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Keeping Work


Wellness for Work


What is Wellness for Work?

Wellness is a many-sided thing. The federal agency, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines wellness as being in good physical and mental health.  SAMHSA has described 8 dimensions of wellness. This list includes: emotional, physical, environmental, financial, and social wellness.  One of the eight dimensions, Occupational Wellness, is defined by SAMHSA as “personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work.” The inclusion of Occupational, or work, wellness shows the importance of considering wellness when Thinking about, Choosing, Getting, and Keeping or even leaving, work.

Wellness is many things to many people.  Wellness can mean eating right: eating in a way that feeds your body the fuel it needs to be able to do your job, feel good, and have the stamina to get through the day.  Wellness can mean exercising, or moving, or building muscle so that your body has the strength it needs as you work and live your life.  Wellness can be spiritual and include the ways that you feed your soul. Wellness can also be intellectual, or include the ways in which we nourish our minds, through learning, discussing ideas, or creating art.  All of these ways of being well can have an impact on work.

Working requires us to feel well, to be able to be active for at least as long as the workday, and to also have a life outside of the workplace.  This means that we need to physically be well, but also to have other kinds of wellness too. We don’t have to do all this alone!  Consider strengthening your wellness with supporters who you trust, who are also working on their own wellness. This way, they can offer you a different perspective on your recovery from their lived experience. These might be people you have in your life, and/or Peer Support Specialists can support wellness. There are even special training in Wellness Coaching for peer supporters who want to help support wellness.

There are also a variety of approaches to health and wellness.  Medical interventions are often used to enhance health, but there are complementary approaches as well.  If you are considering a complementary approach to wellness take care to do your research and consider what is safe and what is best for you.  The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has a website that can help you think through which alternative, or complementary approaches to health make the most sense for you.

Below are a few links to resources that may be helpful when thinking about wellness and working:

Voices of Recovery (McNamara, 2009) and The Experience of Recovery (Spaniol and Koehler, 1994), involve collections of recovery stories by people who have experienced a mental health diagnosis

The Recovery Workbook:  Practical Coping and Empowerment Strategies for People with Psychiatric Disabilities, Revised edition (Spaniol, Koehler, & Hutchinson, 2000) and The Recovery Workbook 2: Connectedness (Spaniol et. al., 2003), both designed to support mental health recovery.

Food Education for People with Serious Psychiatric Disabilities (Books, 2009).

Exercise Videos from the University of Illinois at Chicago (see right side of page), are easy to follow, and involve simple movements.


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