College life, although often full of exciting new experiences, can be also demanding of your effort, time, and finances. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you are not alone. Thirty-three percent of college students face stress that negatively affects their academic success. Research also shows that first-year college students find themselves struggling with both their eating habits and management of stress. These same students had more problems with love relationships and spirituality than did a national comparative group. Wellness is a way to improve these problems. Wellness is a proactive process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more fulfilling life.
The Wellness Wheel
Here is a model that you can easily use to assess and adjust aspects of your life. The Wellness Wheel is a visual representation of wellness broken down into seven major divisions. [See Figure 1 for a visual example]
When you pay attention to each of these dimensions, you can attain and maintain balance in your life. Reviewing these seven dimensions and rating yourself on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most descriptive of you) is a simple and effective way to identify areas of both strength and improvement. Our lives are similar to this wheel. If the wheel is unbalanced, "the road of life will be a bumpy one." When our lives are balanced, we roll along more smoothly.
Here's a common example. Let's say that you've promised yourself that early the next morning before class, you are going to exercise and have a decent breakfast. Later that night you study for the test on the next day, and by the end, you only get 4 hours of sleep. As planned, your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. for the workout, but your fatigue eats away at your resolve. You fall back to sleep. Two hours later without eating or exercising, you barely make it to class to take the test. You feel badly and worry you didn't pass the test. Lately, you have seen so little of your friends that you feel guilty about calling them for support. You want to change this pattern, but you don't know how. One possibility is to work the Wellness Wheel. Because of your nutritional habits and lack of exercise, you might believe you should only focus on the Physical dimension. It is important to note that wellness is not just being physically fit or the absence of disease. In order to achieve a quality of life and a sense of well-being, you need to give each dimension its due.
The Wellness Wheel can help you see which aspects of your life are in need of attention. Starting with a ten-minute walk and quick breakfast can then evolve into an hour work-out and a half-hour breakfast with a friend(s) where you reconnect emotionally. Starting small, also called "tiny changes," are highly effective and can grow exponentially with time. You may find yourself not only in better shape physically but able to concentrate better and feel more emotionally fulfilled. You are now closer to living a well-rounded or balanced life. Start small and acknowledge your efforts!
Much like happiness, wellness should not be viewed as a destination, not some finish line that you cross and then declare yourself finished. Instead, wellness is a journey. It's not something you are, it's something you do. Enjoy the journey!