The stress of lockdowns, working from home, and social distancing has many people seeking professional assistance for stress, anxiety, or depression in 2021. The “COVID 19” came to be the descriptor of choice for the increased weight associated with the pandemic’s ready access to food. Working from home also resulted in less activity, increase in alcohol consumption, new or increased smoking, and frequently unhealthy sleep patterns. While working from home was great for some people it was a path toward a lower level of wellness for others.
While some individuals will return to the office, many of us will continue to work from home. Are there things that can make our future wellbeing better whatever lies ahead?
We are all associated with one or more “groups”. This can be your work group, church group, neighborhood group, moms group, etc. However you define your group, consider a group wellness challenge. Wellness challenges can be as elaborate as desired and include any environment — work, home, or in between. The goal of a wellness challenge is to raise awareness of wellness, and through a positive and friendly competition, encourage people to initiate or maintain activities supportive of wellness — physically and mentally.
How to begin?
Begin a wellness challenge by assessing interest within your group. Sharing a personal desire to increase activity or lose a few pounds will usually jump start the discussion. Probing daily activities usually reveals current activities others engage in. Don’t assume the discussion will eventually lead to the creation of a wellness challenge. Do the “ask”. Ask if members of your group would like to participate in a wellness challenge. Collectively determine what would be the best activity for your group.
Why participate in a wellness challenge?
Aside from the obvious — a wellness challenge is a challenge to improve wellness — what’s in for you? Wellness challenges are known to increase energy, group engagement, and focus. A daily work challenge improves mood throughout the day while decreasing feelings of fatigue and increasing alertness.
- People with higher levels of wellness spend less money on pursuing health. It never ceases to amaze me the money spent on exercise equipment for home use that is never used. People with higher levels of health support their health with daily choices. Success does not necessarily translate into another diet book or piece of exercise equipment.
- People who participate in wellness programs actually tend to sleep better at night. Activity doesn’t make stressors go away, it just changes the way you perceive them. Physical activity during the day tends to “clean the slate” allowing a better sleeping experience later.
- A wellness challenge tends to raise not only awareness of the challenge but also raises investment in that challenge. Full disclosure: I am not a high mileage walker — not even close. After many months, last month I actually moved up in our group’s standings. It was a big moment for me. This month I have worked to maintain that standing. I check the standing more often and work a little harder to get the steps. I try not to let the day end without meeting my minimum goal. I made other little improvements as well like drinking more water. Guess what? I’ve increased in the standings again! This is also a big moment for me.
- Remember wellness challenges aren’t just for the benefit of the group or team. Remember a tide raises all boats. Whenever an individual group member improves, the whole group improves and sometimes those associated with group members. It should be noted that my personal increase in steps startled my husband — who was quietly tracking my progress and hoping to exceed my performance. Truth is he typically leads the pack in our home — just not last month or this month (ha-ha!).
Things to remember with wellness challenges include:
- There is no one size fits all. Not every person should engage in a wellness challenge that demands physical exertion. Persons engaging in physical activity need to consider the wisdom of the increase and current health status. It may be time to meet with a primary care provider and find out if a wellness challenge is a good idea. If there are pre-existing health conditions, discuss the appropriateness of increasing activity before beginning.
- Short duration challenges tend to be more focused and effective. A limited time period allows multiple opportunities for success, eg, daily winners, weekly winners, bi-monthly winners, monthly winners.
- Fitness trackers are associated with increased physical activity, weight loss, and improved blood pressure compared to those who don’t wear fitness trackers. On average fitness tracker users log approximately 2,000 more steps a day. Additionally, fitness trackers can capture small improvements in activity that a log book might miss.
Wellness challenges are a good step on the road toward healthy behaviors. Don’t just sit there, find a friend to share a wellness challenge idea with. Examples of wellness challenges suggested include:
- Sleep challenge: points for hours of sleep. Seven hours a day is a good target.
- Physical exam or health screenings: points for having regular check-ups and/or screenings. Some insurance companies incentivize it’s beneficiaries for these activities.
- Drinking 32 ounces of water a day: points for ounces consumed
- Break the habit: 10 points for every smoke-free day; subtract a point for every tobacco activity
- Take 5: point for every “take 5” break . . . note: you should also be adding to steps during this time.
- New food safari: points for every new food (or recipe) tried; extra points if the family likes the food also!
- Healthy recipe excursion: 5 points for each recipe plue a point for everyone who tries that recipe and provides feedback.
- Family take 5: Grab the family and head outside for a five minute break to run around and be active. In inclimate weather, have an idea for an inside quick activity, i.e., run in place, go up and down the stairs, toy pick up, etc.
You are only limited by your imagination as to the challenge. Remember: the activity should support wellness and be doable for you and persons in your group.
Corporate Wellness Magazine calls workplace wellness challenges “a win-win”. With little or no investment, a company challenge produces a more engaged and high performance workforce. While we continue to make our way through the pandemic, fight back against the lockdown downside with a group wellness challenge. Have fun and be healthy!