on high blood pressure, also known as “the silent killer.”
High Blood Pressure Facts
- 860,000 people die from heart disease annually in the U.S.
- 46% of U.S. adults have hypertension—the leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
- The prevalence of high BP in Black women is nearly 40% higher than white women in the U.S. and 22% higher for Black men compared to white men.
- Among Black adults with high BP, nearly 80% do not have their BP controlled to goal.
- Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because often there may be no symptoms, despite its role in significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure (BP) can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other life-threatening conditions.
- High blood pressure is the most common controllable risk factor for stroke.
Let’s be real. These numbers are scary. And they are close to home. These aren’t just stats – they are stories. They represent the people you and I have lost or almost lost. People we love and care about.
And let’s also name the elephant in the room.
These numbers aren’t about race. They’re about racism.
Systemic racism often makes preventing and reducing high blood pressure more difficult for Black women and other women of color, like myself.
Sometimes we read these disproportionate numbers and we feel like we’re flawed or we’re doing something wrong. That’s not the case: racial inequities get in the way of our health and wellness. We have so many added pressures and so many added obstacles just to survive and function!
And that’s why I’m sharing wellness tips so you can create a personal wellness plan. I want to provide tips that work for you. Steps that are easy to implement in all areas of your life.
Mental Wellness refers to consistently engaging in practices to stimulate your mind. When you proactively seek to be involved in activities that help you gain clarity, focus, and sanity
Your mind is connected to your body. When you feel restless, overwhelmed, or burned out, your blood pressure is going to be affected.
I’ve told myself I don’t have time (or very little time) to clear my head. I’m a single mom and my family’s welfare depends on me. But guess what? The stress takes a toll.
I knew that heart disease was part of my genetic history, but it wasn’t until I started seeing my BP numbers rise that I started to pay attention.
Relaxation is now part of my personal wellness plan.
Emotional Wellness is the act of checking in daily with our feelings. It’s the act of processing our emotions before they take over our life!
I’m very passionate about emotional wellness because we are unable to truly function if we don’t enjoy emotional health.
I was really young (maybe not young enough) when I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression and CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). This means that there is a lot that triggers me. Practicing emotional self-care helps me be present with myself and with others.
As women of color, we have an immense amount of generational trauma that we deal with in our daily lives. Our Indigenous or African ancestors were enslaved and mistreated and we still face discrimination that makes our lives more stressful.
Taking care of our emotions in a healthy way will help us enjoy healthy relationships. It will impact how we deal with stress, as well as our mood and our attitude.
Spiritual Wellness is making time for your spiritual life.
Some of the ways I practice spiritual wellness are by praying individually and with my family and reading the Scriptures to connect with God.
Slowing down to connect with our values and beliefs, and pondering upon our purpose can help us in every way- even in keeping our blood pressure down!
Financial wellness refers to cultivating habits that increase your ability to be financially stable.
We all know that having financial struggles creates higher levels of stress. Especially when the workplace is toxic or we lack job security or job satisfaction.
Racism and sexism put women of color at a disadvantage. It sometimes feels that work-life balance is only possible for people with privilege!
And it’s a vicious cycle. We are underrepresented and underpaid, so we are overworked and overstressed and we get sick. The health care costs are outrageous and unpaid leave results in loss of wages.
So let’s talk about the solution: a personal wellness plan!
What is a Wellness Plan?
A wellness plan is a customized plan to help you stay healthy in all areas of your life. It covers your mental, physical, spiritual, financial, and emotional wellness. It’s a plan of action with a holistic approach.
Your personal wellness plan will serve as your map, outlining the daily habits you must follow to reach your health goals. It answers the question: What does personal wellness look like for me?
Why is personal wellness important?
Having a wellness plan will remind you to nurture yourself.
There’s a misleading trend of what self-care looks like. For example, it’s nice to have a spa day, but it’s more important to know your BP numbers and to take consistent action toward preventing high blood pressure.
Personal wellness is important because it keeps you alive. It keeps you well so you can enjoy what you love and those you love.
It can be very easy to craft a simple wellness plan. You can take this plan to your physician or healthcare provider for review and/or approval.
How do you write a personal wellness plan?
- Creating a wellness plan starts with asking “how can I improve my personal wellness?”
You will assess your daily routine and overall lifestyle and then set goals that work for you.
The following questions will get you started in finding out where you are.
Know your BP numbers?
Often feel physically exhausted and sluggish? Or do you feel strong, vibrant, and energized?
Have at least one healthy coping mechanism when in emotional distress?
Feel fairly compensated and valued in your work?
Engage in fun activities or a creative hobby you enjoy?
Have healthy relationships and friendships?
Feel a sense of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose?
- Goal Setting
Goals will help you determine where you want to be in each part of the wellness wheel.
Grab a sheet of paper to write down your goals. They don’t have to be written in the smart goals framework.
Examples of wellness goals
Some simple examples of wellness goals you can set are:
Maintain a healthy blood pressure
Go to regular doctor checkups
Take a class
Practice yoga and meditation
Become debt-free and have an emergency fund
Find a therapist
Strengthen my immune system
- Activate Your Personal Wellness Plan
The goals you will add to your wellness plan are not short-term or long-term goals. These are process goals, so they are not the type that you just achieve and cross off. These are not New Year’s Resolutions. These goals turn into lifestyle changes.
These steps can be divided into 3 simple areas – all beginning with the letter M: movement, meals, and mindfulness.
These simple steps can help you control your numbers and create positive change toward optimal health.
You don’t need to hire a personal trainer, buy a membership to a fitness center, or engage in a long exercise routine. In fact, you can just move in your favorite way or engage in a physical activity you enjoy.
You can go for a daily walk and enjoy the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air. Or maybe you could dance, do yoga, or simply stretch. My favorite way to move is hula hooping!
Eating smart means that you will slowly replace fast food, junk food, and prepackaged meals with whole foods, vegetables, and fruits.
But this doesn’t have to be done overnight or all at once.
For example, you can start by drinking more water, or simply changing to a low salt diet, or using less oil.
You could simply learn what proper portion sizes are and follow those guidelines.
Besides healthy eating and healthy cooking, you can take daily steps to ditch alcoholic beverages and sugar in all its forms.
Mindfulness is the state of being present, which helps us manage stress and anxiety. This time alone can also help ground us spiritually.
Some effective ways to practice mindfulness are reflection and relaxation.
Journaling can help you process feelings and thoughts, as well as find meaning in your day.
Mindfulness can also mean getting adequate sleep, writing, reading, or coloring just for fun.
How to Stay Accountable to Your Wellness Plan:
In order for your personal wellness plan to work, you must incorporate each item into your daily life.
Some of these items will be part of your morning routine. Some will be part of your nightly practice, right before going to bed at night. It doesn’t have to take much time, but the positive impact will be priceless.
The best part of your wellness plan is that when you work in one wellness area, the others are positively impacted. When you neglect one area, the other areas will be impacted negatively.
I suggest you find a support system to help you keep accountable. I attend support groups and talk to supportive family members when I need an encouraging safe space. Professional help is also a wise choice!
Stay open to adjusting your personal wellness plan, because it’s a living document. As our life changes, especially as we age, situations, circumstances, and conditions also change.
Again, your wellness plan needs to work for you, so if something isn’t working, try something else!
Put Your Heart First by Joining the RTP Movement!
Putting your heart first doesn’t just mean setting aside time for the important things in your life. It also means keeping your actual heart healthy.
Know your BP numbers to be proactive about your health and avoid heart disease, and then develop a wellness plan so you can live happier, healthier, younger, longer.
And share this information with those you love. Be sure to join RTP’s upcoming event celebrating self-care, beauty, and heart health Derby Style. Register for the We Derby with Heart event and take the Release the Pressure heart health pledge.
What are the most important lessons you learned about your personal wellness? Join our heart health squad and comment below!