Special Feature from Avante Health
Individuals seek medical care on a routine basis. Sometimes it is for an acute illness such as the flu, a broken bone, or pneumonia, while other visits are for chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure. Regardless of the nature of the illness, there is a connection between how we feel physically and how we feel emotionally.
Consider the following 2 scenarios:
Joe is 30 years old, 2nd grade teacher. He goes to see his physician because he is suffering from the flu. He aches all over, has a fever, has been coughing and has been up vomiting most of the night, and has not slept more than a few hours per night for the past three nights. The doctor obtains a chest x-ray which does not show any signs of pneumonia. His doctor recognizes that he has the flu and recommends that he stay home for the rest of the week, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. He prescribes him medication for his nausea and vomiting.
Carol is 45 years old, overweight, and was recently diagnosed with diabetes. She goes to see her physician for a routine office visit to review the results of the blood tests which were recently done. She is feeling tired. She is constantly hungry and thirsty, and she has gained 10 pounds in the past three months. She is depressed because she has no energy and is feeling unattractive. Her doctor tells her that her glucose level is still too high, and the blood test which measures her average glucose over the past month indicates that her diabetes is not well controlled. Her doctor tells her she must lose at least 30 pounds and will need to start taking medication to treat her diabetes.
Both of these scenarios demonstrate that when a person does not feel well physically, they also don’t feel well emotionally. But they also illustrate another point – that a large part of taking care of our physical health needs depend upon taking care of our emotional needs.
In Joe’s case, he must stay home from work to take care of himself. Our immune systems are very reactive to stress, and people who do not rest and engage in relaxing activities stress their immune systems. These individuals are more prone to developing viral illnesses such as the flu. Joe must also manage to increase his fluid intake temporarily to make up for the loss of fluids from vomiting, and he will have to make an effort to keep up his nutrition despite his nausea and lack of appetite. Finally, in order to prevent spreading the flu to others, he will need to isolate himself from his co-workers and students by staying home until he is no longer infectious, and he will need to wash his hands regularly and not share his drinking glass or silverware with his family.
In Carol’s situation, she will need to make many behavioral changes in order to manage her diabetes effectively. She will need to modify her diet to eliminate foods which are high in sugars. She will need to engage in a physical activity program to lose weight and keep her weight in control. She will need to take medication on a daily basis and learn to check her blood sugar several times a day. Finally, she will need to have regular eye examinations, blood tests, and protect her feet from injury to avoid complications from her diabetes.
Maintaining our physical well-being requires commitment, a high degree of motivation, and changes to patterns of behavior which are unhealthy but habitual. Whether the behavior is smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, poor eating habits, or failing to engage in regular exercise and relaxation, there is an emotionally rewarding component to our unhealthy behaviors. The key to making lasting changes in these unhealthy behaviors is to find something about the new healthy behavior which is more emotionally rewarding than the old pattern. Sometimes the emotional rewards for healthy behaviors are easy to identify, such as the improved energy level associated with losing weight. Other times, identifying these emotional rewards is much more difficult. In these situations, some brief counseling can be helpful to set goals, provide motivation to make the necessary changes, and to examine the unconscious barriers to making the appropriate behavioral changes.
For those individuals with medical conditions which are not adequately controlled, or for those individuals who may need additional assistance making the necessary behavioral changes to stay physically and emotionally healthy, Avante Health is available to assist you. Our panel of therapists can help you explore the barriers to changing your behaviors, help motivate you to take better care of yourself, and improve your sense of well-being.
If you’re looking to enhance your emotional health, contact Avante Health at (800) 498-9055 or visit us at www.avantehealth.com.