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Professor’s Book Examines Factors Impacting the Wellness of Everyday Women

April 14, 2016

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Good health and wellness practices, have long been associated with overall happiness. New gyms pop up everyday, we see people jogging, and there’s always someone on your Facebook feed who eats Paleo or does Crossfit. But what about additional areas, like mental and financial health, that influence our physical well being, and specifically, how is that experience different for women?

Kinesiology Professor Casi Helbig’s upcoming book, The Balanced Woman: Powerful Stories of Women on Their Journey to Balancing the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, profiles 18 women as they navigate the path to a healthier life. In her manuscript, she interviews women—across many backgrounds—about how their circumstances have impacted their own wellness.

Helbig blends stories and research, all while discussing the eight dimensions she said have the most effect on a woman’s well being. From a stay-at-home mom and a surgeon to a former homeless business owner and a pastor, Helbig has documented how they all balance the eight dimensions: physical, spiritual, occupational, emotional, social, environmental, financial, and intellectual.

“In these interviews, I’m hitting areas very specific for women,” she said. “The women were honest and vulnerable, and they ranged across different ethnicities, socioeconomic status and education levels. But I think we can all relate to each other. They’re very strong characters I know other women will identify with as they’re reading.”

Each dimension is defined by chapter before flowing into a framework of questions and answers that blends research with personal stories.

“In the physical chapter, we’re talking about nutrition, exercise, rest, and even things like addiction,” she said. “I defined spiritual very broadly, but all of the women I interviewed do believe in something other than themselves. Occupational focuses on whether you have purpose in your work, whereas emotional looks at inner peace, work/life balance, and stress management. Social is about how we’re created to be part of a community and environmental is how our surroundings affect our health. Financial of course deals with money and intellectual deals with education and lifelong learning.”

During the interview process, Helbig began to see how varying issues within different dimensions affected the women physically and mentally. One woman even shared her story about going from homeless to living in a shelter to eventually owning her own business.

“We always see the most stress in the financial area,” Helbig said. “When someone isn’t financially balanced or well, that leaks into other areas like a relationship or marriage. Not having that stability doesn’t allow you to focus on other areas of health.”

Issues like self-esteem, body image, drug/alcohol abuse, and depression also came up during Helbig’s conversations with the women.

“The stay-at-home mom I interviewed said she really struggled with her own self-worth,” she said. “Some of them talked about eating disorders and that of course affects your physical and emotional well being. Body image issues can have paralyzing effects on people personally, but also in their marriage, work, and their parenting.”

Helbig wants people to use her book as they go on their own wellness journey and think about how the eight dimensions are influencing their health.

“We should be talking about all of these things and sharing our stories with each other,” she said. “The book tied it all together for me. There is definitely a strong message of transformation and hope and I think readers will connect with these women in many ways.”

Watch one of Professor Helbig’s interviews.