A family support professional shares their perspective.
For me, February always brings the winter doldrums. By now I have settled into (or perhaps shed) my New Year’s resolutions and am anxious for spring, but warmer weather is still months away, and the months of the year seem to stretch before me. A mentor once told me that winter should be a time of rest and hibernation — a time to nurture ideas and projects that will come to fruition in the future. As I reflected on this, I realized this is a perfect time to assess my own wellness and plant seeds for how I might grow over the next year. Last summer, I learned of a new framework to help me do just that.
Be Strong Families, the creators of the Be Strong Parent Café model, developed Journey to Vitality as a way for “individuals to work on specific wellness goals while helping others.”1 Be Strong identifies six vitality domains that contribute to our overall health and well-being — physical, mental, spiritual, environmental, financial and social.
Each of these domains offer an opportunity to explore an aspect of wellness. In my February-induced contemplative state, I have been thinking a lot about my physical, environmental and mental vitality.
Despite the cold weather, I am finding ways to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and get some physical activity in every day. I look forward to weekend hikes where I can take in the beauty of the winter landscape. I am taking note of how my body feels before, during and after these jaunts because it keeps me motivated to continue even when I am feeling sluggish. I have noticed that being outside not only helps with my physical vitality, but also my mental vitality. I can clear my head, focus on my steps and practice mindfulness while walking. My favorite walking companion, my dog, often makes me laugh on these adventures. Humor and being thankful for little moments of joy definitely contribute to my well-being. When I return inside, I can reflect on my environmental vitality — how my surroundings affect my mood and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many of our environments. As I transitioned to working remotely, I needed to set up a space where I could work productively and comfortably. It has taken some months, but I have established a workspace that contributes to my well-being. I recently changed the angle of my desk, added a lamp, and replaced the blinds in the room where I work — these small environmental changes really helped me to be more comfortable and improved my focus.
Reflecting on these areas of vitality has helped me to think about wellness in a new and more holistic way — beyond just moving more and eating healthy. The domains are connected — when I work to improve one area, it may support growth in another. When I am building these vitality domains, I am creating an environment where I, as an individual, can thrive. Not only has this growth had an impact on me personally, but also as a family member.
The Strengthening Families Protective Factors comprise another framework that focuses on well-being — one centered on the health and well-being of families. The vitality domains complement the protective factors in many ways. The social vitality domain focuses on the importance of caring and supportive relationships to an individual’s well-being. The protective factor social connections emphasizes the importance that parents need friends who support them and their parenting. Recognizing and coping with stress is central to both the mental vitality domain and parental resilience.
Addressing the vitality domains along with the protective factors can be a powerful tool for family support organizations to discuss well-being with families. Be Strong Families has developed Vitality Cafés that “strengthen families by enhancing parents’ wellness.”2 Similar to the Parent Café Model, Vitality Cafés create safe spaces for participants to explore questions related to the six domains of vitality that lead to meaningful small group discussions. In Pennsylvania, our Be Strong Parent Café Instructors are now certified to teach local teams to deliver online Vitality Cafés. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming offerings to learn more about this model and to experience Vitality Cafés.
Planting seeds for my own personal well-being has definitely helped me shake off my February malaise. I am looking forward to addressing all six domains of vitality over the coming months. How might you explore vitality in your life and with the families you serve?
1 Be Strong Families (2021). Journey to vitality. Retrieved from: https://www.bestrongfamilies.org/journey-to-vitality
2 Be Strong Families (2021). Our services. Retrieved from: https://www.bestrongfamilies.org/services
This article is from Family Support News Brief’s February 2021 edition. The Family Support News Brief covers topics like Parents as Teachers model fidelity and training, strengthening families protective factors, prevention of child abuse, childhood injury prevention, and more.