Your 2023 wellness starter guide: Tips for relationships, parenting, finances and work
Most people greeted the start of the year with the thought “thank goodness 2022 is over”.
People are tired after last year, says associate professor Kirsty Ross, a senior clinical psychologist and lecturer at Massey
University. And while a new year brings renewed hope and optimism, it doesn’t mean that life’s problems disappear.
Once holidays have finished and work and school resume, issues start to creep back into daily life, and they can develop into “significant and distressing problems” if they’re not addressed.
The key challenges people tend to have, Ross says, are around relationships, parenting, and finances – all of which can affect mental wellbeing.
Here, she and workplace wellness gurus Dane and Libby Robertson, offer their thoughts and solutions for making this year better.
1) How to have a better romantic relationship
A new year is a great time to reflect on your relationship with your partner.
Reflecting on things that are going well is important, as is showing appreciation and gratitude towards your other half, Ross says.
“Looking honestly at where needs aren’t being met is also important, and taking a stocktake of key things that help to keep relationships strong is a good start.”
These include time together and shared interests, but also time apart to foster individual interests and other friendships.
Intimacy, laughter, sharing your emotions honestly, having common goals and working as a team, being spontaneous and having fun together, all help keep relationships strong.
If you have been feeling that things aren’t where they should be in your relationship, there are changes you can make to enhance connection.
For example, figuring out the ways that your loved one feels cared for (hint: Google “love languages”), can help you communicate effectively.
“If you notice that you’re having the same arguments repeatedly, it generally means that you are talking about the wrong thing,” advises Ross.
“It’s usually not about forgetting to get milk on the way home, it is about feeling as though one person is having to manage everything, and can’t rely on their partner to work with them as a team.”
Top tip: There are online resources for relationships around connection and communication. On the web, The Gottman Institute; and on Instagram, The Secure Relationship.
2) How to build better bonds with your children
With kids back at school, it means busy mornings, after-school activities, homework, and “tired little people”.
More demands lead to increased levels of stress.
Youth need structure, routine, consistency, predictability, and reliability, Ross says. They also need boundaries around their behaviour; as well as understanding and validating their emotions.
Expect “grumpy” kids at the end of the school day until they adjust to the mental and physical demands of being back at school.
“Take some deep breaths, parents, and know this too shall pass,” Ross says.
As well as eating and sleeping well, children need to have unstructured time to do whatever they like.
“Too many activities can lead to feeling overwhelmed for children and they need free time to unwind,” she says.
“Monitor and limit devices but also ask your child what they enjoy, and do, online.
“For teenagers, it provides important opportunities for social connection.
“Show an interest and curiosity about your child’s interests so you can make informed decisions about whether you need to guide their choices.”
The start of the year can also highlight things that might need attention, be it school work or mental health.
If it’s mental health, chat with your GP.
“(Doctors) can make referrals to counsellors and mental health services for your child to get some support and strategies to enhance their mental health.”
Also, talk to your child’s other parent and work as a team to ensure your child has consistency in messages and approaches to challenges and behaviour.
“(What’s more), sit down with your child and start a conversation with them about what you have noticed happening, and ask them ‘are you okay?’”
Several websites are beneficial to parents. Ross suggests KidsHealth NZ; Parenting Place; Parent Help; and Takai: Kia matua rautia.
Top tip: Building a connection is the first step to communicating with your child. Create opportunities for your child to share their feelings. Being noticed by a child is powerful.
3) How to slay debt
This is a biggie for Kiwi families in 2023.
“Rising interest rates and inflation are hurting many people,” says Ross, who believes that seeking budgeting advice should be normalised.
“People often think it is for people needing food parcels, but most of us could benefit from getting some advice about how to manage money better.”
Her advice is to examine your bank accounts and see what costs you may be able to eliminate or cut back on; seek advice from your bank; grow your vegetables; walk or bike instead of driving; plan your grocery shop and weekly meals in advance; buy and cook in bulk; and join social media pages dedicated to sharing cost-saving tips.
“Don’t bury your head in the sand and have financial problems snowball into something significant.”
Top tip: Bay Financial Mentors offer a free, supportive in-person service, or over Zoom at night. As well as helping people one-on-one, they provide educational programmes; money management assistance; and so much more, including working with creditors; negotiating payment plans; and sourcing interest-free or low-interest loans.
4) How to nurture mental health
For your mind to operate effectively, it needs fuel to ensure that the thinking part of your brain can remain active, rather than being overwhelmed with the emotional part, explains Ross.
So, how do you do that?
Fuel yourself with water, good food, physical activity, and stimulate your brain.
Also, remaining in the present is important as it’s what we have the most control over, so practising mindfulness is “crucial”.
“When we spend too much time looking at the past, we usually look at things we wish we’d done differently, which brings about potential regrets.
“When we look ahead, our brains tend to try to predict possible problems to keep ourselves safe, but that can create anxiety.
“If you notice yourself thinking about something (past, present or future) for more than 10 minutes without there being a solution to your problem, it usually means you need to put that thought to one side.
“Going over and over something is ruminating, which tends to become unhelpful and brings negative thinking.”
Top tip: Take notice of things around you right now using your five senses, and focus on your breath to stay grounded.
5) How wellness can cure the workplace
When it comes to work, home life impacts work, and vice versa, Ross says.
Employers are recognising that supporting staff wellbeing has benefits in terms of increased productivity, fewer sick days, and more likelihood of staying with the organization; so they are looking at ways to support physical, emotional and psychological health.
There is also a burgeoning industry helping employers get it right.
Bay of Plenty corporate couple Libby and Dane Robertson launched Parradiigm Workplace Wellness late last year, providing large and small corporations with research and science-backed workplace wellness solutions such as meditation, mindfulness, breathwork workshops, single and multi-day management and team retreats, and personalized coaching, to help increase employee satisfaction, improve workplace culture, and combat anxiety and burnout. To do that, they work with both employers and staff on a 12-month journey of weekly or fortnightly visits.
“Providing simple techniques, consistently, over a long period of time will help to yield greater results – not just for the staff, but for the business as a whole, and that will have a natural positive ripple effect on every area of life,” says Libby.
“We’ve been talking with a lot of fast-paced, high-stress companies lately. The conversations we’re having seem to be around ‘how do we cope with the added stresses from the last three years?’ There is a huge demand for companies wanting to ensure their staff are well looked after.”
However, the key, the Robertsons say, is that employees want any measures implemented to be genuine and not just a “tick-box”.
A common criticism of workplace wellness programmes is that they offer “band-aid solutions” to more deeply rooted inhouse problems, including unmanageable workloads, which if unaddressed, wellness solutions won’t work.
“When businesses prioritise the wellbeing of their employees, that’s when we can really start to see massive, positive change in society,” Dane says. And this includes looking after employees who work from home, by way of online communication whenever they need it.
Overall, the couple says their workplace wellness model is not the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but “the safety barrier at the top”.
Ross says Kiwis are hoping this year will be the start of some better times ahead.
“There is help available if you are really struggling, and one of the strongest things to do is to reach out for support if needed.
“Each journey starts with a single step, and any step forward is progress.”
WHERE TO GET HELP: If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE: Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor. Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP). Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) Healthline: 0800 611 116 Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797 or free text 8691 Anxiety NZ – 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) Seniorline – 0800 725 463 Your local Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
# To contact Parradiigm Workplace Wellness, visit Parradiigm on Instagram.