Indigenous medical wisdom views well-being very differently. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, sees the maintenance of well-being as its highest priority; disease management comes second. Maintenance of well-being is interwoven through all facets of life; physical, mental emotional, and spiritual. Please pause for a moment and contemplate how adopting this value would change your life.
Physicians often say that 80 percent of the conditions their patients bring to them would resolve on their own if the patient simply rested, allowed the body to heal, and used preventive medicine strategies. Considered from this perspective, many of us must admit that not only are we not partners in our health, we are often our own worst enemy.
The scientific documentation that stress undermines health and well-being is strong. Relaxation and stress reduction strategies are not a luxury; they are medical necessities. Relaxation changes our biochemistry in a positive direction, reversing the degenerative internal environment created by prolonged stress. Yet many people, even those with chronic illness, don’t develop relaxation skills to protect their well-being. Instead, they place control of their health solely in the hands of their physicians. An approach to health care without the active participation of patients is similar to pouring water into a leaking bucket. Ultimately, how effective can it be?
Patients who support their professional health care with stress reduction get the most from their health care dollars and may have better medical outcomes. Stress reduction is easily accessible. Techniques such as Reiki, meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and visualization, and mindful breathing are easily learned even by those who think they cannot learn them. Such techniques are further supported by simple lifestyle disciplines such as taking time to eat slowly, staying in touch with friends, and not watching the news before bed.
Beside such commonsense measures, there are many low-risk interventions that people can use to keep bringing their bodies back to balance in the face of the unavoidable stress of life. We all have different levels of sensitivities to different stressors. Knowing ourselves is the first step in strengthening our well-being. Although there is no conventional medical explanation for how becoming cold may make you sick, for many people, getting chilled precipitates an unbalanced state that leaves them more vulnerable to pathogens. If you have noticed that you are one of these people, simple measures such as preparing yourself for a cold weather outing by covering the neck and head, and warming yourself with hot ginger tea when you have gotten a chill may help preserve well-being.
Self care is always advisable, but it becomes even more important in times of increased stress. In the days immediately following September 11, 2001, I wrote an article to encourage and empower people to make taking care of themselves part of their trauma response. The perspectives and information in the article remain valuable.
Simple Steps for Self Healing
Early detection and treatment are valuable; however, they do not replace prevention. Maintaining a balanced state of well-being through prevention is always preferable, and much easier, than trying to regain lost balance. Whereas conventional medicine focuses on disease management, traditional medicine seeks first to strengthen and maintain existing well-being.
Traditional medical approaches such as Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine and Ayurveda view the person as an ecological whole, like a garden. Adept gardeners know that if a plant isn't thriving, one cannot simply add fertilizer. If in fact fertilizer is what's needed, it's necessary to add the right kind of fertilizer in the right amount. Before making any intervention, the gardener carefully considers the entire situation-light, temperature, moisture, pH of the soil, appropriateness of the plant to the existing conditions, etc. If something is attacking the plant, the gardener knows the situation must be managed skillfully so as not to create more problems, appreciating that any toxins introduced to kill the attacker might also kill friendly organisms.