Is being unwell is a natural hazard of being alive?
Is sickness a natural event that we should all expect?
Is tiredness par for the course?
Well - yes...
But the point is, to what degree?
And when is too much, too much?
Cycles of Stress & Rest
It is natural for our bodies to undergo times of work, times of rest, times of action and times of reflection.
It is natural that our bodies engage different hormones and that our organs function differently, depending upon what it is we are doing, or experiencing.
However, it is also natural that our bodies should undergo change as a part of everyday rhythms - the ups and downs of daily life are meant to allow us to move unhindered from activities which cause us 'stress', to activities that allow us to 'rest and repair'.
This is the natural order of things right? - we see it in the progression of day to night, from winter to summer and back again.
But that is the point - these are not just examples of opposites (good/bad, day/night, black/white, healthy/unhealthy) but the natural order of things is that there is a cycle of different experiences. We are meant to move from one to another, but to do so in a seamless and ongoing cyclic loop.
This is the lesson we can observe and learn from nature...our best teacher!
Our bodies are constantly under 'stress': anything that requires us to move, to act, to think is initiated by our need to do something. Muscles move because their fibres contract, due to stress, which in turn calls out to our bodies to provide extra 'energy', provided by glucose or fat metabolism and the conversion of different hormones that signal a state of 'stress' to the whole biology of the body.
When our muscle fibres relax, the requirement for energy reserves and activating hormones diminishes and our body creates different signals that will allow the muscle fibres to be replenished and repaired.
However, the balance must be observed: as too much muscle fibre stress may cause the build up of excessive muscle fibre, whereas too little may cause muscle 'wastage'. So we require a balance of 'just enough stress' to build healthy levels of muscle fibres, followed by 'just enough rest'.
Examples of natural stresses in our everyday lives are many and varied, and may include things like running for a bus when we are late, or preparing for a presentation in the office. Facing our fears or worries, such as pondering on whether our 16 year old will be safe whilst staying out late at night, or whether we can meet a work project deadline, or pay the mortgage this month!
As already mentioned, examples of rest and repair are more common in our night time resting period, getting good sleep is essential for our body to be able to rest and repair fully. But other ways include meditation, yoga, dancing, music or engaging in an activity that will allow us to let off steam (such as a sport or martial arts). Finding ways to explore creativity is another good example of how we can engage in activities that allow our body to rest and repair.
All of these 'stress' and 'rest' activities exist on a spectrum - allowing us to find exactly the right outlet in order to keep our mind, body and spirit in balance!
And that is the important aspect for each of us - it is to find the BALANCE that allows us to move easily between states of both stress and rest.
Unfortunately in todays fast paced and erratic World, where we are all made to feel that we should be available 24/7 and where it is made increasingly difficult for us to disconnect from work, social media or artificial time constructs - our bodies are losing their natural rhythms and we are slowly 'forgetting' how to take time and move in time with the natural rhythm of life. With TV and other entertainment available 24/7, with electric street lights that emit artificial lights throughout periods when we would naturally have been in darkness and with other electrical gadgets keeping us up and actively engaged in 'busy-ness' well beyond the time constraints that the natural world revolves around - it is not surprising that or biology may sometimes struggle to appoint the right 'down time' by literally 'turning the lights off' in our mind and sending out the appropriate messages for sleep.
As we lose this natural ability to self-regulate and move into down-time, our bodies remain in a state of ongoing, heightened stress and we become discombobulated - our mind, our body and our emotions take the toll!
This is why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture.
We are, most of us, engaged in high pressure jobs, with pressures placed upon us from our employers, or our bosses. Or we are engaged in putting high pressure on ourselves - trying to be successful, or building our own 'empire' - whether that be our own business, or our homes. We are engaged in high stake activities that demand much more of us than ever before!
This is when stress can easily get the better of us.
Our natural bodies are created to deal with and adapt to high pressure, stressful activities. Our whole body 'switches on' and helps us to get things done, by increasing adrenal activity, by burning glucose and metabolising energy stores within the body. Our heart rate increases and our blood pressure increases - all in an attempt to allow us to function at a higher than normal rate. It is amazing really! Our inner biology has a whole host of activities that it employs to ensure we meet the stress we are facing head on - and it works overtime to help us 'win over' the situation!
However, when that stress is ongoing, or we have many many different ongoing stresses in various areas of our life. When we are continually in a state of stress, and never find time to truly relax. Adding in that we often give ourself too little time to sleep, and that as soon as we awaken, we switch straight into stress mode once again...it is little surprise that our bodies begin to show signs of wear and tear!
One of the biggest issues to business is sickness - with losses of ....
income / profit
We are used to hearing phrases like "time is money", or "I don't have time to waste".
How many decisions are we making based on our energy levels, or our health; and how much of what we can or cannot do is based on how much time it will take, and how much time we have..?
Health Care Under Pressure
However, the effects of a continually stressed, and therefore increasingly sick people, is that the burden of sickness may end up falling upon many other different areas of our community.
The NHS is under immense strain - and as the system is put under ever greater strain, then the individuals within the system being to bear the brunt of that strain - on an individual level. More sickness and absence from work by doctors and nurses puts more stress on the system, and those left holding the fort.
The financial strain of supporting people as they try to cope with their different sickness either through different services within the NHS, or through community services to support the sick or vulnerable, is being felt by many people - in many different areas of health care and across the country.
Sickness is an epidemic - and unfortunately, the Health Care system itself is also sick!
Thyroid conditions are one of the more difficult conditions to diagnose and to treat - and for many people, their symptoms are ongoing for a long time, before they receive the correct testing and diagnoses they require. Once diagnosed, it is a very difficult and potentially long process to get the correct dosage of replacement thyroid hormones.
In many cases, doctors are not specialised enough to be able to manage the hormone levels well, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get appointments with an endocrinologist. However, do remember that currently, in the UK, we are still at liberty to ask for a second opinion and to request to see an endocrinologist (which is not offered as standard for most people), where we may be lucky enough to get more comprehensive functional testing. It is important to remember that we can ask for this, particularly if we are struggling with continual symptoms that indicate ongoing issues, even whilst our TSH is measured as within normal limits.
If you do not get to see an endocrinologist, then still request your GP for a full thyroid panel test (looking at all the hormone levels), unfortunately it is highly likely now that they will likely refuse, even though more comprehensive testing is required in order to get a full thyroid picture.
Lastly, it is also possible to get functional testing through private companies now, and I recommend and use Medichecks. There are a variety of thyroid (and other) functional tests that they can provide, and you can get your blood samples taken from a private health clinic, or request a nurse to visit your home.
The simple TSH test that is provided by the NHS is not a comprehensive or reliable test for anyone who has thyroid function concerns. In addition, thyroid blood test results are only a small part of a much bigger picture, that may also include adrenal issues, liver or gall bladder issues, gut issues, autoimmune issues and possible hormone issues.
Our thyroid (like all body parts) is not a separate organ operating in isolation, but it is part of a larger 'co-ordinated whole'. Indeed we are a finely balanced machine, relying on the smooth integration and interaction of many parts which need to remain in balance in order for us to remain healthy and well.
Balancing the whole
As a 'whole machine', our health depends on many things.
Physical construction, or re-construction, of our tissues and organs occurs continuously, as our body is always repairing and rebuilding itself. This process relies on a diet of good, healthy and balanced nutritional foods in order to feed and support healthy tissue growth in our body.
An essential, but overlooked aspect of health, is our bodies ability to filter out toxins and waste products, that would otherwise be harmful to us. In todays world there are more of these toxins in our food chain, and in our household products and skin care products than ever before. Cutting out any toxins or poisons, whether that be chemical products, heavy metals or pesticides is another important aspect of keeping our body healthy and in an overall balanced state.
The mind is also often overlooked when we consider our health. For not only are we what we eat, but we are what we think!
Our mind is such a powerful influencer on our health - it forms how we think about everything that is going on in our lives. Keeping us stressed, or increasing our stress, or reducing our stress, is as much a matter of HOW we think about things, as WHAT we think.
In Meta-Health, we address the ROOT CAUSES of disease by addressing the thoughts and the beliefs that are going on behind the disease process. Identifying our personal stress triggers, and relieving their associated stress, we get to find long-term and more permanant solutions to the things that might, if left unchecked, end up making us ill, or keeping us ill!
Emotions are powerful motivators in all that we do. Finding ways to experience joy and fun can make a huge difference to how we approach our day!
Peace, joy and love are keys to keep us in a place of balance. But sometimes, when we are very stressed in our day to day lives - it can be difficult to find time for these, and we can lose touch with them. However, these are the KEYS to keeping our life-balance!
Without them, we can become overwhelmed with more negative emotions, such as fear, anger, guilt or despair!
Instinctively we know that feelings of calm and happiness do help us to recover quicker, to feel 'better, but hen we have felt sick and tired for so long, it can be very difficult to remember and to engage with the positive rebalancing emotions we need when we are on a downward spiral - often without even knowing it!
Feeling good enough
Sickness is an engrained aspect of our current social world.
As sickness and financial constraints often go hand in hand, a sick person will often experience their own self-worth and 'value' plummet. Not least because we feel judged if we are not part of a 'productive society'. And 'productive' has become synonymous with the idea that the value add is monetary.
But how do we judge our own value? By the money we have, our job, our worth in society, or how successful we are in a role we consider important to us: being a mum or dad, a wife or husband, a business person, teacher or doctor?
What happens if we begin to feel that we are "failing" to achieve our goals and the standards we expect from ourselves because of our health or energy levels?
It is at these times, that a person experiencing long-term sickness, or an ongoing disease, will need to remember that they are valued as an individual. If they cannot remember this for themselves, then it becomes essential that someone else remains them of all the things that they are successful in, that they are loved and valued for.
Sometimes that nudge to remember their worth can be supported from a loved one, or a group that they can connect with.
It is not unusual that individuals with long-term chronic diseases begin to feel guilty if they are 'always sick'.
And any one of us in this situation might begin to question our value and worth.
It is essential that those who are sick do not begin to feel that they are part of a bigger problem.
It can be a difficult thought, or feeling to turn around, but one of the most empowering things we can do is to begin to engage with our own health journey in a different way.
For me, it was an essential part of my own healing, that I began to look at the bigger picture of my health and disease.
Finding new ways to address challenges and shifting my focus upon the solution, both empowered me, and took me on a journey of self-discovery.
How we feel and think about ourselves can make all the difference. Shame and guilt are a ball and chain that some long-term sick people begin to carry - and that guilt can stop them from being able to engage in both activities and emotions that ironically might otherwise enable them to rediscover the joy in life, change their thoughts and feelings and to begin the healing process.