Health Focused vs. Symptom Focused
In the previous article, we talked about how healthy people lived by a different set of principles as unhealthy people. We also discussed that most people were not conscious of the principles with which they lived, making it both difficult to change faulty principles and apply successful principles in other areas of life.
This article will explore the first principle lived by the healthy minority of our society. That principle is to be health focused as opposed to symptom focused.
If you ask the average person what it means to be healthy, what will they say? In my experience the average person believes that they are healthy if they don’t have any diseases or symptoms. Essentially, if there is nothing ‘wrong,’ they are healthy.
How this belief shows up is that very little, to no focus is placed upon health outside of the treatment of disease and symptoms. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ is sometimes proudly stated by people with this belief.
One of the challenges with this approach is that the underlying process and pattern leading to symptoms and diseases (secondary conditions) can often be present and growing for some time (even years and decades) before we feel it or become diagnosed with it. Waiting for crisis can leave lots of damage to be undone. Not paying attention to your health until you have a heart attack means that even if you are fortunate enough to survive, there will be lots of work to do.
Another challenge is that when we focus on symptom treatment, we often miss what the symptoms are trying to tell us. If you treat a headache with a pill, maybe you are missing that you were just dehydrated and needed to drink some water. Or perhaps you were reacting to something you ate? The headache goes away, but the underlying problem goes unchecked.
Years ago, I was playing in the World Masters (old timers) Fastball Championship in Australia. We played 15 games in 8 days which was more than any of us were used to. Early in the week, the entire team was achy and sore. Many of my teammates were popping pills before and after games and dousing their arms and legs with liniments to numb their pain. On many occasions I was offered pills and potions but declined because my philosophy was that if my body was trying to tell me to NOT do something, I wanted to be able to feel it. Luckily, it never got to that point and I was able to play all the way through. What was interesting is that by the last couple of days I was feeling great while those who covered up their early symptoms were crashing and burning.
The final challenge with a symptom first approach is that sometimes the TREATMENT for the SYMPTOM actually harms our overall health. While this may be an acceptable trade off in cases of our life being in danger with a disease like cancer or life-threatening infection, is it really worth damaging your health because of some pain and discomfort? While doing so occasionally may not be a big deal, many people walk around with pain killers in their bags and purses in case a symptom should arise.
The healthy minority see things differently. These people live by the principle of being health focused, where symptoms and diseases are important messages that something is off – not ‘things’ to be eradicated. They see health more like the literal WHO definition: ‘…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
Because health is seen as something to be attained for its own sake, these people seek to create it in their lifestyle. They live, eat, exercise, and seek professionals to optimize function, have vitality, lots of energy, and feel great (not just not bad).
Unlike the symptom focused folks, in many ways this group gets healthier as they age, to go along with the wisdom they gain with experience – which is a beautiful thing to behold.
The cruel joke is that one of the outcomes of the health focused lifestyle is that they tend to have less pain and disease than the symptom focused group. Why? Because they are healthier.
Does this mean that they are bulletproof to pain and disease? Of course not – they are human. Does that mean that they never treat them? Nope, there is a time and place for these interventions. Those who live with the principle of being health focused use treatments to buy them some time while they make the lifestyle changes necessary.
The care provided at Nexus is consistent with the principle of being health focused. While it is true that most people seek out our care because the have secondary conditions that other approaches have not been able to help, we know that we must help the person WITH the condition to get healthier for it to no longer be a factor. We do this by addressing the underlying patterns creating the symptom. In doing so not only does the condition get handled, the person gets healthier as they progress through care.
It is for the same reason that many of our patients continue to see us AFTER their initial complaint is gone – to continue to protect and optimize their health.
So, look at your health and notice times that you have been symptom focused and times you have been health focused. How can you move yourself more towards the health focused side?
Now, look closely at the other areas of your life. Are there areas that you have been numbing the pain to avoid making a change? Have you ignored the health of your finances or career or relationships for the sake of comfort? How can you make a shift to improve the health of those parts of your life?
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next health principle. If you missed the opening article of the series, you can find it HERE.