Certainly in the Western World, when it comes to our health, we tend to focus on disease. We pay attention to our health only when certain symptoms arise, and at that point we then try all we can to get rid of them again.
We’re all so used to going to the doctor, complaining about our symptoms and conditions, and then leaving with a prescription in our hand. And of course, medication absolutely has its place. I would never encourage anyone to stop taking it, unless you’ve discussed it with your GP and it’s something you want to do.
But more often than not, we go to the doctor thinking that he or she will fix us with their prescription. That the illness will go away. We think that the illness is the problem. And of course it is problematic and painful, but what about our health and the state of it? What has actually caused us to suffer from certain symptoms?
What would happen if we solely started to focus on supporting the health of our body, and paid less attention to illness itself?
Moving from disease-focus to health-focus
Asking why these symptoms have started showing up
From a functional medicine perspective, we need to ask why a person has developed xyz symptoms. Why is it that someone is ill with this now, but wasn’t before? What has changed in their life, body and mind in the last few years leading up to this?
If you suffer from low mood, ask yourself those questions. As hard as it is, but solely focusing on eradicating the low mood is probably not going to work. The symptoms are trying to tell you something. It’s your mind and body’s way of pointing out that something is out of balance.
Sure, you might have heard that antidepressants are used in the treatment of depression. You might have also heard of the chemical imbalance theory: that your neurotransmitters are low and that’s what’s causing your depression. So of course you’d want to try antidepressant medication. (If they are working for you, great!)
But the reality is that for a majority of people, these drugs don’t do enough or even anything at all. And it’s a very simplistic way of thinking: “You’re depressed because of a chemical imbalance in your brain. So take those antidepressants, they will fix this for you.”
But what about all those factors in your life that can trigger low mood and all the various other symptoms of depression? Factors such as financial insecurity, lack of purpose, relationship breakdown, trauma, loneliness, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, physical injuries, gut imbalances, chronic stress, chronic sleep deprivation, sedentary lifestyles, ….?
By purely focusing on the illness and symptoms, you can neglect to look at all those factors that have caused this imbalance in your health. Of course we want the symptoms to stop and to feel better, but we need to stop focusing on the disease and instead look at supporting the health of our bodies and mind. We need that wider picture, and we need to stop just putting a plaster on everything as if that’s all we need.
Approaching health in a sustainable and positive way
Irrespective of any symptoms and conditions you might be experiencing, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I getting good quality sleep most nights?
- Do I take opportunities to truly rest and calm my nervous system throughout the week?
- Do I feel like I have some form of agency in my life?
- Have I spent enough time connecting with others in meaningful ways lately?
- Am I moving my body enough?
- Is my diet supporting my health, for example by being low in sugar, rich in colourful vegetables with enough protein added too?
- Do I take the time to prepare and enjoy meals?
- Do I know what to do with negative thoughts and beliefs about myself?
- Do I have goals in my life that excite me?
- Does my work allow me to make a difference in this world, no matter how big or small?
Do I allow myself to feel and acknowledge all of my thoughts and feelings?
Undoubtedly, there are more questions that help shift the focus from illness to wellness. And it really isn’t difficult to imagine how looking after yourself will improve your health, and therefore your symptoms too.
We can focus on illness and symptoms and try to eradicate them. But that doesn’t mean that we are actually doing anything for our health.
Instead, when we focus on supporting our health, we end up supporting our symptoms too. As a result, they often reduce if not disappear. And you never know, by supporting your health through positive habits, you might have avoided the development of further symptoms, or even lengthened your life expectancy too!
In my work with clients, I always choose the health-focus over the disease-focus. We take a deep dive into what might have caused you to feel however you are feeling now. And then we focus on how you can best support your health and wellbeing given your own circumstances and goals.
If you’d like to find out more about my work, feel free to schedule a complimentary phone call with me via this link here. I’d be honoured to help you get better too!