Re-Thinking Wellness This Fall
Director of Student Transitions Emilie Waggoner talks wellness and how to make it a habit.Oct 20, 2023
Fall is a magical time at CU Denver – the trees on campus are changing color, the mornings are getting a bit cooler, and the fall coffee drinks are officially out at the Tivoli Starbucks.
However, this seasonal shift can also bring about a shift in our wellness and stress. We are approaching mid-term season, which typically occurs in early and mid-October. This increased workload can be further compounded by the fact that our next break from school won’t take place until November’s Fall Break. Taking care of ourselves can feel like the last thing we have time for when it comes to everything else on our plates.
When we think about wellness, we tend to question when we will find the time to focus on our own wellbeing. How do you incorporate wellness into your daily work? Where do you even start with wellness? How do you make wellness a habit, rather than a one-off to-do list item?
These were questions I was sitting with this past week. As the Director of Student Transitions, I work with our students daily both in and out of the classroom, and I am also a student myself – I’m currently in the first year of my EdD program in CU Denver’s School of Education and Human Development. Like everyone else, I am juggling multiple projects, commitments, and to-do items, and to be honest, my wellness-centered time is usually the first thing I reschedule on my calendar.
Recently, I listened to a podcast hosted by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor and author, where she interviewed Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a board-certified psychiatrist and author of a new book on self-care and wellness, called Real Self Care. In this interview, Dr. Cottom addressed the barriers folks face in accessing wellness and self-care, and the commodification of self-care in our society. Dr. Lakshmin discussed how she gets down to four pillars of self-care and wellness in her book that help her patients, and others, develop long-term habits in forming self-care in every decision they make throughout the course of their days, weeks, and lives. The four pillars are:
1) Boundary Setting
2) Compassionate Self-Talk
3) Identifying Personal Values
4) Asserting Your Power
Dr. Lakshmin discusses the importance of boundary setting, and how sometimes, you have to pause to assess whether or not you have to negotiate a boundary in your life, and if so, why and how. By identifying your personal values, Dr. Lakshmin talks about how these values inform what you say yes to, what you say no to, and the why behind these decisions. She also discusses how we talk with ourselves, and the potential benefits we can have by using more positive self-talk compared to negative self-talk or comparison talk. In asserting our power, Dr. Lakshmin addresses the real societal barriers and systems that make it difficult for people to access true self-care and wellbeing, and finding ways to understand our power and privilege in different settings as a way to construct and reinforce our boundaries and values around our self-care.
What I appreciated from the podcast interview was Dr. Cottom’s comment that setting boundaries and making these big life decisions fueled by personal values and our wellness was not fun – in fact, it was difficult. Dr. Lakshmin discussed the difficulty in setting boundaries for ourselves means that others may not like those boundaries, and we may feel guilty in setting them. However, it’s important to stop seeking validation from others when setting our boundaries, and instead to reinforce the “why” behind our reasons for setting those boundaries, and aligning them with our values for our wellbeing.
This new way of thinking about self-care invigorated me. It feels much more doable to discuss self-care, well-being, and boundary settings when framing it through this critical lens of societal expectations, norms, and how we show up in various spaces in the world. In thinking about wellness and self-care as something we practice through our everyday decisions, versus something we only carve out for an hour or so a day, it gives us more control over ways we can set up boundaries and enforce them. It also helps us do the internal work of understanding our values, practicing compassionate self-talk, and asserting our power in our decisions.
I hope folks utilize their access to Auraria Library to listen to the podcast, request Dr. Lakshmin’s book, or just take time to reflect on how you can incorporate Dr. Lakshmin’s four principles. There are tons of resources at CU Denver that you can use, including the Wellness Center, to find space and tools to practice wellness throughout your day. If you need help setting boundaries or creating space for yourself, there are also many workshops hosted by the Learning Resource Center that get at some of those strategies in building your schedule and managing your time.
Hopefully, this article gives you some new ideas about wellbeing and self-care, and how you can incorporate it throughout all parts of your life. Stay well, fellow Lynx!