Even wellness professionals are struggling with the pandemic

One reason being in the wellness profession is challenging is the pressure to be — or at least appear — perfect. Not so much how we see ourselves, but how others tend to see us. Because we are the wellness teachers, people often assume that we do things perfectly — that we always eat well, work out consistently, meditate daily, manage our stress peacefully, and if/when we get sick or stressed, we heal quickly. It is these assumptions that are hard to cope with because we can’t live up to the expectations. I’ll share three personal experiences with you.

First: I was with a group of women when one woman mentioned to the group that she wanted to start walking for fitness, and I said excitedly, “I’ll walk with you!” Another woman loudly claimed, “I’m not walking with YOU!” and then proceeded to laugh as if to say that she and I walking together would be ridiculous. Little did she know, I hadn’t walked in weeks and I could have really used the social encouragement.

Second: I walked into a meeting at work and a woman said, “Ah, there’s Deb. She makes you feel bad just walking in the room!” Why? I don’t know. But I have learned over the years that many people don’t like us, the wellness staff. They fear that we are judging them for their inadequacies and will preach to them. They reject us before they know us. Little do they know that we feel inadequate, too.

Third: I was walking out of a meeting at work when a man in the room said, “Bye, Deb. Go work out!” He said this loud enough for everyone to hear while acting like he was running in his chair. Everyone laughed. I waved goodbye with a smile, but my heart was hurting. What do people think, that all I do is work out? I didn’t feel seen. I felt judged and made fun of for it.

Wellness professionals are not perfect

I’m here to tell you that we, the wellness professionals, are human. We have struggles, just like everyone. We don’t always do everything perfectly. We try, yes. We have the skills and the “tools in our toolbox” to do so. However, we fall down and fail sometimes, too.

COVID-19 has done a number on all of us — not just some of us and not excluding wellness professionals. During this time, we too have struggled with mental health issues, lifestyle behaviors, and unhealthy coping habits. Why? Because again, we are human. We can’t escape that, no matter how much wellness education and experience we have.

My fall during COVID-19

For the first few weeks of COVID-19, I was doing my best, coping like everyone else. I was trying to stay positive, look at the bright side of things, and change my routine to focus on healthy habits. But soon the weeks grew longer, the stress and anxiety grew, and my healthy habits struggled to stay afloat. Old unhealthy coping emerged — eating too much, controlling my eating, drinking alcohol in excess, and forgoing daily physical activity. My world grew smaller, my positive outlook diminished, and I felt like I had failed, especially because I’m a wellness professional! Shame flooded me.

I am the teacher for well-being. I am the one people come to when they need help and now I am the one struggling. I was mad at myself for not taking better care of myself. I felt overwhelmed at my weaknesses. After all, I know all the information — all the tips and tricks — and yet I wasn’t choosing them. I felt shame. I felt confused. I questioned my path — “Maybe I should leave the wellness profession?”

I shared this fear with a colleague/friend of mine and he said, “You definitely should NOT leave the wellness profession! You are human.” Human. Sigh. Yes, I am indeed. And then a quote by Richard Bach came to mind — “You teach best what you most need to learn.”

Isn’t that the truth? I teach wellness well, at least that is what I have been told, but it’s also what I most need to learn. Every fall that I take humbles me. It reminds me that no matter how much I learn, I will still fall; and no matter how much I experience, I will fall again.

I’m reminded of my own quote that I wrote long ago: “Wellness is a lifelong journey of self-awareness and self-improvement; the process is about progress and never perfection.”

May I read my own words and follow my own advice.

My words of wisdom: Know that we are human

To all of you, if you suffer, too — and especially if you are in the wellness profession — you are human! If you feel that you cannot do this alone, or need some help, please reach out for it! Here are some ideas:

  • Talk to friends and family if they are supportive;
  • Reach out to your company’s employee assistance program (EAP);
  • Make an appointment to see a doctor if it’s a health issue;
  • Make an appointment to see a mental health counselor if it’s a mental health issue;
  • Make an appointment for alcohol/drug treatment if addiction related;
  • Find an online support group for your specific issues or interests; or
  • Find an online meditation group or yoga class.

To those of you who think that the wellness professionals are perfect, we are sure to disappoint and shock you with our humanness. So, next time you judge one of us as perfect, or think we don’t “get it,” please know that we truly do get it. We are human, too.

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