Agency in Wellbeing
3 June 2022
Having agency means taking responsibility for our actions and the consequences. It means giving ourselves permission to feel empowered in life instead of feeling that life simply happens to us.
Agency in wellbeing means recognising and being responsible for achieving and maintaining the right balance and equilibrium for ourselves.
So, what can we do to take control of our own wellbeing?
In this article, we will look at 3 components and how they can support us in taking agency to determine our own wellbeing journey.
Wellbeing refers to our sense of self and our ability to live as we would like to, including, having positive relationships, a heathy lifestyle and enjoying fulfilment in life. What one person feels is their perfect state of wellbeing may be completely different from another person. This makes sense as everyone has different goals, ambitions and personalities.
When something goes wrong, do we tend to bounce back or fall apart? Challenges, loss, stress, setbacks are an inevitable part of life. Some will be minor, some not, but how we deal with them can play a significant role in the outcome in addition to our wellbeing.
Resilience can give us the psychological flexibility and strength to cope with stress and hardship. It doesn’t mean we’ll never have problems, but it can lend the ability to see past them, find enjoyment and manage challenges when they do occur. Accepting instead of resisting a situation (e.g., not getting stuck with ‘should’ and fairness) also allows us to adapt to change and approach stressful events as constructively as possible.
We can all develop and increase our resilience. To do this, we can set ourselves realistic, achievable goals that motivate us and promote a sense of self-worth. Try to avoid negative self-talk: this can impact poorly on our self-esteem and self-belief.
Thinking of a situation that we have coped with in the past can be helpful. Are we able to use the skills and strategies that helped we through previous difficulties? Knowing when to ask for help is crucial before we become overwhelmed. Practicing self-acceptance and treating ourselves with kindness, especially when things are hard can remove some of that unhelpful self-judgement that we can saddle ourselves with.
Values and Purpose
Purpose points to our underlying motivations. It gives us the ability to keep our most deeply held values front and centre in our lives and our relationships. Purpose helps us to see the bigger picture and focus on the most important things in our lives.
Thinking consciously about our values can help us become more resilient and more grounded in what's important to us, and more confident in our decisions.
Balance is often described as a feeling of harmony. It is having enough time to do the things we must do like work or study as well as things we choose to do like relaxing or enjoying time with loved ones.
Finding work-life balance leads to greater life satisfaction and well-being. Balance is individual to each person. Some people will want more relaxation time, while others will want more time to keep busy.
When work-life balance becomes skewed, it can increase the risk of anxiety or burnout. To help recalibrate we can look at our values and ask ourselves what are we prioritising and what are we missing out? Are our priorities in line with our values and right for us at this moment in time? How effective are we being in managing our time? Sometimes instead of working harder and longer, it is more effective to ask for help or draw up a list of what is urgent AND important and start there.
A healthy lifestyle is essential to coping with stress and supporting resilience. Eating healthily, daily physical activity and getting the required amount of sleep are often the first things we forget to look after when we are under pressure. It’s also important to work on accepting- the situation, other people or imperfection. Being comfortable with good enough is okay for nearly all life situations.
Importantly, ensuring we have a good support system is part of good resilience. Whether this means a chat with a friends, family or a health professional, it is okay to need a little help sometimes. If you are struggling or in crisis, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Written by Susie Biggin.
Susie Biggin is a Wellbeing Coordinator at Lifeline WA, offering peer support on the subject of wellness to her colleagues and volunteer peers.