Holistic is a word that is often heard being discussed around play groups, girls nights, kids events and activities, or over a cup of coffee at the local Town Square to name a few. Yet, do we understand and grasp what this word emcompasses? What it means and the value it holds in our work, in our relationships, in our families and in our health?
I believe there is importance and value in pausing here to define the word holistic. Holistic is the comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. As a Christian this is exactly what we believe. We believe that God has woven together the tiniest of molecules and cells that are all connected, all needing the others around it to make up the whole person- uniquely different, complex and yet all connected. If something occurs in one part of our body, our cells respond and the connection and response can be found throughout all parts of our body. Think back to your high school or college biology class and reflect on how incredible the cells in our body are, dividing and reproducing. While you go about your day, your cells are hard at work to allow you to go to work, go for a run, make breakfast, care for others and so much more!
Holistic care in medicine is characterized by the treatment of the whole person, accounting for the mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease. To be well is not just the absence of disease in one’s cells, it is the care of five major parts of us- our physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual wellness.
Slowing down to care for the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual wellness can be challenging at times. We live fast paced, busy lives, often planning and cramming things into our day down to the minute. When something hurts or when we fall ill, whether it be with a cough and sore throat or diabetes and high cholesterol we want the physical fixed quickly. We want the pain gone or the disease cured as we are already moving on to the next thing on our list. However, when we consider the whole and unique person rather than just the symptoms, we will see a return to health and a maintenance of that health.
Take for example the impact of stress on our physical well being. When our body feels stress our nervous system responds. Floods of stress hormones are released throughout our bodies, raising our heart rate, making us breathe faster and increasing our blood pressure and our blood sugar levels. Our bodies can respond to the stressor and then go back to baseline when the stressor is gone. But what happens when the stressor or multiple stressors are present for days, months, even years? As a health coach it is imperative that I look at the whole person- their emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual wellness in addition to their physical wellness. This facilitates and allows people to have the best possible health outcomes.
Take time today to pause and reflect on your own life and well being. What part of the whole are you not caring for? What physical symptoms are you feeling today because of that lack of care? Are you anxious or irritable because the bills are adding up and you lost your job last week? Talk to someone. Take a walk, talk to a counselor, meet a friend for coffee just to let it all out. Are you feeling inner discontentment or anger over broken relationships or family turmoil? Seek out spiritual fulfillment through song, scripture, meditation, or time in creation doing what you love. None of these activities alone can “fix” the disruption of health and wellness in your body, but together each part can bring you closer to being well.