life-style dis-ease / ˈlīfˌstīl dəˈzēz / noun
A pattern of living which over time modifies the physiology and psychology of an individual into a state of semi-permanent inflammation, heightened reactivity, increased sensitivity to foods, to touch, light, leaving the individual chronically tired, achy, in pain and at risk of chronic pain. It can lead to increased risk of infections, of escalating swings in emotions and mood, and can give way to an insidious deterioration of physical, mental, and emotional health. Over time, the long list of signs and symptoms experienced do not easily lend to diagnosis leaving the person in a state of health care limbo, in a medical twilight zone: never truly well nor healthy, just managed with medications, treatments, and follow up after follow up appointment.
There is only so much that medical and therapeutic intervention can do. If that wasn’t the case, then all of the imaging technology, robotic surgery, and pharmaceuticals we have today would have resulted in an healthy population, not a population where 2/3rds are overweight or obese.
In acute conditions, the outcomes of medicine and therapy are significant, in chronic conditions less and less so. There is a point where medical and therapeutic interventions come up short, because to fully heal requires that the healing come from the inside-out (i.e. from the body), not from the outside-in (e.g. drugs, modalities).
Lifestyle rehab is the process of restoring the body’s physiology so that full healing is possible.
Proper sleep, an appropriate diet, daily exercise of appropriate intensity and duration, and effective stress management skills are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle: a lifestyle which permits recovery to full health. Without a healthy lifestyle, there is no amount of medical and therapeutic intervention that will ever make you healthy.
Physical Health Challenges
Healing and health are our natural states, it is what our body naturally strives to sustain. When we are unhealthy, unable to heal or recover, then there is something standing in the way of our natural healing abilities. When healing is blocked, we need to remove the impediments, not mask symptoms, reduce signs, or pretend that nothing is wrong.
Our bodies ability to heal cuts, wounds, to remodel broken bones, to rewire our nervous system to regain function is absolutely amazing. Despite the body’s ability to heal, we seem to believe that healing occurs outside-in: that healing comes from drugs, medical intervention, from therapy. It doesn’t. Healing comes from inside: our body repairs and heals itself. The point of health care is supposed to be to remove that which impedes healing and to buy us the time so that healing does in fact occur. Along with health care interventions, we must also create the physiological and psychological inner state where healing and health are possible: our lifestyle must allow healing to happen.
If you suffer from a lifestyle disease (e.g. atrial fibrillation, diabetes, cardiovascular/heart disease, asthma, cancer, arthritis, COPD, obesity), lifestyle disease symptoms (e.g. palpitations, joint pain, overweight, hypertension, elevated blood sugar, food sensitivities, regular infections, insomnia), and/or deal with chronic pain then changing your lifestyle is as crucial as appropriate medical intervention.
Mental and Emotional Health Challenges
Stress can creep up on us. Stress can go unnoticed because one event may not elicit enough of a response for us to feel different in any given moment, or because we ‘normalize’ stress stating that it’s a normal part of life negating that we are stressed. Add it all up: a little stress here, a little more there, and without sufficient sleep, rest and recovery it adds up to more than the body, mind, and immune system can handle.
Stress can creep up on us making it hard to link cause to effect, to trace one event as the source of our dis-ease. Our body and mind can handle their fair share of stress, so illness often results not from a single event but from the accumulation and cumulative effect of too much stress and insufficient rest over time. There can be a lag between the build-up and breakdown – days, weeks, months, even years – making the connection between cause and effect that much more distant. It can seem as if that there is no link between stress in life and a medical diagnosis.
On top, we all deal and resolve stress uniquely. Physical stress and poor recovery can erupt into mental and emotional signs and symptoms such as anger, anxiety, and fear avoidance behaviours. Mental and emotional stresses can morph into stiffness, pain, shortness of breathe, and/or an elevated heart rate/blood pressure.
Avoidance, mismanagement, and excessive stress lead to mental and emotional health diagnoses such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, OCD, PTSD, depression, addictionm even eating, panic, and personality disorders. Stress makes a massive impact on our physiology, our psychology, thus our ability to sleep, digest food, defend against infections and disease, our ability to focus, to think, to manage and regulate our emotions and mood. Changing your lifestyle is just as important to health, to healing, to a full recovery as seeking appropriate medical intervention.
What is Lifestyle Rehabilitation?
The ability to heal requires the ability to eliminate or reduce stress, and deal effectively with all remaining stress and stressors. Healing arises from the combination of an healthy diet, sleep of sufficient quality and duration, appropriate exercise, and effective stress management strategies (e.g. breathing, mindfulness). To leverage your body’s ability to heal requires a basic knowledge of human physiology, otherwise, it is likely that you will continue to repeat lifestyle patterns which inflame your signs, symptoms, aggravating and perpetuating disease.
The rehabilitation process starts with an evaluation of your stress response, education of the basics body systems and their function, the link between lifestyle and lifestyle diseases, ending with a plan that points your body in the direction of recovery, of healing.
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