Monday, September 7, 2020

Why Time—Not Just Money—Needs To Be Part of the Conversation About How To Make Wellness More Accessible


In an ideal world, Amber Nash would love to go to therapy once a month. She’d also be thrilled to take a 30-minute daily walk outside and lift weights three times per week. But as an entrepreneur and mother of three—including an infant—she simply doesn’t have time to consistently fit basic wellness practices like these into her life. Having her kids home full-time due to the COVID-19 pandemic is only making her feelings of time poverty worse, despite the fact that she’s fortunate enough to have part-time child care four days per week.

“I feel panicky and overwhelmed daily because I have no time for wellness or me-time and I’m just 5 months postpartum,” says Nash. “Because I’m nursing my new baby and working around meetings, I have only lifted weights once in August and once in July. It’s my go-to wellness activity.” Although she compensates by walking on a mini-treadmill at her desk, she knows she’s not feeling as well as she could if she were able to lift. And although she did make a therapy appointment months ago for postpartum issues, she ultimately wasn’t able to fit it in around work and parenting duties.

Nash’s story illustrates a reality that studies have confirmed for years: Time is a luxury, and many people don’t have enough of it to make wellness a regular practice. For instance, one 2018 survey showed that 35 percent of workers named time as the biggest barrier to sticking to wellness-related New Year’s resolutions. Another study, published in 2010, indicates that time may be more important than money when it comes to creating a regular exercise routine. That said, time poverty often goes hand-in-hand with financial poverty. If someone works multiple low-wage jobs, lacks access to transportation or childcare, or can’t afford time-saving solutions such as a dishwasher or grocery delivery, they’ll naturally have less free time available to focus on their own well-being.

Clearly, time needs to be part of the conversation when we talk about making wellness more accessible. Yet it’s largely been absent from the discussion up until this point, to the detriment of those who arguably need wellness practices the most. “Men and women who have been wellness geeks for years are not the ones that need help learning about self care, yet we continue to see a lot of solutions being created for the same self-selecting audience,” says Sabrina Mason, MPH, co-founder of hormonal health support platform Pollie. “What about single parents that work two shift jobs and don’t have enough money for proper child support? How do we reach them?”

COVID-19 has exacerbated the effects of time poverty, even among higher-wage earners. This is especially true for parents and other caregivers, many of whom are devoting extra time to their dependents in the face of school closures and social distancing. In a June survey, 67 percent of caregivers said that they or their partner were the family’s sole source of childcare that month. What’s more, caregivers who have lost childcare due to COVID-19 reported higher rates of stress and anxiety than those with childcare. A growing number of people are also caring for older family members due to the pandemic. In 2019, nearly 44 million Americans provided unpaid health-related care for their loved ones, but that number is believed to have doubled since COVID-19 hit the U.S.

Fortunately, a growing group of wellness entrepreneurs is creating platforms and programming with time poverty in mind. Some are creating A.I. tools that streamline the time-consuming process of finding and partaking in health care. Others are hosting bite-sized, virtual wellness workshops that can be accessed any time, any place. All are fueled by a desire to bring self care and health care to those without time privilege—and to ultimately make the industry more accessible for all.

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