Pat Deegan

Eight Dimensions of Wellness and Personal Medicine

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has identified the categories in the graphic above, as primary areas of wellness to support recovery from and help prevent substance abuse as well as support good mental health for everyone and help those experiencing mental health issues to heal and recover from crisis. To watch their video explaining this Wellness Initiative, click here.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness are:

  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Occupational
  • Financial
  • Environmental
  • Spiritual

These are the parts of our lives and ourselves which build us up and can tear us down. These make up the safety net and structure that enables us to live our lives to fullest and in the healthiest ways so we can live meaningfully and act with purpose. Without the anchors of meaning and purpose we can become lost and struggle to care well about ourselves and others. Without having strong “whys” which provide meaning and purpose we can feel despondent and hopeless. Focusing on things in these areas, in a balanced and constructive way, enables us to be our best selves and strive to live healthy lives which enrich the lives of the people and the world around us.

As and Adult Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist (PWS), I have lived experience where I have struggled (or continue to struggle) to integrate the ideas and implement the behaviors which build up these areas of my life. These are things I’m learning about and figuring out for myself and my own wellness journey. I have the privilege of turning my life’s manure into fertilizer in the lives of others as I share my experiences and acquired knowledge and understanding with others who struggle in ways I have done. Learning how to live well, or as well as possible, with physical, mental, and behavioral health challenges, including trauma, addiction, and illness (mental and/or physical) takes time and effort, especially if these aren’t things we learned while growing up.

One way I’m working on this is through Personal Medicine.

I’m not talking about medications, supplements, or herbal concoctions. I’m talking about the things we do in our lives which promote our wellbeing and help us manage and navigate the difficult and painful challenges we all face, whether we have a diagnosis or not. These are the things which provide purpose and meaning and remind us of who we are and what we’re capable of. They are things we do, not things we take. On a surface level it may seem like I’m talking about coping skills. However, they are deeper and more connected to our sense of self. Coping skills may need to be the starting point but drilling deeper into what is important and life-giving to ourselves is what the ongoing process is about. Personal Medicine is about creating an action plan to help us navigate challenges everyone faces. It empowers us to assert ourselves and advocate for our needs in times when we may feel not strong enough to fight those battles.

Pat Deegan developed the concept of Personal Medicine into a structured and constructive way for people to walk themselves through areas of struggle and challenge, such as:

AngerAnxious FeelingsConcentrationDistressing Voices
Effective CommunicationFeeling DepressedFood CravingsGrief
Harm ReductionNegative ThinkingOppressionSelf-Harm
SleepTraumaTroublesome BeliefsWorry

Each of these subject areas has a set of cards with ideas or prompts on how to manage them. All sets include a blank card for one to develop their own, unique, individualized action to address the issue being experienced. Any and all of these things can and do impact how we navigate the dimensions of wellness. In the beginning of this year, I went through certification training and I am now a Certified Personal Medicine Coach (CPMC).

In my role as a PWS at the organization I work for, I have the opportunity incorporate my skills and knowledge as a CPMC to support those who are working to become their healthiest and best selves in their recovery process, whatever that is and looks like for them. Next week, I’m starting a group: Personal Wellness and Life Management. I plan to use the Eight Dimensions of Wellness framework to present Personal Medicine as a way to address the obstacles and barriers we carry within ourselves which hinder our wellness.

Basically, I’m going to be building a loose curriculum around these concepts, incorporating these tools. Lord help me! I’ve never done anything like this before. Good vibes, prayers, and encouragement are requested and welcomed. I’ll keep you posted.

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