The Offense and Defense of Health

In the last three years we have heard it all, or so we are told, about how to take care of ourselves. Unlike what many of us learned in basic biology though the guidance has been confusing, frustrating and incomplete. We have been forced to live in fear, isolation and quarantine because the air around us could make us sick. That’s an incredibly fearful thought that many it seems wanted us to believe was a real threat to our survival. As a result, we virtually supported schooling our children, worked at home and lived thoroughly in our houses. The outcome though wasn’t a safer air quality, return to normal or even a healthier world, but rather the crumbling of our society. Quite honestly, it has been scary, worrisome and disturbing much more than the air could ever be.


I think most disturbing to me in all of this is the lack of conversation about prevention. Viruses and bacteria illness have existed well before mankind. Germs are real every day fact of life. A whole conversation that includes all elements of what prevention means to our health, mental well-being and community social structure is necessary to mitigate the risks of what these things can do to our short and long term health status. At the core of any illness, viral or bacterial, is our ability to prevent it from being in our body, mind and heart. What has happened the last three years has infected us all physically, mentally and spiritually. It has touched all of us individually and in families, communities and the world at large. We have become a sick world well beyond a viral respiratory infection. It has spurred even more reactionary mandates, separation and discord among us too. We have not become healthier or better.


The best defense is a good offense. I am not a football fan but this saying offers us the solid truth applicable to many situations in life, including a football game. In this case, it also directly applies to our health status. To have health you must create an environment where health can thrive. You must create the state where health is a natural every day occurrence operating optimally. The defense of our health occurs when there are threats against it and we have not done such a great job on the offense. We lost the ball, were left exposed, had openings in our offense. Defense became necessary as a result. That is a very elementary description but effective in realizing our approach to what has occurred the last three years has not been on the offense side of the playbook.


In all of the discussions over health in our world the last three years, the offense preventative measures were limited to pharmaceutical defensive discussions. Things such as diet, healthy lifestyles, exercise, mental and spiritual health were bylines if mentioned at all. When we bring in defensive teams it is our human nature to also feel fear, worry, concern and negative stress. In any defense situation, whether stress in our job, conflict at home, traffic commute and so on. Our body has a negative response to stress as it works to find that balance or return away from that feeling. In our body that translates into a weakened immunity, which leads to the risk of exposure to illness and disease and symptoms of ill health. We step out of our homeostasis state of living as we were built to thrive and grow and instead focus on defending our gaps. Prevention is about creating an environment in our body where there are minimal to no gaps. That is what health represents.


There is a place for science in all of this of course. However, our first response to any health need starts with us individually. Our own health choices made every day on what to eat, how to move our body, what we listen to and watch, how we respond and manage stress, when we rest and more are the foundation of our health overall. When we don’t take care of ourselves in some way every day our immunity systems weaken and the physician and pharmacist stand ready to supply their professional support and financial bill to help with that. Minimizing the need for external support by building up our health is our best offense for long term health.


It starts with our own recognition of our body being more than a physical container for our cells, muscles, bones and organs. It is the acknowledgement that we are so much more. We are a whole being of spirit and mind as well as our physical being. These three components must work together to achieve ideal health. Separating one, as most physicians do when working with just the body or just the mind, breaks the harmony of our being. We may need support in one the three components but we must always understand and mitigate the impacts that component has on the other two components. There is a deep interdependence between these components where one cannot survive in health without the others.


For example, if I break my leg, it is not just my leg that needs to be healed. My spirit may be depleted because I feel isolated due to not being able to move around so much. My mind may be talking negatively inside about how I shouldn’t have thought I could jump on the trampoline in the first place. These feelings and thoughts influence how fast I heal and the long term health outlook I have about trying new things going forward. If I only look at my leg in this situation I disconnect that pain from the other sensations I’m having about this experience. It all impacts my health now and in the future.


There are a lot of things in modern life that require us to compartmentalize our activities, including our health needs. This is a survival mode technique we have all mastered to get through our work weeks, complete complex activities and solve challenges. However, long term disconnect through intense compartmentalization of our health is what leads us to the condition we find our healthcare system today. We have physicians who only treat the physical body, other physicians who only treat the mind, and pharmacists who dish out the drugs. It is typical none of these individuals are speaking to each other in the treatment of the whole person. They are only working on the widget body part of their specialty. In my opinion, this is an incredible unfortunate aspect of our science and healthcare systems.


When we only see a cure through an injection and we treat a viral infection as only a physical condition, we overlook the impact of the rest of our health. We start to allow fear to enter our mind about risks and exposure. We distance ourselves spiritually from others leaving us feeling gloomy, depressed and scared. Long term that weakens our health even more because when we don’t feel our best we don’t thrive. We don’t eat well. Exercise becomes a chore. Playing and feeling happy seem like distant dreams. Our health suffers.


Building our health starts with the foundation of working to harmonize the relationship between physical, spiritual and mental needs. Triangulating these components gives us deeper perspective into what we actually need so we can include it in our health regimen. Often times, the answer is simple too. Water, air, fresh food, sunshine, feeling safe and being connected with nature and others. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs if you want to be technical. When we address these elements, we see health become a game of offense where winning is not only possible but a regular every day experience.


It is my opinion we are in need of expanding the conversation of what health means and how it is achieved. Prevention and preventative health living should be top of agenda in that conversation. Our body is a wonderful organism capable of much more than we give it credit regularly. Opening the door of conversation about how to individually create that state is where our society needs to be turning for long term results against viral and bacterial threats. Taking control of our health and empowering ourselves to build an offense strategy is where we will start to see the shift from fear subside and health individually and in our communities rise.


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