Treating the Life, Not Just the Symptoms: A Holistic Approach to Health & Wellness

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In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the underlying causes of our ailments and focus solely on alleviating the symptoms. We rush to the pharmacy for a quick fix, seeking relief from headaches, stress, fatigue, diabetes and cancer without pausing to consider what might be causing these issues in the first place. But what if we shifted our perspective? What if, instead of just treating the symptoms, we treated the life behind them? It is estimated that approximately 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes cases, along with over a third of cancers, can be prevented through the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices. Several years ago I was having a conversation with a research scientist from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute and he shared that from his research a cancer gene can be turned on or off with your lifestyle.

The concept of treating the life, not just the symptoms, is rooted in holistic wellness approaches that acknowledge the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. Rather than merely addressing surface-level discomfort, this approach seeks to identify and address the root causes of health issues, aiming for long-term healing and vitality. It is what we as health coaches look to assist our clients achieve.

So, what does it mean to treat the life?

Understanding the Root Causes

At the heart of treating the life is the recognition that symptoms are often manifestations of deeper imbalances within our lives. For instance, chronic stress might manifest as physical symptoms like headaches or muscle tension, but its roots could lie in issues such as work pressure, relationship problems, or unresolved emotional trauma. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is a significant factor in many health problems, including chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. In a survey conducted by the APA in 2017, 77% of people reported experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress, while 73% reported experiencing psychological symptoms caused by stress.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine in 2013 found that primary care physicians often encounter patients with stress-related symptoms. The study estimated that between 60-80% of primary care visits may be attributed to stress-related issues.

Another study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2015 found that work-related stress was associated with an increase in doctor visits, particularly for musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and psychological complaints.

Overall, while it’s challenging to provide an exact percentage, stress-induced symptoms are a common reason for doctor visits and can contribute to various physical and mental health issues.

By taking the time to explore these underlying factors, we can gain insight into what’s truly impacting our health and well-being. This might involve introspection, seeking professional guidance, or making lifestyle changes to address the root causes.

Embracing Holistic Practices

Holistic wellness practices play a pivotal role in treating the life. These encompass a broad range of approaches that address the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. Examples include:

    • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that cultivate present-moment awareness can help us tune into our bodies, emotions, and thought patterns, fostering greater self-understanding and resilience.

    • Nutrition and Lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep are foundational pillars of health. Paying attention to these aspects of our lives can significantly impact our overall well-being.

    • Therapy and Counseling: Professional support can help us explore and address underlying emotional issues, traumas, or patterns of behavior that contribute to our symptoms.

    • Holistic Therapies: Additional means of care such as Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, and herbal medicine offer holistic approaches to healing, targeting both physical and energetic imbalances.

Cultivating Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion

Treating the life also involves cultivating self-awareness and self-compassion. It’s about listening to our bodies, honoring our needs, and being gentle with ourselves as we navigate life’s challenges. Cultivating self-awareness and self-compassion is an essential journey towards personal growth and well-being. 

Self-awareness involves recognizing and understanding our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without judgment. By developing this awareness, we gain insight into our strengths, weaknesses, and values, enabling us to make more conscious choices aligned with our authentic selves. Self-compassion complements self-awareness by fostering kindness and understanding towards ourselves, especially during times of difficulty or failure. It involves treating ourselves with the same warmth and empathy we would offer to a friend facing similar challenges. Through self-awareness, we uncover the layers of our inner landscape, while self-compassion provides the nurturing soil in which we can grow and flourish. Together, they form the foundation for a resilient and compassionate relationship with ourselves, ultimately leading to greater fulfillment and connection in our lives.This might mean setting boundaries, practicing self-care, or seeking support when needed.

The Benefits of a Holistic Approach

Taking a holistic approach to wellness offers numerous benefits:

    • Long-Term Healing: By addressing the root causes of health issues (such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.), we can experience sustainable improvements in our well-being, rather than merely masking symptoms. 

    • Empowerment: When we take an active role in our health and wellness, we reclaim a sense of urgency and empowerment over our lives.

    • Improved Quality of Life: Holistic practices not only alleviate symptoms but also enhance overall quality of life by promoting balance, resilience, and vitality.

Conclusion

In a world that often prioritizes quick fixes and superficial solutions, treating the life, not just the symptoms, invites us to delve deeper. It’s an invitation to explore the interconnected web of factors that influence our health and well-being and to embrace holistic practices that nourish mind, body, and spirit.

As we embark on this journey of self-discovery and healing, may we remember to treat ourselves with kindness, compassion, and the nurturing care we deserve. And may we find solace in the understanding that true wellness is not merely the absence of symptoms but the presence of balance, harmony, and wholeness in our lives.

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