What is holistic health? Most people equate it to mean a natural approach, but that’s not quite right. Holistic health means looking at the body as a whole.
This makes sense as every part of the body is connected. Every part of the body includes the intangibles – our mind and thoughts. There is no separation between mind and body. The mind affects the body, the body affects the mind. There is a constant exchange of information between the two. Sensory neurons relay information from the body to the brain. Motor neurons send signals from the brain to the muscles to take action. This occurs both consciously and automatically.
Either way, it’s always happening. We know feeling physically ill affects our mental health, just ask anyone with a chronic illness. We’ve also recently accepted that mental health problems can cause physical symptoms. Those suffering from depression often experience physical symptoms too, such as fatigue and even pain, particularly gut pain.
We need to stop looking at the two as separate issues. Health is health. If you want to be healthy, you must also take care of your mental health. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you need to consider what you are putting into your body. Whatever your health goals are, you cannot begin to achieve them without first addressing one of the biggest contributors to a decline in physical and mental health, and that is…stress!
You’ve probably heard this many times before, stress affects our health. Stress is directly related to high blood pressure, weight gain, IBS, anxiety, depression and even the common cold. It has become widely accepted that managing stress is a key aspect of health. Yoga classes, mindfulness apps and relaxing hobbies (games, knitting, painting ) have grown in popularity. We all say we’re stressed. In fact, we wear it like a badge of honour, as if stress equals success.
Do we really understand what stress is? You can’t manage something unless you fully understand it. The other piece of holistic health is addressing the root cause of an issue, not just addressing the symptom. So let’s dive deep into the root cause of stress and how it really affects the body.
How do you define stress? Most would associate stress as daily worries. Worrying about managing a hectic schedule, worrying about work, about finances, your health, your families’ health and so on. Thoughts around how we are going to tackle life’s day-to-day problems can be both mentally and physically taxing to the body. We know thoughts around the future cause stress.
What about thoughts on the past? Past traumas can cause physical stress especially if we don’t address these issues. We talk about those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but the truth is most of us have post-traumatic stress even if it is not severe enough to be diagnosed as a disorder.
Furthermore, stress on the body goes way beyond emotions and thoughts. Infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi all cause stress too. Additionally, there are environmental stressors such as allergens, pollutants and other toxins. Poor nutrition can also cause stress, especially regarding your blood sugar balance. In order to properly manage stress, we must consider all the sources of stress in our life.
In Part 2, we will discuss the hormone cortisol, the role cortisol plays in stress, and stress management strategies you can implement.
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