There is a construct in naturopathic medicine that I find tremendously helpful in guiding my planning with patients. The therapeutic order reminds me that very few of our "heroic" approaches, whether surgical, pharmaceutical or botanical, will have any lasting value if folks aren't willing or able to change their lifestyles. Yesterday in my office I had two notable young women looking for help to address very physical concerns. In my estimation, one would benefit most from efforts to balance hormones (reproductive, thyroid ... both affected by stress), while the other would likely have significant improvements from a dietary overhaul. The difficulty was that they both - while acknowledging the truth in my assessment - had such busy and stressful lifestyles that they admittedly didn't create space for looking after themselves in even a basic way.
I see this again and again. It's most challenging with individuals who tell me they won't exercise, aren't willing to change their diets, don't have the patience for meditation, can't come in regularly for acupuncture or counselling, and aren't willing to pay for herbs or nutrients. But they want me to "fix" them. I truly wish I had a magic wand. This is an attitude that is perpetuated by our "health" care model - in Canada, one that appears free (through socialized medicine ... as wonderful as it is ... and in many cases, drug coverage through workplace benefits). A model that treats the symptom, or even the condition, without looking at or addressing deeper causes. A person with diabetes taking medication may feel enabled to continue eating sugar and not exercising because the drug is keeping her blood sugar in check. Is she healthier for it overall? Perhaps not, if health is viewed (as the WHO defines) as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".
Fortunately, both of these young women appreciated this concept. We discussed that in order to truly address their concerns, space needed to be created for them to care for themselves - for them to create more optimal conditions for health. We spent time looking at factors like sleep, exercise, diet, rest, pleasure ... looking for small ways to move toward a lifestyle that didn't present so many obstacles to wellness. They both committed to goals that they felt were manageable, while I recommended condition-specific biochemical support (supplements and herbs) to more directly target their concerns. With the understanding that the fancy stuff in bottles would be far less likely to work if the other efforts were not made.
What obstacles to wellness are in your way? What small steps can you commit to today to create space for health?