Part of being a grownup is managing your money, right? Even if you don’t like to think about it, or it activates your stress response in a big way (this is all too true for me), it is part of being a whole human in today’s world. In a similar way, with maturity comes the responsibility to manage your own wellbeing. Like money, wellness is something you earn and something you sometimes spend. You use resources to earn it and it is a finite resource in and of itself. There are three main ways I think about wellness as being like finances:
You have to pay bills
Rent. Utilities. Gas. The everyday stuff that keeps the cogs of your life turning. You know what your daily, weekly, and monthly bills are and you are in the habit of paying them. There may be periods in your life, however, when they take most of what you’ve earned, leaving little or no discretionary money. Some wellness equivalents of these kinds of bills are eating, sleeping, and the daily movements that your life requires. You may have experienced a time when you didn’t have anything in your wellness account beyond daily living. I remember having the flu when just getting out of bed was a struggle. Making food for myself? Forget it. For the most part though, paying typical bills with money and with wellness habits is a standard practice that many of us just accept as part of life. We might not give it much thought beyond the occasional, “I really don’t have time to eat today…” or, “Why the %$#@ am I expected to pay over $200 for utilities in a 700sq. ft. apartment!” (It’s cool, I’m not bitter, I swear.). Major consequences befall those who neglect their bills. One late rent check or a single skipped meal won’t kill your credit or you, but making a habit of neglecting these payments could.
You might have debt
You may have financial debt for different reasons: a college education, a new car, an overzealous shopping spree. Whether your debt was the result of effective or ineffective past decisions, it’s a part of your current reality. Similarly, you may have health debt. Maybe you spent too many late nights working or you ran a marathon. This kind of debt may not seem like a problem because of the positive outcomes. It’s still debt, though. Or, maybe you had one of those, “Hey, y’all! Watch this!” moments or you didn’t wear a helmet. I’ve been there. In some cases, your health debt might not have been your decision at all, maybe you were just riding your bike when you got hit by a car like some of my current patients (Don’t worry, they’re doing great in recovery.). No matter what landed you in debt, it’s a part of your current reality. Just like being in financial debt, healing from a time of spending beyond your means is a priority. Whether we are talking financial or physiological, the longer you are in debt, the more you pay for it. Good rehabilitative physical therapy is like a trusted bank that helps you avoid accruing interest during those hard times. I love helping patients get back to their lives after an accident, illness, or injury has knocked them down. In some cases, paying your bigger health debts just becomes part of your budget, like student loans for so many of us or like a chronic condition such as arthritis for some of my patients. It’s just automatic to put aside that money each month or to engage in those behaviors that help manage the health condition you experience either alone or with the help of a trusted professional. Sure, it would be nice to have that extra dough you currently pay to student loans or not to have that hip arthritis limiting your ability to run long distances, but it doesn’t interfere with paying bills and saving. You probably know your financial debt, what about your health debt? Do you have health concerns that limit you? Is there anything that you’re managing effectively?
You know it’s effective to save
In her book, author and educator Shannon Ables, whose blog I’ve followed for years, proposes saving for three specific purposes: retirement, rainy days, and realizing dreams. I love this concept, both for a map toward financial freedom and as motivation to engage in wellness behaviors. Just like saving money, when it comes to wellness, making small deposits into your lifestyle bank account can help you deal with disaster and take you from dreaming to doing. It can also give you a happier, healthier retirement.
Ables proposes saving 10-20% of your income away in savings for the future, which, just like the past and the present, will have both of the categories listed above: bills and big withdrawals that could lead to debt. Thinking of bills of the future is thinking about retirement – that time when our earning potential has been reduced either by intention or necessity and yet our living potential can still be maximized. What kind of wellbeing do you anticipate your retirement will require? What 5% of your energy could you spend today to cultivate a healthier and happier retirement?
Potential future debt comes in two flavors: that associated with negative emotions which I refer to as debt of rainy days, and that associated with positive emotions, the debt incurred through realizing dreams. Just like “good stress” and “bad stress” both activate your stress response in the same way. Both the unexpected negative experiences of life and the planned positive experiences of life are big withdrawals from your wellness bank account. How much you need to save for these times depends on the magnitude of your disasters and dreams. No one can have enough saved in the bank for the massive financial and health disasters that befall us sometimes despite our best efforts, but those more moderate misfortunes don’t have to bankrupt your wallet or your wellness.
Rainy days happen. Pain is inevitable. You may not be able to prevent the accidents and injuries of the future and if you have no savings you’ll be thrust into deep debt in regards to your health. I see patients every week who experience circumstances that knock them down. The ones who get back up quicker are the ones who were in better shape before the accident. How do you think you’d recover if you experienced a major accident today?
Lastly, we all have dreams and goals (whether you’re a crossfitter or a little old lady). They may be modest like putting on your socks in the morning without help or they may be moderate like staying up all night passionately writing when the muse strikes. They may even be monumental like running a marathon or becoming a marine. Whatever you want to do with your life, chances are you’ll need your health. Putting deposits into your wellness bank account now will let you make a big withdrawal for those dreams that make your life worth living. Just make sure to rebuild those savings after the socks are on or the race is run. What dreams do you need your wellbeing to realize? Will realizing those dreams create debt that needs to be paid down or require you to build your savings again in case of a rainy day disaster?
Stay tuned for specifics ideas on how to cultivate a habit of making regular wellness deposits.