The Wellness Paradox

Definitions of wellness-

An active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life (as defined by UC Davis' Student Health and Counseling Services webpage).

The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort; or, an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases (as defined by dictionary.com).

 

Definition of a paradox-

a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. 

 

In the counseling field, I believe a wellness paradox exists.   Mental health professionals spend a lot of time promoting wellness for their clients, but there is also a lot of effort in counselor wellness.  It is very important as counselors to maintain personal health and well-being.  

Wellness is not meant to be a reactive practice to cope with stress.  It's meant to be a way of life to prevent stress and promote wellbeing. 

The paradox exists because of the high rate of counselor burnout.  Wellness is a process of deliberate effort to remain healthy, but yet it seems counselors make deliberate efforts to be unhealthy causing burnout.  Counselors deliberately work too many hours, deliberately check email at home, deliberately answer phone calls at 8:00 PM, deliberately choose to sacrifice their own time for someone else. 

To embrace wellness without paradox, it's time counselors and mental health professionals deliberately seek ways to improve their work environment and set healthier boundaries.  Many counselors talk about wellness concepts as a strategy to use when overwhelmed and burned out.  There's the paradox. 

Wellness is applied daily and deliberately in all areas of your life, including your work.  If you are looking for wellness techniques when stressed out, you are stuck in a paradox.  Begin your wellness training as a deliberate, daily exercise.  Create a work schedule that embraces wellness.  Apply the techniques that help you remain healthy daily, and you will break free of the paradox.

Counseling does not have to be a stressful job.  If it becomes overwhelming, you are no longer able to offer the highest quality of service.  Sadly, many people quit working in the field because of this, and it can be prevented.  This year, start your wellness plan now, and follow through with the exercises and behavior that promote personal health.  Don't wait until you are stressed out to begin using the things that promote well being and peace of mind.