With the proposed changes for medical insurance, we are putting considerable focus on health care. But how do we care for our health? And what is health?
When we are sick, we are very concerned about "getting better" and "feeling like our old selves" as quickly as possible. Then after the illness passes, we go back to our old ways of living, generally none the wiser. Often we don't see the more gradual changes in our health or accept them as inevitable because we are "getting older". Isn't it normal to be less active, have less energy, and more aches and pains as we get older? Although we accept these limitations, other societies have seniors remaining active, mentally alert, healthy and fit into their eighties and nineties as their norm. Because it occurs so frequently, we accept living with headaches, backaches, stomach aches, asthma, allergies, and other illness as "normal", something we have to learn to "live with".
However sometimes the illness is severe enough to force us to reexamine how we are living and what health means to us. Now we have an opportunity for true healing. But what is the difference? In our western view of medicine, we go to a doctor and expect the doctor to accurately diagnose what is "wrong" with us based on medical testing, the doctor's observations and our complaints. Then we expect a magical pill, procedure or surgery to cure us immediately without any effort or change on our part besides a few days of rest at most.
We view illness and pain as problems that we want to make go away because they are abnormal and inconvenient. So we first try to get rid of them with a pill - an aspirin for a headache, ache or pain; an antibiotic or decongestant for a cold or the flu; an antacid for a stomach ache. Then if that doesn't work, we expect doctors to fix it by giving us a shot, a pill or surgery. However in treating illness in this manner, we can mask the symptom without getting to the underlying problem, the root cause of the illness. Instead of healing, the underlying illness continues to slowly degrade our health.
But let's look at illness differently. If we consider dis-ease or dis-comfort as meaning "not at ease", we can look further and ask: "Where are we not at ease?", "Where are we not comfortable?" We can look beyond our physical body and consider the health and "ease" or "comfort" we have with our life, including our emotions and thoughts and how they affect us. We can evaluate how we view the world, ourselves and others, our spirit and relationship with God. We can look at our lifestyle and values and ask if they are bringing us ease and comfort. Or are we living with stress and anxiety because we aren't living according to our values and priorities?
At times we feel guilt, remorse or anger over our past behavior, thoughts or experiences - and can't let go of these thoughts and emotions. Instead of living in the present moment, we dwell on the past or the future. We may be so concerned about the future - how to "make it", pay our bills, and get ahead and be successful - that we aren't experiencing the present. Or we may keep ourselves busy with activities to keep from feeling the painful emotions that come when we are at rest.
We need periodically to stop to determine what success means to us, instead of just accepting how society defines success with expensive cars, clothes, homes, and activities. Do we believe that money is power - and to be successful and feel important we need as much money and power as possible? Are we driving and pushing ourselves? Or are we listening to our inner voices of wisdom, our intuition, our bodies?
Western medicine is beginning to realize and acknowledge that our thoughts, emotions, and spirit affect our physical health. Illness can force us to stop our daily activities, giving us the opportunity to look at our lives and ourselves. We need to think about how we are living instead of just trying to make the symptom go away.
Our bodies are actually marvelous and wise, trying to help us by communicating to us when we develop an ache, pain, lump or illness. Instead of being a discomfort or annoyance, an ache or pain is our body's way of trying to tell us that there is a problem and we need to change - that we can't continue to function at full speed under the current conditions because we need more rest, different food, to change our thoughts and emotions, or even our lifestyle. If we don't listen to the minor messages that our body sends us, they keep getting louder and stronger, becoming heartburn, ulcers, migraines, arthritis, shortness of breath, chest pains, hypoglycemia, high cholesterol. And stronger - diabetes, a stroke, heart attack, or cancer.
The problem is that we don't know how to listen to and interpret our bodies, to be in touch with ourselves - to feel our feelings and recognize our thoughts and emotions and how they affect us - or what to do about them - or how to change. We spend twelve to twenty years or more in school but we don't learn how to live in and with our bodies. We just expect them to be there for us to do whatever we want to do. We don't know how to live our lives or what health is.
However awareness is slowly creeping in. We are beginning to see that there is a connection between what we eat and how we feel and the condition of our body. With too little exercise and too much food, we take in more than we need and store the excess. We get fat, clog our arteries and develop high cholesterol, cysts, tumors and cancer. And we find out there isn't a quick and easy fix.
So illness can be a sign of an imbalance and a symptom of a problem that we need to solve. However what is optimal health and how do we realize it? Health is more than lack of apparent illness in the physical body. Health includes well being and balance in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual life. And this balance is dynamic, changing constantly as we experience life and are in touch with our environment and fellow man.
Optimal health includes plenty of energy, a feeling of joy and well being, a sense of fulfillment, being in harmony with nature, and spiritual peace. We are comfortable and at ease with ourselves, others, and our environment. We know ourselves and our values and live according to those values. We like ourselves and how we are living.
Health is not a goal in and of itself. We develop optimal health not to avoid pain or to attain a superior appearance, but so we have the energy to create and enjoy our lives, family, relationships, career, and community - to fulfill our life's purpose and our dreams.
Our bodies require a certain minimal level of energy for our basic body functions that enable us to digest food, keep our heart beating, blood circulating, etc. When we are ill, our additional energy needs to be focused on healing. When we are healthy, we can use our additional energy to interact with the world around us, to work and deal with the stress of day to day living.
To handle stress, our body responds by slowing down certain body functions and providing more stimulation to others. This is part of the inherent "fight or flight" response that we have needed in responding to imminent threats of danger in the past. However instead of a one time, specific danger that we can address, we now are repeatedly barraged with too much stress in our jobs and everyday living. Consequently certain organs are continually overloaded while others are not functioning at full capacity. This is why excess stress leaves us feeling drained and depleted of energy.
We further strain our bodies with the chemicals we take in from pollution in our environment, from the pesticides and antibiotics that we get with our food, and by eating too much fat and protein. This toxic load is exceeding our bodies ability to eliminate the excess through its regular functions, so we are accumulating the excess in our body. These accumulations and the impact of continually living with stress is manifesting itself as disease and illness.
These conditions of illness don't occur overnight. Our health at any moment is the consequence and result of thousands of choices and decisions that we have made over many years in the past. To heal ourselves, we need to examine what lead up to this condition so we can begin to reverse it and improve our health. We must accept and take responsibility for our actions and learn how to choose wisely in how we live our lives.
When we become out of balance, we need to get in touch with ourselves to see where the problem is, what is the underlying cause of the problem, and how we can correct it. We must consider our diet, recreation, exercise, thoughts, emotions and spiritual activities - the whole person. This is the approach of holistic health.
We need to take an active role in selecting and determining the treatment instead of passively expecting someone else to fix it. This includes selecting the specialist, whether a doctor, counselor, priest/rabbi/minister, therapist, chiropractor, etc. In addition to evaluating their advice and deciding which treatment to follow, we must follow through by continuing to work with them in implementing their advice, while continuing to listen to our bodies and how we feel.
We must learn how to realize balance in our lives - to get enough sleep, have an appropriate, manageable work and activity level, eat food in the proper proportions which nourishes our body, and manage the level of stress in our lives. We need to get an appropriate amount of physical exercise and reduce our exposure to pollution, chemicals, radiation and other known carcinogens. And we must learn how our thoughts and emotions affect us and what we can do to develop health in all areas of our lives.
We must learn to manage and balance our resources - our time, money, energy, health, thoughts, emotions - what we bring in and release from our lives. An excess in one area leads to an imbalance which drains another area. We can realize abundance and health in all aspects of our lives when we learn to live in balance. We then create an abundance of energy which we can direct towards our living our dreams and fulfilling our life's purpose, developing and enhancing our families, careers, community and society.
This is the changing role of health care. We continually make choices regarding diet, activities, thoughts and emotions which affect our health. Are the choices that you are making supporting your health?
Janice Polansky, MBA, MS, works with individuals who want to live a joyful, effective, peaceful life with optimum health. She helps individuals to make healthier food and lifestyle choices and increase self awareness to create healthier, more balanced, and fulfilling lives. Jan combines holistic, natural, Oriental understandings with Western, scientific approaches to health and healing to bring you a unique perspective for understanding how to improve your health and life. Jan has a background in health, natural foods, enzymes, herbs, energy medicine, macrobiotics, essential oils and Oriental medicine. She is certified in enzyme therapy with the Loomis Institute and has studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Healing, Himalayan Institute, Vega Center, Kushi Institute and Ann Wigmore Institute. She has a bachelor degree in chemistry and masters degrees in systems analysis and business from Carnegie Mellon University. Janice is a naturopath, Reiki master, and founder of Personal Health Dynamics. Jan provides seminars and consultations based on integrative medicine for individuals and companies to support to a healthier life and way of eating. For information, contact Personal Health Dynamics at 412-492-0767 or Jan@PersonalHealthDynamics.com.
Ó Copyright 1994 Janice M. Polansky Personal Health Dynamics