Unmentionables. Let’s talk about them.

WELCOA, the Wellness Council of America produces a document called “WELCOA’s News and Views” in which they interview prominent figures in Wellness, most often in Employee Wellness or Corporate Wellness. One of their latest publications is an interview with Alexandra Drane (AD) and addresses what she calls “The Unmentionables.” WELCOA defines these as “nontraditional determinants of health that you need to know about.” Let’s take a brief look at the article and see what we can learn, shall we? We shall.
The author, Ryan Picarella, posits, “We spend a lot of time in the wellness industry collecting health data on the employees and community members we serve. What risk factors are really behind the poor health pandemic? Are we collecting data right if we want to bend the trend?” This reminds me of some advice that a friend gave to me a long time ago, “Sure, you can climb the (corporate) ladder, but what if you discover that it has been leaning against the wrong wall?”
The conversation doesn’t get ‘juicy’ until the answer to question three. Mr. Picarella asks, “If we don’t like the program or activity, what makes us think that others will?” Excellent question. I’ve asked myself this same thing several times. People have asked me about starting a Cross-Fit type workout, or Zumba, or Prancer-cize (ok, maybe not Zumba…), and I have to fall back to just that: if I don’t like it, how can I entice others to like it? The answer AD gives is, “If it’s not engaging and if it’s not making you feel better on a daily basis about something that you care about, guess what? You stop doing it.” Indeed.
This leads to AD explaining what she considers to be “the Unmentionables” of Wellness: “…are the root factors that are actually driving health or a lack thereof, and we’re just not talking about them. The biggest ones in my experience are things like financial stress, relationship stress, workplace stress, and caregiver stress.” (emphasis added). She goes on to explain that, “…the things that keep us from taking better care of ourselves…are the factors that make life go bad, the things that each of us could point to having experienced, and when you do experience it, it’s an overwhelming catastrophe.” What she means by this is that we are “…reaching out and trying to solve a problem for people while something esle in their life is going bad. They don’t have the luxury of caring about their health in these moments…God, I wish I could care about my diabetes right now. That would mean I wasn’t thinking about the terrible disaster that is my marriage and so on.”

In my opinion? #NailedIt.

When asked about wear-ables (FitBit, etc.), AD says that she wore one for a while, but that it made her feel badly about herself, “I know that I’m not sleeping. I know that I’m not moving around.” The clincher for her, and for me as well, comes next. “The question is why am I not, and what can I do differently?” Bingo. Three hundred points to Griffendor.
Mr. Picarella’s final question asks for AD’s one piece of advice, her “call to action,” if you will. She says that, “it would be to start asking about the unmentionables…If we…just started asking these questions of people and giving them a chance to raise their hands and say this is not working for me and I need help, then it’s an easy next step to say you are not alone in that suffering.” From there, we can build programs, offer services that are currently available but might not be well-known, or simply offer support and empathy.
Once we are able to get to the root-cause of why someone isn’t as healthy as they want to be or could be, it will be easier to build successes and make sure that we’ve help them place their ladder against the correct wall.
Just my thoughts. Yours?

The full article can be downloaded here.

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