There are myriad reasons we put off much-needed care. We’re all well acquainted with their more superficial manifestations: we don’t have the time, we don’t have the money, it’s not a big deal, maybe it’ll go away on its own. Underneath these attitudes, often a less explored terrain: we’re afraid, we don’t want to feel vulnerable, we don’t want to change. Today I’m sharing with you the ultimate key to good health.
There are three things I want to stress to anyone who has yet to take charge of their good health.
The first is, unequivocally: Don’t Wait. Throughout my time practicing acupuncture, a medicine that excels in preventative care, I’ve treated more severe cases of disease than I would have hoped to have seen. I wish I’d met many of these people 5 or 10 years earlier – when it would have been so, so much easier to change the course of their health. Which is not to say that intervention at later stages can’t help – it can, sometimes tremendously. But it’s a long journey.
Even one of the most common complaints, and among the simplest to treat – stress – has a cascade of effects on the body that can lead to more serious health conditions if left unaddressed for too long. I’ve also seen cases of whiplash that seemed to resolve on their own after the accident come back as chronic pain in the neck and shoulders, years later. Even little things can become big.
The second and third items I’d like to share are interrelated: That healthcare can be an empowering experience, and that you have options before you – lots of them.
Our current mainstream model of healthcare leaves little room for empowerment. Our bodies are reduced to their constituent parts which are placed under the care of experts in discrete fields. It’s no coincidence that a medicine shaped in large part by early 20th century capitalists mimics the scientific management of labor – and largely to the same end, of keeping a labor force efficient at work. It also began to direct the cause of disease to impersonal forces of invading organisms, and later to tendencies within our own genetic material – and away from the conditions of our lives generally and our labor specifically. (See E. Richard Brown’s 1980 Rockefeller Medicine Men for more detail.)
Biomedicine leads to incredible advances in healthcare – there’s no denying that.
But I sometimes wonder how much of the fear mindset around getting care stems from this model. One that places us as passive recipients of both disease and care, with knowledge of wellness and healing considered beyond our ken. Because when disease strikes, we don’t know what’s going to happen to us; we won’t know how serious it is, or what kind of help we can expect, or how much it will disrupt our lives. Hence if we are able to go on ignoring it, we can put off these attendant uncertainties. Or sometimes, we just don’t know that something is hurting us until the signals from our body are too loud to ignore.
But this is not the only model available to us. And despite my clear bias toward acupuncture (Chinese medicine as a whole, really). It’s far from the only holistic option available. The strategies for promoting health are as diverse as the people seeking them. And the steps we take for the sake of our wellbeing can lead to unforeseen benefits in enriching our lives. As time was discovered and again in my own practice, sometimes the outer manifestations of illness are paralleled by equally important inner processes. Often great tensions or unresolved traumas in our life. Or vice versa. The important thing is to make sure that both the deeper cause and the resulting symptoms are addressed in some way.
The ultimate key to good health
A holistic model takes the whole patient into consideration – not just their mind, spirit, emotions, and body.
But also elements of their history, and their physical and social environment, and so forth. In this model, at least as I practice it, healthcare providers are also educators. Responsible for helping patients attune to the subtleties of their bodies and begin recognizing patterns within their own lives. It quickly empowers the patients to understand and promote their own wellbeing through their day-to-day actions and choices. Nor is mainstream medicine outside this model. An integrative approach is in some cases the fastest (and safest) route out of a condition. And if the condition is advanced, it may be primary. It’s also important in screening or ruling out red flags for dangerous disease processes that may be underway in seemingly healthy folks. But to be sure, biomedicine, though number one for drastic interventions, is not the only ‘real’ medicine or possibility before us.
Healthcare is rarely a priority in our lives until health issues can no longer be ignored. When this is the case, we are not only endangering ourselves. We are potentially losing out on a tremendous opportunity for growth in self-knowledge and mastery of our lives. However, you choose to go about your health journey. Let me reiterate the ultimate key to good health: Don’t wait.
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