Psychological tools for wellness / Category / Emile Du Toit / November 29th 2015
Without a practical healthy lifestyle program you risk losing your health and wellness and never truly self-actualizing. Reactive and unintegrated health principles of yesteryear are proving ill-equipped to deal with today’s levels of stress, entitlement and chronic illness. In this health article we examine why the humble GP is unable to manage our total health, and how we need to stop whingeing and take responsibility for our own lives! Tools for Health and Wellness takes you on a guided tour on how and why to construct your own healthy lifestyle program and ultimately convert this into a quantifiable health care plan.
We live in a world that is progressively fast-paced, high octane and high stress. Without a healthy lifestyle program we risk losing our health and wellness and never really self-actualizing. It is also a world where we have huge levels of opportunity and freedom, never before experienced levels of health information accessibility and the ability to live almost entirely autonomously from society. A world where – perhaps for the first time – the average person has enough control and knowledge to follow the principles of total health, and thus truly meet their potential.
There is much that is truly brilliant about modern medicine. I, for one, would no longer be in this world if we had not progressed as far as what we have. There are now cures for many an illness and some of the other debilitating conditions can at the very least be managed effectively. In some ways the regimented structure of the medical model has driven this growth. As a consequence, many of the killer infectious diseases of yesteryear are all but eradicated and others are on a path to extinction. Life expectancy has blossomed, even in most third world nations.
Inevitably we are still mortal, and chronic degenerative diseases are the scourge of modern society. Something always gets us in the end…
With the decline of death rates due to the discovery of effective vaccines and treatments for most infectious diseases and a shift towards improving mortality (life expectancy) and morbidity (years of health) the medical landscape is changing rapidly. However, we also live in a world of high and often chronic levels of stress, and with this comes the age of chronic illness. In this ‘modern’ society odd, hard to quantify chronic medical conditions are on the up. Many of these are syndromes with a complex interweaving of symptoms and quite often multiple causes. These physical chronic conditions are often exacerbated by stress and psychological conditions, and in turn the physical symptoms tend to exacerbate psychological stress. This tends to become a recursive, systemic issue, where over time the initial cause can become almost irrelevant. Many of these conditions are never ‘cured’, or if they are the ‘cure’ can take years to take effect – often due to the fact that so many different aspects of the person’s psychology, physiology and external environment have been affected. In order to effectively treat these ailments, the systemic nature of the condition has to be taken into account, and an integrated medicine approach founded on the concept of total health is often the only way forward.
Sadly, traditional wester medicine, for all the good it does for many of the illnesses that affect us, is largely impotent to effectively manage many of these ‘new’ chronic conditions. Some of the reasons for this include the following:
a. Modern medicine has a strong focus on treating symptoms (reactive medicine) as opposed to preventing their onset (proactive medicine).
b. General practitioners – the first point of call for many – have limited time resources and are expensive. This means that many have one eye on the patient and one eye on the clock. This hardly leaves time for a precursory examination of the client’s current symptomatology, never mind a discussion of proactive health, current life circumstances and the very necessary liaison with other types of practitioners currently treating the mind or body of the client. This in itself is not unreasonable – they too have to earn a living. I am sure many GP’s would be not unenthusiastic to be able to truly take the time to get a sense of the total health of their clients and take on more of the role of their clients ‘health manager’. However, if the average consultation took roughly 90 minutes rather than 15, they would have to raise their fees to 600% of current rate. Let’s face it, a doctor’s practice is a business, with a goal to make money, and if general practitioners suddenly found themselves earning 1/6th of what they were there would be vastly smaller classes at the average medical school.
c. There is very little interaction between different disciplines in the health care sector, and almost none between health care practitioners and other disciplines. When last did your GP consult with your wife, financial advisor, priest, gym instructor, dietician, kinesiologist or problematic teenage child? At times all of these consultations might actually be vital in terms of treating your total health.
d. As a product of the above, GP’s seldom take on the role of ‘health manager’, which is what is such a vital role in treating physical and psychological distress and the complex interplay of symptoms (mild or severe) that come out of this and encroach on our health and wellness.
e. Finally, the medical system has had very little support (at least until recently) from governments, corporations and Joe public. Most funds have gone in to treatment rather than prevention, and many organizations have been slow to truly embrace the mind-body concept and the concept of total health. To add to this, the human beings on planet Earth have in general gone out of their way to ignore health warnings on products, consume ridiculous quantities of food stuffs, pollute their atmosphere, murder and injure each other and, increase rather than decrease their stress levels and generally deny any real responsibility for their medium term health and wellness. Homo sapiens erectus have created an entire culture out of denying responsibility for themselves and shifting all accountability on to that poor sod, Fate!
Since medical general practitioners tend to be our primary point of contact with the health care system, and they clearly do not fulfil the role of health manager, who then is equipped and prepared to step in to this role? The short answer is ‘nobody’!
Sure, there is the odd super-celebrity out there who has their own crew of health care professionals creating a tailor made path to health and happiness. But for the rest of us mere mortals this is hardly the case. As a Cognitive-Behavioural therapist / Life Coach I find myself often taking on this role, both with relatively healthy individuals and those who are struggling with physical or cognitive distress. I find that the time dedicated to health and wellness (total health) is invaluable. But then again not everyone can and/or chooses to dedicate the time and money to seeing their own personal shrink. And most psychoanalysts don’t take on this role, in any event.
Ultimately though, it is truly vital that we all choose to become accountable for our own health and happiness. So you may be forced to email your letter of complaint to yourself, and start considering your own, unique healthy lifestyle program.
The definition of a healthy lifestyle program is actually more problematic than one might think. This has largely to do with the fact that people define both health and happiness in different ways, and have varied thoughts about how best to get there! As mentioned before, I look at the human being in a systemic way. This means that the mind-body link is an integral part of how I understand us. It is difficult to find happiness if we are not healthy, and vice versa. Our identity is also important here. If we are not continuously in the process of self-actualizing then we are unlikely to maintain happiness. With one caveat; I strongly believe that every person has the right and duty to decide what self-actualization looks like for them. There is no point if someone’s path to self-actualization pretty much just equates to peer pressure, or their parent’s expectations. Clearly this s not their path, and they cannot actualize their potential. At some point they will realize (consciously or otherwise) that they are living their lives in a way that might be congruent with whom they think they should be, but nevertheless incongruent with whom they actually are! Ultimately, self-esteem needs to circumnavigate the path of growth of the individual, but within their core sense of being.
In other words there is no point in living the dream, only to wake up one day to discover that it is someone else’s dream!
In synthesis, a healthy lifestyle program must begin with who you are, at your very core, and then draw a line forward to who you want to become. Ultimately, it includes setting goals in all aspects of our lives, whether they be work, social, health, exercise, hobbies, spiritual, or anything else.
If you have read our article on total health you will have a good sense of the functional areas of our lives. We divided them in to 10 basic areas, but frankly each area has many subdivisions so you may ultimately end up with more. Anyhow, at this point you might want to open an excel spreadsheet and write down the various functional areas of total health, and then work out to what degree you are currently living the life you need to in order to be healthy and happy (aka true freedom). Whether you are on track or not, you nevertheless need to consider the direction that you need to be heading in so as to create / maintain a healthy lifestyle program.
Finally, once you have written down your basic objectives going forward, it is time for you to read the article on how to create your own unique health care plan!
In the following article we will unpack how to transform this healthy lifestyle program into an actual health care plan.
Like what you read? Why not share it with your friends