Nine dimensions of wellbeing: holistic health for the veterinarian

Take Ownership of Your WellbeingIf you have been following the AVMA’s involvement in issues related to the health and self-care of veterinary professionals, you will notice that we have been moving away from the term wellness in this context and instead are using the word wellbeing. The reason for this change is that in many professions – including human healthcare and medical insurance – the term wellness refers primarily to biometric variables that can be measured concretely, such as weight, height or blood pressure. Wellbeing involves a more holistic view of an individual’s health, taking into account a variety of factors, including ones that can’t be measured by a number.

Wellbeing isn’t a single measure of health. Rather, it is composed of nine unique dimensions that touch upon every aspect of our lives. These dimensions work together, collaboratively contributing to our overall wellbeing. Changes to any one can affect the others.

Being aware of the dimensions that contribute to your wellbeing, and recognizing that there are things you can do to improve them, are important steps in taking ownership of your health. Although there will always be circumstances you simply cannot predict – serious illness, unforeseen financial hardships and other challenges – the key is to take ownership of the choices you can control, and be consistent and intentional in the decisions that impact your wellbeing.

Here are the nine dimensions of wellbeing:

  1. Occupational wellbeing – Being engaged in work that brings you personal satisfaction and aligns with your values, goals and lifestyle
  2. Intellectual wellbeing – Participating in learning activities that foster critical thinking and expand your world view
  3. Spiritual wellbeing – Seeking inner harmony and balance through self-reflection and exploration of your role in the universe
  4. Social wellbeing – Surrounding yourself with a network of support based on mutual trust, respect, and compassion
  5. Emotional wellbeing – Identifying and managing the full range of your emotions, and seeking help when necessary
  6. Physical wellbeing – Getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, engaging in adequate exercise, getting regular medical check-ups, and practicing other healthy habits
  7. Financial wellbeing – Being cognizant of your personal finances and adhering to a budget that enables you to reach your financial goals
  8. Creative wellbeing – Participating in diverse cultural and artistic experiences that give you a deeper appreciation for the world around you
  9. Environmental wellbeing – Recognizing your interconnectedness with nature, and taking an active role in preserving, protecting and improving the environment

Our wellbeing is linked to the choices we make, and requires prioritization and personal accountability. At the same time, our surroundings – including our workplace, social networks, community organizations, religious institutions and more – also impact our wellbeing.  Making the workplace an environment that supports development in the nine dimensions of wellbeing, and helping employees address issues with which they struggle, are the real building blocks to creating a workplace where everyone can thrive.

The AVMA is here to help. We continue to develop tools and resources that empower you to take ownership of your wellbeing and make mindful decisions that contribute to your good health. Some of these include: the Wheel of Wellbeing, which lists more than 30 simple activities that veterinary team members can do to boost mental and physical health; a state-by-state directory of wellbeing programs for veterinary professionals, which provides a contact point for mental health programs and/or peer assistance in each state; and a free training program that teaches AVMA and SAVMA members how to identify the signs that a colleague may be considering suicide and steer them to get professional help.

We encourage you to visit the wellbeing section of the AVMA website to explore the many tools and resources that can help you take ownership of all dimensions of your health.  If you’re active on LinkedIn, we also encourage you to join the AVMA’s Veterinary Wellbeing Community to share resources and discuss wellbeing-related topics with your peers.

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