Living With a Focus on Health Keeps Chronic Conditions in Check
How a holistic approach works for this columnist, post-transplant
Due to cystic fibrosis, I’ve been steadfastly focused on my health my entire life. There hasn’t been a time when I wasn’t thinking about my health.
As such, I’m constantly assessing how my surroundings will affect my health, conducting continuous health maintenance, and ensuring all of the elements of my health are managed. Taking a holistic approach has helped me stay as healthy as possible.
This vigilance increased after my double-lung transplant five years ago. Before transplant, I was always careful during cold and flu season, but I increased my protective measures after receiving new lungs. And since the start of the pandemic, I wear a mask around everyone. Getting sick drastically affects me due to my suppressed immune system, so I take all of the precautions.
My approach to health has always been holistic. I’ve managed to strike a balance between keeping up with my Western medical doctors and taking the necessary medications and seeing my naturopathic doctor and using holistic methods. Through trial and error, several natural strategies have helped me to stay healthy, despite having multiple health conditions.
Changing my diet has helped dramatically. After getting tested for food sensitivities, I learned which foods I’m intolerant of. I’ve drastically decreased inflammation by avoiding them. I eat mostly whole foods, which alleviates stress from my already taxed digestive system. And because I’m diabetic, I’m more cognizant of what I eat in order to regulate my blood sugars.
The parts that make a whole
I’ve also found it beneficial to take care of each part of me, including the mental and emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects. They are equal pieces of the health puzzle. In my experience, each component demands the same amount of attention in order to feel my best.
I can tell when I haven’t given the proper time or attention to each part of me. When I don’t make time for my mental and emotional health, I’ve noticed that I’m more anxious, in a low mood, and easily triggered. When I neglect my physical health, I’m more exhausted, my chronic headaches are worse, and I get sick easily. When I lapse in my spiritual health practices, I feel the difference in my attitude, how I treat others, and my overall outlook on life. That’s why it’s pertinent to feed each part of my health.
My mental and emotional health needs to be tended to daily. Therapy is one tactic I use to learn coping strategies for medical trauma, daily life stressors, and living with chronic illness. Somatic practices have helped me heal trauma on every level. Journaling gets all the emotions out. And laughing with friends helps release much-needed happy brain chemicals.
Physical health is more complex. I have a doctor for just about every part of my body. Since transplant, I have different health challenges. Biweekly labs keep me on track so that nothing slips through the cracks. Exercise, stretching, and strength training keep my body strong. Staying active is important for my new lungs!
Spiritual health is a daily practice that keeps me grounded. Prayer alleviates stress and keeps my focus on God. Attending church and Bible study groups keeps me connected to community and growing with others. Reading the Bible and different books on spiritual growth keeps me rooted in truth. I connect most with God through nature, so going for regular prayer walks keeps me centered.
Striving for perfect health isn’t my focus anymore. I’ve relaxed my hypervigilance. I no longer feel like I have to continuously do something to fix my health 24/7. Letting go of the pressure of being completely healthy has been liberating. Ironically, I think it’s helped me to be healthier mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Less worry, more living!
As long as I’m doing the best I can, I know that it’s good enough. And I’m finally at peace with that — most of the time.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.