5 Steps to Craft Your Wellness Strategy

image of a person meditating at their office desk

Co-Authored by Dr. Katie Carpen

The Burnout Story

Burnout is one of the leading threats to performance and engagement. According to the PEW Research Institute, stress and burnout costs U.S. companies more than $300 billion annually in lost productivity, missed workdays, healthcare bills, on-the-job accidents and attrition.  Stress and burnout have led to workaholic tendencies, perception of workplace contribution, and has left people feeling like they are not enough.   Some feel that by doing more their stress will be reduced, but instead it creates a greater amount of work-related stress.

According to Monique Valcour, Executive Coach, Burnout, Mindfulness, and Management expert, notes exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy are three symptoms of burnout that result from chronic on the job stressors.  People are exhausted from always being “on”. The separation between personal and professional time is non-existent for many due to 24/7 organizational cultures.  The pressure that is felt to constantly check email, respond, and be available is consuming time and precious mental space.  Cynicism occurs when people feel overworked and undervalued.  It creeps up when there is a perception of unfairness and conflict.  As a result, people detach and exhibit negativity.  In this cycle, people feel inadequate, ineffective, and incompetent, or as noted as the third symptom of burnout, inefficacy.  Burnout can lead to serious health concerns from an emotional, psychological, and physical perspective.  People are our organizations’ greatest assets.  If they are not healthy, performance and productivity suffer.

The perpetual burnout cycle has become a norm, but does it have to?  Employee wellness should be a major focus for organizations and most change needs to occur within organizations to help eliminate burnout-inducing factors.  That said, wellness should also be a personal focus and priority.

The Wellness Journey

The wellness journey is a reflective process that exhibits behaviors, practices, and outcomes that are supportive of wellbeing.  Many leaders strive for balance and wellbeing, personally and professionally yet, when asked, note that it is an area of opportunity. Everyday Health, an evidence-based, accredited, and medically reviewed by active physicians and healthcare providers, surveyed 3,000 diverse American women to determine how they view and define wellness.  Kathryn Keegan, MD, Medical Reviewer at Everyday Health, reviewed the findings and found the following definers, influencers, bummers, boosters and fears associated with wellness:

image of the top wellness definers, influencers, bummers, boosters. and fears

Wellness characteristics will vary from individual to individual however there are common themes including emotional, physical, financial, social, spiritual, and professional factors.  Dr. Barbara Vacarr, the first female CEO of Kripalu the largest retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America, acknowledges the stressors in our polarized, disconnected, and stressed-out world.  She advocates for healing through mindful practices that foster being present with oneself and expanding self-awareness.

If your organization is not working to prevent burnout, you should consider taking ownership and prioritizing your own well-being.  As a precursor to crafting your wellness strategy, you want to challenge your assumptions, check your mindset, and shift your perspective by acknowledging what is within your power to control.  How can you incorporate more physical activity into your day? Where can you carve out time for yourself?  How can you reduce exposure to job stressors? How can you connect with others who are focused on healthy habits and interactions?  Contemplating answers to these questions can help with the self-reflection process and strategy formation.

Crafting Your Wellness Strategy

Crafting your wellness strategy requires mindful self-reflection, compassion, and understanding of where one is and where one would like to go on his or her wellness journey. There is no one right way to create wellness, but there are steps to help you define, craft, strategize, implement, and monitor your own unique wellness strategy. The key to a wellness strategy is that it is authentic to you. To develop your authentic wellness strategy will require honest, compassionate, and specific self-reflection. Below is a list of guiding questions within each step of developing your wellness strategy.

image of the steps to crafting your wellness strategy

In closing, burnout is a leading threat to wellbeing, productivity, and profitability, yet perpetual burnout behaviors continue to be a challenge. Precipitating factors, behaviors, and symptoms of burnout may vary per person. Uncovering the specific factors, behaviors, and influencers of burnout is critical to strategizing a wellness plan. Developing your wellness plan will require self-reflection, and in that reflection, internal dialogue and awareness of factors, behaviors, and approaches will be revealed. It is in the self-reflection process that personal wellness understanding unfolds. By defining wellness on your terms, you create the wellness that fits you. From there you can develop specific goals, actions, and approaches that support the achievement, maintenance, and development of wellness. In doing so, you take ownership and prioritize your wellbeing.

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