Awareness: Enhance vs. Suppress
In the last article we explored the first principle the healthy minority live by, which was that they focus on building health as opposed to treating symptoms.
This article continues into the second principle of healthy people and it has to do with awareness. Healthy people look to enhance awareness, while unhealthy people seek to suppress awareness.
There is no area where this is more obvious than when someone experiences pain or symptoms. I am always surprised at how many people literally walk around with a bottle of pain killers in their purses or backpacks. You don’t see that with healthy people.
All symptoms have a common purpose or meaning. They are there to get us to, 1. Stop, 2. Pay Attention, and 3. Do Something Different. That is the job of a pain or symptom.
If we feel the beginning of that signal being delivered by a symptom and immediately suppress it, we miss the opportunity for steps 2 and 3. In fact the suppression may actually allow us to not stop at all, but continue with the behaviours that were causing the damage and pain.
Let’s take your average blue-collar worker with back pain, or desk worker with neck pain and a headache. The symptoms they are experiencing are letting them know that something is wrong, and they are doing damage by continuing to do things as they are. The back pain forces the labourer to bend and lift in a way that protects their injury. The desk worker is forced to sit up straight or take stretching breaks or perhaps even alter their work station.
Even beyond their immediate work environment, perhaps the symptoms motivate them to join a gym to get themselves in shape, change their diet to decrease inflammation, or see a health professional who can address any structural or functional issues they have.
You see, very often the pain and symptoms we experience are not the problem at all – they are the first part of the solution. However, if we suppress the solution with pills, potions, and lotions it is any wonder why so many people are frustrated and failing in their health?
Healthy people know that pain and symptoms are a call to pay attention and ENHANCE awareness. The great thing about this is that awareness is like a muscle in that the more we pay attention, the better we get at it. We can actually learn to listen to our body’s whispers so that it rarely has to scream at us.
Healthy people can listen to the subtle signals their body is giving them, which not only keeps them out of crisis, but allows their body to become wiser over time.
I have missed only about 2 total days of work sick in almost 18 years. Why? I listen to my body and don’t suppress symptoms when they arise. Over time I have developed the awareness that allows me to know when I am just a little bit off. When I feel that way, I make sure I get a little extra rest, clean up my diet, and maybe handle some stresses I have been ignoring.
The same applies to my competitive weightlifting, where aches and pains are a constant and important companion. Pain may mean I need to back off, correct an imbalance I have, work on mobility, fix a technical issue or focus more on recovery. Because I pay attention to these more subtle things I have never had a serious injury that has kept me away from training for more that a couple of days.
The care we provide at Nexus Chiropractic is different from many other approaches in that Enhancing awareness is an integral and necessary part of the process. Patients leave our office MORE aware of their bodies, not less. As a result of this, they become more adaptable over time and can often return to their same lives, but handle them more effectively. At this point the focus of their care shifts from fixing what is wrong to optimizing their ability to adapt in the world.
Homework time! Write down a circumstance or area of your health where you have consistently SUPPRESSED your awareness in order to feel more comfortable. How has worked out in the long run? Are you more or less adaptable than before?
Next, write down some ways you could increase your awareness next time this issue arises. Even better, how can you increase your awareness before issues arise?
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for another principle of the healthy minority next week.
Thorin Gault, D.C.