Three Lessons Chronic Illness taught Me About Our Health Paradox

What concerns you about your health?

Is your weight outside of the healthy range?

Is your blood pressure too high?

How many nights this week did you have difficulty sleeping?

If you are struggling with any of the above health issues, or with any others, you are definitely not alone.

According to the latest stress survey of the American Psychological Association, health is the third highest cause of stress in the US.

The World Health Organization defines health as “the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.”

The state of our health

Over this last century, amazing medical and technological accomplishments have revolutionized our ability to improve our health. We have conquered the battle of treating communicable diseases with vaccines, antivirals, and antibiotics. Our ability to diagnose disease through sophisticated imaging techniques has been enhanced. And we can even intervene in our genetic predisposition to disease through revolutionary insights on the genetic material of an organism.

However, the mind-blowing knowledge we have acquired has not yielded the health improvements one would expect.

Despite all of our technical progress, we have never been as obese, over-medicated, or stressed as we are today.

There seems to be a gap between knowledge, medical advances, and the state of our health.

You could say that I am the “poster child” of this health paradox. Despite my educational and professional expertise in improving health, I failed miserably in applying this expertise to my own well-being. At the peak of my outward success, I developed a debilitating musculoskeletal disorder that has placed a huge strain on the quality of my life.

In many ways, I am thankful to the wake-up call of my chronic illness.

I don’t mean to minimize the negative aspects of living with a spinal disorder and chronic pain. However, my ultimate failure gave birth to my new life mission. My mission became translating science into practical, everyday activities that could close the gap between our medical advances and the state of our health. Starting with my own!

I delved deep into the latest neuroscience insights and psychological theories and got certified in the discipline of integrative wellness.

Here is the knowledge I overlooked to embrace to resolve my own health paradox, that you may want to consider for your own health.

1. We are an exquisite scientific marvel, which is primed for wellness.

I used to think that my health would be great when I had more money, time, support, friends, resources, or accomplishments. You can probably create a similar list.

Yet, we already have all we need to enjoy optimal health.

Our body balances and self-regulates itself in the face of external environmental changes.

Our body temperature is an example. Consider how our body keeps our temperature just right without us having to take any action. If at any point we get too warm, a signal is sent through our nervous system to our endocrine system. This triggers dilation of our arteries along with sweating so we lose the excess body heat.

But sometimes, we overwhelm our bodies via the perceptual lens through which we view the world. For example, we fear public speaking more than death, simply by the way we view it!

I needed to be more aware of how powerful our body systems are and use them for health instead of wasting their capabilities for defense.

Now I know how to maintain my nervous and cardiovascular systems in a calm, balanced state for health and restoration. Mindfulness has been a great way for me to pick and choose which battles are worthy of my energy.

 2. Over 90% of todays’ disease is either directly, or indirectly, linked to stress.

Stress is nothing other than the way our body responds to demands from the environment. Yet today, the demands of modern life evidently exceed our ability to maintain balance in our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Although we may think this is the price we have to pay to be successful, operating according to our stress response has several pitfalls.

Critical structures and functions malfunction. Our thinking brain shuts down and the functions that keep us healthy become greatly compromised. We are then more prone to developing disease.

Our bodies may respond to a stressful situation by releasing hormones or increasing heart rate, metabolic rate, and blood flow to our large muscles. However, we can intervene. We can redirect the energy in the structures of our brain that are involved in problem solving by pausing and observing our thoughts about a situation. We might even decide to challenge the situation. Maintaining a sense of calm also ensures the optimal performance of our immune system, which is well-equipped to keep us healthy.

3. The way we respond to life’s demands happens without our permission.

Have you ever wondered why your heart starts to race when you are asked to speak in public? Science informs us that our heart rate will increase as a physiological response to a threat. But, in reality, public speaking involves no threat, except perhaps to our self-concept!

In fact, most of the situations that lead to our lack of self-care, work/life imbalance, or other unhealthy behaviors relate to fears regarding our self-concept.

Whatever negative experiences happened during our early development produced neuro-chemical changes that were stored as our automatic responses to life’s stressors. Until we re-write our past, our implicit childhood memories run our life without our permission.

But if our old beliefs limit and do not serve us, we can create a new narrative that does not interfere with our ability to succeed in life.

For example, the next time you feel compelled to sacrifice family time in order to work late, challenge the belief that propels you to do so. You may have established the belief that hard work is rewarded and self-care is for lazy people, but is this really so?

Setting healthy boundaries and providing yourself with well-deserved space to rest in between sprints of work activity actually increases your productivity.

If like me, you have struggled to maintain your health at optimal levels, it may be time to do something different!

All the knowledge in the world is not going to improve our well-being unless we translate it into practical interventions. Our health paradox clearly indicates that our current interventions have plenty of room for improvement. We are missing something that could help us get to the bottom of our health problems so that we can finally solve them.

The significant part of this story that we may be overlooking is our mind. Our mind is the system that regulates the flow of energy and information in our life.

We may consider our mind to be an abstract concept. However, our mind gives meaning to every life experience.

You can tap into ways to work with your mind to train your brain to achieve a happier and healthier reality. If this interests you, don’t miss my next article on this topic!

Better yet, join my community to be notified as soon as this next article is published.

According to Earl Nightingale, the human mind may be the last unexplored continent on earth, but it does indeed contain riches beyond our wildest dreams. And our mind will certainly return anything we want to plant, especially if we plant tangible, scientifically-proven practices that support our health.

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