When Wellness Goes Wrong: Piling On the Pressure For Perfection

Wellness. That key word, that essential component, to a supposedly happier, healthier you. But have you ever stopped to think about whether wellness could actually be doing you more harm than good? Is it possible that in our quest for ultimate wellness we are in fact piling even more pressure on ourselves to achieve what is essentially another disappointing dose of unrealistic perfectionism?

What Does Wellness Mean?

The dictionary definition of wellness is ‘the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal’, but over the years it has come to be something so much more than this. These days to be ‘well’ we are expected to have balance. To be able to seamlessly juggle work, life, kids, and hobbies. To be mindful of everything we do, every action we take, every decision we make, even every mouthful we bite. And we are told we must be present. Always. Now I’m sorry, but you show me one single person who has their shit together enough to get even vaguely close to this expected level of wellness. Nope, as I expected. No one.

I asked the Art of Healthy Living Facebook group what wellness means to them and unsurprisingly the answers were made up of a whole spectrum of different factors. The word ‘balance’ cropped up a lot and it was agreed that in order to be happy it was essential to sort out the mental and emotional side of things before tackling everything else. In theory the other things should begin to slot into place if we can make peace with ourselves, be kind to ourselves and begin to give a few less fucks about the things that don’t matter and which we can’t control.

One group member hit the nail perfectly on the head when she said, “it’s about taking the self pressure off”. And it’s true isn’t it? We’ve all become so fixated with the concept of wellness, that we’ve turned it into something that has in a sense become toxic. Commercialised, social media driven wellness comes equipped with pressure, anxiety, stress, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. It instills the most heinous belief that if we are not ‘well’, if we don’t meditate for 20 minutes every morning, if we don’t drink smoothies for breakfast, hit the gym at lunch, chew our food 32 times, write in a gratitude journal, and spritz our pillows with lavender mist before bed, that we have somehow failed as an adult. And so wellness becomes another thing to beat ourselves up about. Another way to feel as though we’re failing.

When Does Wellness Become A Problem?

OK so look, taking time out for yourself to focus on you, and you alone, is important. That’s undeniable. But if it’s causing even more stress because you’re frantically trying to fit it in around other things and if it feels in anyway forced, then I’m sorry but that’s about as far removed from wellness as you can get. Wellness is not some pimped up ideology reserved exclusively for the Insta-generation, but unfortunately that is exactly what it has become.

As a nation we are known for taking an ‘all or nothing’ stance when it comes to our lifestyle habits. We drink to excess, we hit the gym hard and we approach New Year’s resolutions with military determination, often falling when the going gets tough. And the same has happened with the way we approach our wellness. Just like all the other popular lifestyle trends it has gained a hashtag and mutated into something beyond our control. First there was mindfulness, then came clean eating, then decluttering and now wellness… another thing we’re told we should be doing, and we should be doing well.

When in reality most of us aren’t. Most of us are feeling crap about it. Just like all those other things that made us feel crap about ourselves. But it’s not our fault. It is simply that the definition of wellness has become blurred. We can’t compete with the smug people we see on social media who flaunt their perfect lives and who appear to have it all figured out. The fact is we’ve all become so obsessed with wellness that it has tarnished our view of what is actually important  – the amazing people, places, things, moments, small elements in our lives that we already have.

How Can I Make Wellness Work For Me?

One thing we must be aware of, is that we cannot and should not force gratitude as a means to be well. We’re being spoon fed the belief that we should be grateful for bloody everything aren’t we? And whilst yes I agree there are some things that perhaps we should feel grateful for, there are plenty more others that actually we don’t. They just are. End of.

Wellness is a personal thing. It’s important to recognise that your own state of wellness ebbs and flows in reaction to internal and external forces. What may work for you one day, may not even come close another. And one thing we must try to break free from is the idea that every action we take must be somehow working towards our wellness and not simply because we choose to do something because… well, because we want to. Don’t just head out for a run because everyone else is or because you feel you should, do it because you enjoy it, because you want to, because it brings you joy.

And I guess in a way I’ve inadvertently just answered the question. How can I make wellness work for me? By taking the time to find pleasure in the little things and understanding that my wellness is unrelated to the wellness I see paraded around Instagram and the like, it is mine, and mine alone.

The back of a woman stood outside with her arms outstretched with joy. She is wearing dark jeans and a baggy white top and has long dark hair. she is stood in a field with autumn tress in front of her in the background of the picture

What Wellness Means To Me

Wellness to me is feeling OK with myself. It is about taking control of my time and using it wisely, fitting things in when I can. It’s nothing complex, nothing expensive, nothing fancy. It can be something as simple as a walk in the morning – not only is the task of getting my daughter to school ticked off but during that time I am able to have fun and often deep conversations with her, my head is cleared for the day ahead, the exercise awakens my body, I experience joy at seeing my dog tearing around a field, and being outside no matter what the weather is exactly what I need to make me feel alive and well. There are of course days where I feel meh, and yes on those days my wellness levels are far from perfect, but what helps is recognising those days and not beating myself up about it. OK so yeah I’m still working on that, but aren’t we all a work in progress in some shape or form?!?


Join In The Conversation – What Does Wellness Mean To You?

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