How Does Self Image Affect Your Pain?

How Does Self Image Affect Your Pain?

An excerpt from my book as seen over at InnerSelf Publications website.

Timely for the season of self reflection and internal work.

 “by Ya-Ling Liou, D.C. If you’ve only ever seen yourself as unsure and perhaps your self-esteem is not strong, you may be more vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed by fear—stressed by the worry that your pain might devolve into a worst case scenario of unknown proportions.”

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Gratitude Heals …Holiday Stress?

Gratitude Heals …Holiday Stress?

thank-you-chinese-characters

“Thank You”

Studies show that remembering things in life to be thankful for, has a positive effect on our health. This year these health benefits will apparently have to be belated for me since I did not make it in time for Thanksgiving this year.  Often by then I’ve got my newsletter together to send out to my patients with news of the year to come but also reminding folks how much I value the kindness and trust they bring my way. It looks like it will be more of a New Year newsletter in a few more weeks….

 Joking aside about it being “belated”, gratitude is something I feel and reflect on all year long but especially around the winter season when I find myself warm and dry in stormy weather, under a roof I can call my own and one that sustains my life’s mission at the same time. I often feel mind-blowingly lucky considering the haphazard way I’ve found myself on a path to this point.  Anyone with business acumen would have vigorously shaken their heads at many points in my journey (and still today most likely).  I am truly lucky and thankful for that, all times of the year.

American Thanksgiving was early on, easily my favorite part of living in the US. My first year as a student at the chiropractic college in NY, we were given a whole day off on Wednesday to drive home for the holiday – in my case to friends’ houses. That travel day followed by a  four day weekend struck me as the greatest surprise gift ever at the time. What is this holiday magic that gives us FIVE days of time off??  Canadian Thanksgiving usually coincides with Columbus Day weekend in October. It’s generally just a Monday holiday – three day weekend and that’s it.   Canadians barely skip a beat that weekend and quickly get busy thinking about Hallowe’en costumes and parties next.

Here, the mania seems so much more urgent between Thanksgiving and the New Year because that time span is quite a bit shorter.  I see people suffering from the added strain and expectations.  There seems to be more pressured travel and disruption to our routines.  There’s also less daylight.  None of that bodes well for our health but just maybe, pausing those 4-5 days to “give thanks” in whatever way we do, is how we’re meant to balance  the stress of the season’s frenzy.

Just in case that’s not enough, I’m purposefully easing up expectations of myself in all areas this year but especially making sure not to push exercise and instead prioritizing sleep.  It’s hard not to feel guilty and torn by the things on our ever growing to-do lists or to fall into  emotionally beating ourselves up for “slacking off”.  But this is the time you need most of all to include on your list of tasks, things that give you joy and peace.  Don’t let that just be some seasonal slogan that loses meaning for the repetition of it.

Be kind and be loving with yourself.  In Chinese Medicine traditions it’s not actually until early / mid February that our energy “sap” is ready to flow again with slightly more vigor.  For some of us it begins with the Winter Solstice.  You’ll start to feel your energy return slowly with the daylight.

December 21st!By Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14383009

Let’s welcome back the light.  With the light comes hope.

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What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

By The U.S. Army (2012 Warrior Games) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Integrative medicine” is a term that has become very trendy in the health and wellness industry.  It’s an approach inspired by some of the leaders in the Functional Medicine movement.  As soon as it became evident that patients demand it which means there are big dollars at stake, even mainstream medicine is coming on board.  Cleveland Clinic has opened a dedicated wing for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine  as has Johns Hopkins with their Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.

So, what is it exactly?

It’s healthcare designed to treat the whole person (shocker). Many of us in the natural healthcare industry who have been practicing with this mindset for decades can’t help but roll our eyes a little bit at this “new” movement, but it is one to celebrate.

It feels to me like the general public is just catching up with how I’ve been living for most of my life personally, and now professionally for close to 25 years.  What we see in the integrative circles of healthcare is a coming-together of East and West, an acceptance of the interdependence of both sides.

“Integration” refers to the coordination of care between mainstream Western medicine and traditional or “alternative” methods including but not limited to acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, yoga, meditation and other lifestyle modifications. You can find “Functional Medicine” on Wikipedia defined as: medical practice or treatments that focus on optimal functioning of the body and its organs, usually involving systems of holistic or alternative medicine.  

The functional medicine movement was started by a chiropractor with a PhD in biochemistry – Jeffrey Bland.  He bravely championed the long held old-world wisdom of viewing health and disease not as a linear process between one cause and one effect, but rather a complex symphony with multiple orchestral sections that all depend on each other for harmony.   Now people like Mark Hyman MD and a slew of others, straddling mainstream and traditional methods, have embraced this much needed common-sense approach.

Integration? Or Collaboration?

What we are seeing and hearing increasingly from numerous medical centers and hospitals, as many of them move to offer these kinds of approaches under one roof, is validation of this kind of wisdom-medicine for use in the Western model.

This week’s national news headlines on ABC’s GMA morning programming included a story highlighting the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients at all stages of care.  The use of acupuncture, movement therapy like yoga, massage and meditation were given as examples of treatment methods used to address the emotional, spiritual and physical needs together.

Some of you who follow this blog know that, just a few weeks ago, I attended a conference held by the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) where I met medical doctors, physician assistants, nurses, naturopaths, acupuncturists and other chiropractors.  All of us together acknowledging the role of each other’s specialties in the full care of a patient while remembering to also live the path that we advocate for by indulging in some reflective self care.

In conversation with someone over breakfast at this AIHM conference I shared that I am a chiropractor in solo practice. I was met with “So you don’t actually practice integrative medicine…”

This took me aback a bit because I believe I actually do the ultimate integrative practice.   This exchange made me consider that perhaps the confusion is with the concept of “collaborative” vs. “integrative”.  Solo practice means I run a one-woman-show but does not preclude my patients from receiving collaborative (or “integrative”) care.  In my opinion collaboration is essential to integrative approaches.

This meeting of two worlds, in my opinion, can happen just as effectively in a more expansive community setting and not just under one roof. Successful collaborative care for the whole person is much more about the attitudes of providers than a physical facility with a name. I see my job as more of a healthcare traffic cop of sorts.

With the training that every chiropractor receives – to serve as a primary / portal of entry provider  – we are charged with the responsibility of knowing when chiropractic will serve our patients and when other modalities are more appropriate or needed in conjunction with our work.  Who better then, to assess and help patients prioritize treatment methods and direct them to the right practitioners?

I am extremely comfortable with my limitations as a practitioner and for true whole-person healthcare I think it’s essential to beware the delusion that any one of us can be everything to everyone.

For patients who don’t yet have a healthcare team, I regularly bring their attention to physiatry, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, psychotherapy, and whenever needed, direct them back to their mainstream medical provider or any  number of medical specialists.

Do you have a healthcare team of alternative and mainstream providers?  Are you enjoying the integrative medicine movement?  You deserve to.  Status quo is changing.  Expect more.

 

 

 

Are Your Fitness Goals Really Working For You?

Patricia Flavel (AUS) finish line Athletics 2000 Sydney PGBeach body. Spring makeover. Baby fitness machine. Squeeze into that wedding outfit.

I hear it all.  And good for you for resolving to get fit.  We’re all motivated by different things.  I think whatever gets you motivated is great….as long as you realize that this kind of goal-setting is completely unsustainable for the long term.

Short term thinking is not going to do it.  Long term thinking on the other hand will more likely lead to completely sustainable health and wellness. But are you able to do this?  What would it take?

Shooting for long term goals and big picture planning requires quite a bit of letting go.  We have to forget about our preoccupation for radical change, dramatic improvement and sensational headlines.  We have to welcome our own imperfection while allowing ourselves to believe we deserve the best.  But we’d better not  be afraid of some hard work and loving self discipline along the way to achieving our best.

Consistency is key.  Joy is also key.

If you workout and eat as a form of punishment for all your bad past behavior or your current health condition which you disapprove of and have been made to feel ashamed of, then you might as well just be sitting on a couch and spooning pure unrefined sugar into your mouth because if you’re not happy, there’s no point to the supposed “good behavior” you’re anxiously forcing yourself to engage in.

If you take a wide angle lens to your life using a long term mindset, then your occasional (supposed) transgressions day to day don’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things.  The more you lighten up on yourself for slip ups or deviations from “perfect”, the more room you leave for joyful healthy choices. This doesn’t mean you suddenly become overly permissive with your poor choices, but with the big picture in mind, you realize that there are many more chances ahead of you to choose good health habits to make up for the extra beer you had last night or the extra slice of pizza you had last week.  There’s much less self flagellation necessary because these instances are now only minute drops in the bucket.  This new-found freedom from self judgment will allow you to spend less time feeling guilty and “bad” and much more energy can be spent towards the long term goal of happy longevity.

What’s my workout program? It includes dog walking, yoga, swimming, resistance training  3-4 days a week.  Frequency, intensity and type of exercise depends on the amount of sleep I’ve had, the type of nutrients and the timing of my meals and my work schedule.  I happen to feel the most sore two days after my workouts, so  I coordinate my exercise sessions accordingly because my work as a chiropractor is physical and if I’m not careful, the quality of my work will suffer if I’m too sore or tired from exercise. Sometimes I don’t get the six and a half to seven hours of sleep that is optimal for me and so I will choose to go to yoga instead of working out at the gym because that can be more restorative.  Or I may decide to sleep an extra hour and skip the exercise that day, knowing that I’ll get to it the next time. Once in a while my sinuses get tired of the exposure to chlorine so I decide to skip swimming and use the elliptical trainer for my workout warm up instead.

During exercise, I’m not terribly invested in pushing into high intensity intervals unless I feel a burst of energy during a workout because perhaps I happen to find myself in “the zone” and / or because I’m well rested and I’ve had all the right nutrients in the 24 hours preceding my workout.  If it happens – wonderful.  If not I’ll listen to my body for that again next time.  I’ve got my whole life to interval train. I make sure to do something three to four days a week but primarily I listen to my body as well as the week’s demands personally and professionally in order to decide what combination of things I will do for exercise.

I give you these details just as an example of the thought process that goes into the week’s exercise plan.  For now it’s what I’ve decided works best for me.  I’m sure it’ll change as the seasons change and years go by and that will be okay.

Abends_am_MeerWhat works for you will have to be based on your own individual needs for joy, rest, fuel and life circumstance day to day.  If aging well is what sounds good to you, give yourself permission to explore this sort of big picture planning for a long, moderate and comfortable life.  Stop punishing yourself for not meeting other people’s standards.   Start tuning into what standards are best for you and learn to pace yourself for long lived success.

Remembering to stop and appreciate the health you do have at this very moment, can help to let go of all the pressure-filled ideas of where you think your health should be and how you think you should look.

I know it’s not easy but you’re not alone in the struggle of striving for the ever elusive life and health balance in an unbalanced world.


Photo Credit: Australian Paralympic Committee [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: “Abends am Meer” by Joe Sarembe from Pfungstadt, Germany – Abends am Meer. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg