The Key Wellness Pillars and Habits I’m Prioritizing in My Life This Year

Health & Wellness

A woman looks into the camera while out for a winter walk, wearing a beige beanie hat, olive green sherpa coat, and gray quarter-zip sweatshirt

In last week’s post, I outlined the baseline for my overall physical, emotional, and mental health: a daily routine. It is a rough schedule propped up around how my energy tends to flow. This energy is directly related to my physical and mental health. I’ve been tweaking it since last fall and it’s become solid and consistent enough to withstand the curse of boredom—which is when I usually give in to the urge to try something new or throw away the routine entirely. The novelty of newness will always be my siren song. 


Today I want to discuss my wellness habits in more detail—with flexibility at the forefront. Again, none of this is new, none of this is groundbreaking. What is new and groundbreaking (for me) is the reason why I prioritize these habits over others.

Why I Prioritize Wellness Habits

The reason these wellness habits have stuck is that I’m not doing them to achieve a specific goal (like checking boxes every day). I am doing them because they make me feel better. Some days I can focus on one or two of these habits. Some days I do all of them. Most of the time, I’m at 70%. It’s not about the time spent or the intensity—it’s about staying consistent. 

I don’t prioritize each wellness pillar equally. One is usually more dominant than the others on any given week, and this scale can tip in a different direction whenever I need it to. Most days have a lot of variety. The pillars make it easier to ensure I can pursue life in my unique way and protect myself from the cycle I know so well: depression and burnout. 

It’s not about the time spent or the intensity—it’s about staying consistent. 

A Wellness Blueprint Unique to You

A note before we get into it: What makes me feel good might not be what makes you feel good. My definition of good might be different than yours. I highly recommend asking yourself what “feeling good” means to you and building your routine and pillars of wellness around that. There would be a lot less confusion around health and wellness if we prioritized listening to our inner intuition and body cues over someone else’s routine. Your body, your choice. 

With that said: These are my four pillars of wellness and examples of how they show up in my life.

My Personal Wellness Pillars in 2024

1. Sleep and Rest

This pillar is number one for a reason. Without it, I’m toast. I like to think of rest as an activity instead of thinking of it as not doing anything. Prioritizing rest is a gift to me! For me, this pillar is not limited solely to the act of resting my body; it relates to any habit that helps with overwhelm. Below is a list of what I do to fill up my cup.

Wellness Habits Related to Sleep and Rest

  • I sleep at least seven hours a night. 
  • I try to wait at least an hour in the morning before having coffee. (It is hard and I fail often!)
  • I limit caffeine during the day, which helps me sleep better at night.
  • I practice mindfulness when overwhelmed.
  • I work in twenty-five-minute sprints with five-minute breaks in between. (It’s called the Pomodoro Technique! More info here.)
  • I write things down versus trying to hold it all in my head. 
  • I don’t drink outside of social occasions. 
  • I keep a calendar and notebook beside my bed to capture anything I might need to remember tomorrow. 
  • I don’t use my phone before bed (or before breakfast most days).
  • I rarely watch TV before bed. 

2. Fuel 

This pillar includes eating meals that feel good in my body and also the things I’m feeding my mind: what I’m reading, movies I’m watching, and entertainment that fills me up. I’ve found I get the most from my “fuel” activities if I’m alone or with my family (a true introvert). It includes activities that sometimes overlap with work, but the very important distinction is these activities leave me feeling energized and fulfilled—not drained and depleted. The list below is a bingo card of things that give me energy. For me, fuel might look like any of the following.

Wellness Habits That Fuel and Energize Me

  • Cooking a nourishing meal
  • Being outside
  • Prioritizing healthy fats, protein, leafy greens, fruits, and veggies in my meal plans
  • Eating dark chocolate
  • Reading cookbooks
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book in my favorite chair
  • Watching a movie on my “watch” list
  • Flipping through AD magazines and coffee table books
  • Taking a MasterClass
  • Organizing my spaces
  • Decluttering my home
  • Cuddling with my kids and Joe
  • Meditating
A woman stands in front of her kitchen sink in the early morning hours, wearing a pink tank top and leggings

3. Activity

The next pillar is about the activities I prioritize. Many of these examples build confidence and resilience because I’m not “comfortable” during the process. I do them to challenge myself and,  almost always, I feel better as a result. These are my “just do it” activities—ones I don’t always want to do but never regret afterward. 

Wellness Habits That Prioritize Activity

  • Doing Pilates, whether at a reformer class or at home
  • Going on a long run or walk
  • Playing tennis
  • Working on business plans
  • Posting on social media
  • Increasing personal finance acumen
  • Writing
  • Designing
  • Gardening
  • Learning a skill that does not come naturally to me (e.g., speaking French, playing guitar)
  • Socializing with a large group of friends
  • Hosting large dinner parties
  • Taking the kids on an adventure
  • Having a game night with my family
  • Cooking with the kids
  • Planning trips and traveling

I try to juggle these three pillars, knowing there will never be a “perfect” balance. There are seasons where sleep and rest are a higher priority and others when I’m in a flow state and work later or more often than usual. There are seasons when it is imperative to push myself past discomfort. The pillars are here (like my daily routine) to serve as a guide and support my energy. 

A note: During a long period of over-prioritizing self-care, I found that the feeling of challenging myself was as important to my mental health as sleep and rest. This might not be the same for you. But it is worth considering if you find yourself stuck in a state of apathy. 

And speaking of energy, the last pillar is…

4. Boundaries

Boundaries do not come naturally to me. I want to say yes to all the things. I love a full plate. Feeling like what I do matters to someone else fulfills me. I love my friends and family and want to give all I can to connect with them. But we cannot do all the things, especially not all at once. Because of that, I always come back to considering my energy—what fills my cup and what depletes it. 

This pillar is where I am learning the most these days. It’s uncomfortable to set hard boundaries when part of me wants to go to that show or take on that extra project I know I can’t fully commit to. What has helped is making a list of what depletes me. Then, if I can see a connection between what I want to commit to and how I know I’ll feel afterward, it’s an easy “no.” 

Things That Deplete Me

  • Ambiguous projects with ambiguous deadlines
  • Unpaid labor
  • Gossip
  • General negativity and helplessness
  • Being around people who catastrophize
  • Black-and-white thinking
  • Multitasking
  • Comment sections on social media
  • Doomscrolling
  • Virtue signaling
  • Rumination and worry
  • Self-help as a means to fix oneself

I hope reading through my wellness habits and pillars was at the very least intriguing, even if yours look much different than mine. Next week, I’m going to be writing about the changes I’ve made to my journaling and personal growth habits. It’s the area of my life that has changed the most so far in 2024. 

BY Kate Arends - February 27, 2024


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