Ultimately, the work of self-care happens individually from the inside out. However, caring professionals are more likely to have time and space to attend to their own self care when they work in organizations fluent in the Eight Dimensions of Wellness.
One highly effective way for organizations to live the Eight Dimensions of Wellness out loud is for leaders in the organization to think about their school, nonprofit, or government agency as though our organization were one person. This is different than how we normally think. Typically, we view the schools, nonprofits, or programs we lead as systems made up of departments full of people with a variety of roles. Instead, let’s think of our organization as though it were one person, and reflect on opportunities we might have to make self-care systemic by living the Eight Dimensions of Wellness out loud.
If you are new to the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, take a look at the Eight Dimensions of Wellness graphic to the right.
While individuals attend to physical wellness by taking care of their bodies, organizations enhance their physical wellness by improving their workplace. Keeping up with the building’s maintenance, making sure the heating and cooling work, replacing lightbulbs and refilling hand sanitizer stations all contribute to physical wellness at the organizational level.
Intellectual wellness is about learning new skills and being curious about all there is to learn. At the individual level, people might read a book, listen to a podcast or sign up for a class to learn something new. An organization practicing intellectual wellness would protect time and space for professional learning and would seek input on topics of interest from staff. Another opportunity for an organization to practice intellectual wellness would be to connect the talents and interests of staff members to their work when appropriate.
Emotional wellness is about recognizing emotions and expressing them in healthy ways. Organizations that practice emotional wellness maintain a regulated emotional climate. A visitor might notice a general sense of calm regardless of how busy the environment might be. Additionally, an organization fluent in emotional wellness can express positive and negative feelings as a community, recognizing and validating any number of different emotions that people within the organization might feel.
Social wellness is about maintaining healthy relationships and repairing or exiting unhealthy relationships. If we think of our organizations as individuals, we might view our community partnerships as friendships. Organizations that practice social wellness ask themselves “What could I do to be a better participant in this relationship?” Perhaps we might send an encouraging note to contacts at our partner organization or invite new staff to take tours of each other’s sites. Thinking of partners as friends can often spur creative ways for an organization to practice social wellness.
Spiritual wellness is about living according to values and connecting to our interior life. Individually, this can happen with or without organized religion, and might happen alone or in community. As an organization, the first step to spiritual wellness is to uncover, discover, and if necessary, recover the values that guide the work. Traditions that connect the work to the organization’s purpose and guiding values support spiritual wellness.
Financial wellness is about having the resources necessary to manage expenses and to prepare for the future. Organizations practice financial wellness when they are good stewards of the funds they receive. Financial wellness is about about aligning resources efficiently and developing new resources when necessary to accomplish the work.
We practice environmental wellness when 1) we recognize how the physical environment affects our well-being and 2) we act in ways that respect the earth. As an organization, we can practice environmental wellness by keeping an organized and orderly workplace. If possible, enhancing the exterior landscaping and bringing in plants to the interior environment can also enhance environmental wellness. Initiatives to reduce waste and to use recycled office supplies are also opportunities for the organization to act in ways that respect the earth.
A vocation is a calling, and vocational wellness asks “Are we doing what we are meant to do?” Individually, we enhance vocational wellness by learning the skills necessary to do meaningful work. As an organization, vocational wellness is about ensuring that everyone in the organization is equipped with the sills and resources necessary to do their best work. Additionally, as an organization, vocational wellness is about ensuring that our work aligns directly with the purpose of our organization.
Becoming fluent in our own wellness, individually and systemically
For many caring professionals, where they work is the primary reason they seek out additional self-care resources. Imagine instead that your organization were the reason people feel healthy and happy. As an institution, your organization can model what it means to be well from the inside out.
When I work with schools, nonprofits, and government agencies on self-care, I often note that all of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness are highly interdependent. Small changes in one dimension typically lead to positive growth in many other dimensions of wellness.
If you are a leader who wants to make self-care part of the culture of your organization, I recommend beginning with working on your own Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Soon, you will connect your own self-care practice to the care that your organization needs to be its best for those you serve.