We have a tendency to believe that lifestyle and health are separate. Apart from the obvious things like fitness and eating well, we don’t really think about how our mental health could affect our physical health – or vice versa. Nor do we consider preventative options that could keep us healthier for longer.
A holistic approach to healthcare is important because it takes everything into account. From how much sleep you get to how stressed you are. How varied your diet is and whether you are happy. This makes far more sense for two reasons:
- First, if you treat your body as a whole, you’re much more likely to find long term solutions that lead to better overall health than if you treat areas as though they are separate entities.
- Second, a holistic approach usually focuses on the cause of symptoms, not the reduction of symptoms. This means that a holistic approach to a headache might prescribe a couple of painkillers but will also investigate what is causing the headaches and how to prevent that cause.
Now let’s just be clear here. A holistic approach doesn’t mean that you can’t see your doctor, shouldn’t take prescribed medication or that you should ignore the science behind health advice. The holistic approach is simply a way to find a balance between clinical medicine and a more general feeling of wellbeing. In other words – please continue to follow your doctor’s instructions. However, feel free to experiment with a few risk-free ideas at the same time!
Holistic Health Care in Practice
Holistic healthcare is often used in situations where a singular approach doesn’t work. For example, if a person is trying to defeat a drug addiction, simply coming off the drugs isn’t going to work in the long term because the underlying causes remain unaddressed.
In contrast, a holistic drug and alcohol treatment center would look at all the factors influencing an addict’s lifestyle to see where changes could be made. The reason, to increase the likelihood of that person staying off drugs long term. So, if someone had turned to drugs as a way to escape a stressful lifestyle, a holistic practitioner would address ways to destress and build a calmer lifestyle too.
But addiction isn’t the only area where holistic health care can help. Patients suffering with chronic pain often turn to holistic health practices because pain medication alone isn’t helping. Understanding pain and how to deal with it is not as simple as you might think. Everything from sleep deprivation to anxiety can cause chronic pain. While there might be a physical reason for pain to appear, sometimes it is symptomatic of a mental health condition.
For patients with chronic pain, finding a treatment can be a really frustrating case of trial and error. This is why a holistic method often works well. As for those of you that may not be sure exactly what has reduced the pain or made it go away, at least you can try lots of things at once. And, if you really want to know what made the difference, you can always gradually change things back to see what happens.
There are various complementary treatments recommended for chronic pain. Stress reduction and plenty of sleep are often the first on the list as both make a significant difference to your overall wellbeing. Distraction and meditation are also recommended. Meditation is a good way to relax your body and to find acceptance for the pain you’re in. It also gives you time and space to understand your pain and begin to stop struggling against it. The practice of meditation has been shown to help 57% of people living with chronic pain and is often recommended to patients with cancer and other issues such as back pain and IBS.
If meditation doesn’t work for you, distraction is the opposite approach but crucially is also a viable method for dealing with chronic pain. Think of distraction this way: if your body is a tantruming toddler, you can either give it loads of attention, providing short term relief but inevitably encouraging further hissy fits or you can ignore it until it learns to self-soothe. If you ignore pain and focus on something else like a funny video or a conversation with a friend, you will gradually devote less attention to the pain.
Can Holistic Healthcare Work Now?
Yes. one of the best things about learning holistic healthcare is that most of the things you do are preventative and aimed at making your life better regardless of whether you are ill or not. Many people find the benefits of meditation even if they don’t have pain or stress to manage.
Recently, the idea of holistic fitness has entered the mainstream. For years, fitness and weight loss have always been temporary things with quick fix diets and extreme regimes. The idea behind all these programs has never been about lifestyle so much as grabbing as much cash as possible before the client gives up, piles on weight and sees their self-esteem plummet once more.
Holistic fitness goes against all the usual hallmarks of a fitness regime because it is not about building a 6-pack, it doesn’t matter if you don’t end up looking like a celebrity and it is about creating a lifestyle you can and want to maintain. Why? Because fitness isn’t about how far you can run or what you can lift, it is about how you feel and if you feel positive, strong and energetic, you’re probably doing it right.
Of course, we can’t talk about holistic healthcare without mentioning diet. Again, the holistic approach bucks the current trend of obsessive calorie counting, cutting food groups and eating a bland and boring diet limited to a few ‘good’ foods. Intuitive eating is about learning what your body wants and then controlling how you respond to the signals it sends. This doesn’t mean that you can eat junk food all the time but it does mean that you can liberate yourself from the idea of good and bad and seek balance instead.
The best rule for eating is to choose from as many different foods as possible and create a varied diet. The more colors and textures you introduce to your plate, the more likely it is that you will achieve a healthy diet because color and texture tends to come down to fruit and veg! Holistic eating also encourages you to eat slowly and mindfully, listening to your body when tells you it’s full to prevent over-eating. Over time, you will find that your weight settles naturally.
Holistic health care is about taking care of all aspects of your life and body to give you the best possible experience. This isn’t about treating symptoms; it’s about getting the root of your problems and finding solutions at a more basic level to prevent the symptoms in the first place. Holistic health care takes in clinical medicine as well as more alternative ideas and complementary treatments. This means that even if something isn’t curing you, if it feels good, it’s probably helping (like every massage ever!)
The more you learn about holistic health care, the more you will come to understand about your own body and lifestyle. Feel free to experiment with different ideas to see what works for you but do remember to consult a doctor before doing anything that could have a big impact. Life is all about finding balance and that means something different to everyone. The key thing to take away from the holistic approach is that it is deeply personal.
Do what makes you feel good.
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