Last weekend, my husband and I took out dinner from one of our favorite restaurants. The food was delicious, and they really made it as special as they could, including nice extras such as the gougères (cheese puffs) that they serve as an amuse bouche and the yummy chocolates that they serve after dessert. The meal was really wonderful, but it was bittersweet. Although the food made me so happy, especially their amazing baguette, it was only a fraction of the full experience that I love when I dine at the restaurant. We did not have the attentive and friendly service, the décor that makes it feel like you are in Paris, and the experience of sharing this moment with others.
I have been thinking a great deal about well-being and how it is impacted by this current pandemic situation, with all its restrictions. I keep reflecting on how negatively impacted our wellness has been, how it has been muted and only a fraction of what our wellness was pre-covid. Similar to my experience of eating this delicious meal.
When I conceptualize well-being with clients, I think about 5 different realms. They are:
1.Social- our personal relationships and connections, our community, our “peeps”
2.Emotional/psychological- how we feel inside and what our energy, engagement, and motivation is like
3.Physical- how we are feeling physically and what we are doing to take care of our bodies (e.g., what are we eating and drinking and how are we exercising, grooming and pampering)
4.Spiritual- what feeds our spirit or soul (e.g., religion, being in nature, making or experiencing art)
5.Financial/productive- how we are doing financially, how we are engaged in productive work and feeling that we are contributing
During our new normal of social isolation, we can still hit on all of these components of wellness, but we cannot fully engage in them. Let us take Social Wellness, for example.
We are social creatures, and we are hard-wired to be around other people. Our brain’s activity is modulated by others, and our brain releases chemicals in response to another person. When we experience being with someone, we engage all our senses. Not only do we see and hear them fully, we also may touch or sense them physically. We may smell them. And we may eat and drink with them.
However, we cannot do that nowadays. Don’t get me wrong. I am so grateful to have video chat as a way to communicate in the current time. However, as I heard someone say, using video chat is like eating processed food. This really resonated with me. Eating processed food will do the trick and fill you up, but it will not be anywhere as satisfying or filling as when you eat real, whole food. When we video chat, we can partially see and hear someone, but we cannot see or hear them fully. There are gaps and lags in the video feed that frustrate our innate practice of turn-taking in conversations. And, it is emotionally draining to engage in this artificial and partial interaction. We are missing the full experience and of being able to really connect. And all components of our well-being are similarly muted at the moment.
It feels like the symphony orchestra that was our lives is now merely a trio. We can hear the melody and appreciate its beauty. The all-encompassing richness of our orchestra is missing; its gorgeous sound is missing. We also cannot really feel it in our bodies in the same way an orchestra would viscerally impact us. Although, I do appreciate hearing a trio, I really look forward to my life’s orchestra returning.
I was excited and honored to be a panelist for the webinar on the Neuroscience of Wellness for the Wharton Neuroscience Institute last week. I spoke about the 5 components of wellness that I consider to be so important (social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial/productive). I'll be writing about these more fully in my next blog post, but I spoke about how they are all muted in this current pandemic situation. Our wellness is suffering overall because the ways we would usually engage with the world, connect with others, and take care of ourselves are limited by current restrictions. It is important to be doing the best you can but to also be gentle with yourself, recognizing that this is a stressful and difficult time we are currently in.
While all of the panelists come from different backgrounds, we all agreed on several very important things we can do to support our wellness. Exercise is incredibly important for our well-being and happiness. Additionally, social connection and mindfulness were named as incredibly important things we can do to support our wellness.
If you'd like to see the hour-long webinar, check it out:
Additionally, here is the webpage for the institute: