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A New Haven Mom’s Culturally Inclusive Approach to Wellness

Stephanie Held
January 25, 2019
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The #mActivityPeople interview series focuses on the mindful lives and health routines of mActivity’s inspiring community. Submit your own on Instagram—post your mindful mActivity (tag us @mactivitynh!) and include the hashtag #mActivityPeople for a chance to be featured on our blog.

According to the National Wellness Institute, there are six dimensions to being well: spiritual, occupational, emotional, intellectual, physical and social wellness. Wellness itself is defined as an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

Below are the six dimensions of wellness as described by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder at the National Wellness Institute. Here's how full-time mom and Project Youth Court advisory board member, Megan Calliope Ifill, fulfills them.

SPIRITUAL: The will to live better each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.

“Growing up in Trinidad, I saw first hand how a lacking welfare system affected impoverished people in my community. For this reason, my grandmother taught me to be kind to everyone I meet and to never glorify others for their education, or anything external, but to acknowledge them for who they are.

“I was nine when she said, ‘You must be very respectful of our housekeeper, Ms. Sheila. She’s here to do a good job; you cannot make a mess just because she will be here to take care of you and the house.’ This virtue stayed with me and today I live my life looking for invisible people who need extra support.”

OCCUPATIONAL: It is better to choose a career which is consistent with our personal values, interests, and beliefs than to select one that is unrewarding to us.

Daughter Eryn Ifill (left), Megan Ifill (center), son Mark Ifill (right), © Chris Randall of www.ilovenewhaven.org

“I worked at McKinsey & Company as a Technology Buy and Project Teams member; consulted at Choate as IT Project Manager and worked 15 years in New York global corporations in company-wide systems administration and implementation. One day, I realized that I was so focused on achievement that I lost of a sense of every day, self-loving action.

“Today, my occupation is being a full-time mom and loving my kids as best that I can. I have created an infrastructure that provides me with a foundation of steel; it sways and doesn’t crumble under pressure. The sway creates room for good opportunities to move and enter that are beyond our control.”

PHYSICAL: Optimal wellness is met through the combination of good exercise and eating habits.

Megan Ifill living well and happy in the mActivity lounge

“American culture tells us to eat a small bar or cereal for breakfast, some kind of sandwich, salad, or soup at lunch and then a big dinner with a couple of sides. In other parts of the world, like in India and China where my family is originally from, meals get smaller as the day goes on. Culturally, these habits remain for generations.

“This is what I do: I start with everything I like all on one plate in the morning. Three pieces of meatless meatballs, crab-less crab cakes, mini chicken wonton pot-stickers with spinach and mozzarella and masala sauce, corn and some dried cranberries. I put it all on a microwave plate and presto!

"For exercise, I go to Lisa’s spin class on Tuesdays – I mostly just go for a Lisa smile. The class is helping the weight to start to come off and the pain I’m experiencing is less, but the point is to show up.”

SOCIAL: The social dimension encourages contribution to one’s environment and community. You’ll take an active part in improving our world by encouraging healthier living and initiating better communication with those around you.

Megan Ifill (left) and Katie Yates (right) reconnecting at mActivity after 35 years

“I have people in my life that really run the gamut. I don’t exclude or disown friendships because of my personal or political views. I have friends who parent their children the way that I do, and I have friends that parent differently. I have conservative friends and I have liberal friends. They are all lovely people and I try to keep space for everyone’s opinion, even if it doesn’t reflect what I’ve known to be true.

“I met my friend Stephanie at the mActivity Social and we instantly felt like we had known each other forever. Sometimes we’ll hang out and talk in the sauna or write back and forth about anything and everything. I also reconnected recently with my friend Katie Yates who I met back in 1983 as 17-year-old freshman at Carleton College in Minnesota. We ran into each other at mActivity as 52-year-old moms!”

INTELLECTUAL: A well person expands his or her knowledge and skills while discovering the potential for sharing his or her gifts with others.

Megan for Project Youth Court

“I volunteer as an advisory board member for the New Haven Project Youth Court. The Youth Court engages a youth’s peers to repair the harm caused by a youth’s action and works to give them a second chance in the community. An offender who chooses to participate in Youth Court receives an appropriate sentence, such as volunteer hours, participation in programs, or service on a future youth jury.

"Throughout the hearing, an adult volunteer, often a judge or attorney, oversees the process. I am in my third year serving on court nights, greeting families and building an ongoing rapport with the Federal Marshals who check us in. I am in my sixth year, starting as a founding member of the Behavioral Health Patient and Family Advisory Council for Yale-New Haven Hospital System. I have a knack for building bridges where other people might feel limitations. My daughter Eryn has unbridled enthusiasm for these causes, so I try to move her towards focused enthusiasm.”

EMOTIONAL: Emotional wellness includes the capacity to manage one’s feelings and related behaviors including the realistic assessment of one’s limitations, development of autonomy, and ability to cope effectively with stress.

The Ifill family at the Wesleyan University Usdan Center

“I have multiple sclerosis and both of my kids are medically complex. These conditions have given me a reason to look for the good and positive in the everyday. Living with MS can be so exhausting.

"Challenging things are going to happen no matter what. Be strong, stand up and do the work that has to be done. In my family we laugh, we smile, we play with puppies. Even when days are spent on the hospital, we try to notice the invisible people because I believe in sharing more love than discomfort.”

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE MACTVITY?

“To stay sane is to take care of your holistic health. Everyone at mActivity is inspiring and I get the sense that people are more interested in the human being than the job that they do. My son Mark wrote, ‘None of us are strangers. We are all acquaintances waiting to meet.’ It’s true; at mActivity we begin to recognize one another.”

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