Self-Care vs. Wellness

January 19, 2020


There is a lot of discussion about self-care recently in social media. In my opinion, self-care often refers to a one time spa day or mani/pedi when you feel like you need to treat yourself. But unless you have a plan in place approaching self-care in this way often becomes sporadic or when you are already feeling over-stressed. I have been guilty of this myself.  I prefer the concept of wellness. Wellness is a strength-based approach to counseling & defined as:

“A way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live more fully within the human and community. Ideally, it is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual is capable of achieving” (Myers et al., 2000, p. 252).

“Professional counselors seek to encourage wellness, a positive state of well-being, through developmental, preventive, and wellness-enhancing interventions” (p. 482).(Myers & Sweeney, 2008).

In other words, counselors who adopt a wellness philosophy promote preventive wellness interventions that encourage an intentional lifestyle change. Understanding wellness helps us address the whole person and the multiple components of who we are. Wellness also incorporates many of the practical ‘therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC’s) such as nutrition, exercise, social interaction, and stress management, and spirituality. Counselors can help you develop an individualized wellness plan. For example, exercise, healthy diet, and stress management would likely be recommended for health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes which often disproportionately affect African Americans. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are often suggested to supplement traditional counseling for depression, anxiety, and trauma. Wellness also discusses holism and the Indivisible Self: 1) we consist of multiple factors which are not separate, 2) changes in one or more areas of one’s life impacts the others, & 3) we as individuals consist of multiple factors which cannot be divided.

We often view ourselves within the context of our community. For example, one of the main principles of wellness is that spirituality is at the center of one’s identity and can be the foundation for health in other areas of one’s life. This may resonate with some African Americans who are concerned that receiving counseling will conflict with their spiritual beliefs. Also, exploring the effect of past and current experiences of racism on our wellness, especially in light of the increased exposure to images of police brutality, negative depictions of African American women, and the recent political climate. All of these have an impact on our wellness.

Finally, taking a mental health day for some much needed self-care is often necessary. But incorporating a holistic approach to wellness throughout one’s life consists of many lifestyle changes and wellness is a guide for us as counselors to explore what wellness means to you.

References: Myers et al., 2000; Myers & Sweeny, 2008; Day-Vines & Holcomb-McCoy (2007); Nicolaidis, McKeever, Meucci (2013)

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