Recently someone who asked me what I did as work said he had no idea what a holistic therapist was. What exactly is a holistic approach to health? In my book it’s looking at the whole picture when you become unwell, not just a simple case of diagnosis and treatment but how the illness, or dis-ease, has come into your life and affected it.
For example, if I catch a cold or similar virus, this is what I do.
- Rest. There is a reason I have become unwell – yes, I have a virus, an external agent has attacked me, but if we were all to react to every virus we are exposed to we would be ill all the time. So I first need to accept that my body needs time to fight the infection, that I need to slow down and check my mental and emotional health for stressors that might have lead me to become vulnerable on this occasion and ask myself why have I become unwell just at this time. There may be obvious things that I can do to better protect my health in the future.
- Support my body. As a healthy adult I already have all I need to overcome the illness – a well evolved immune system. I need to make sure that everything I do works with my immune system rather than against it. In practical terms this means:
- Drinking plenty, lots of water and warm drinks. The lymphatic system can’t work properly if your body is dehydrated and this is a vital part of the immune system.
- Take a herbal remedy that supports the immune system – in my case I find a tincture of echinacea works wonders. Take advice from a qualified herbalist or go online to one of the better websites, I find A Vogel has excellent advice and their products are very good quality.
- Avoid medications that work against the immune system. For example, paracetamol is often recommended to reduce the symptoms of colds and flu because is eases aches and pains and reduces fever. Fever is one of your body’s ways of fighting infection because invading bacteria and viruses thrive at normal body temperature. So as a normally healthy adult, fever should help me get over my illness more quickly. It is, of course, even more vital to drink plenty of liquids if your body temperature is raised.
- Bring in the cavalry – essential oils. As an aromatherapist I know that many essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties and support the immune system. By diffusing and breathing in a blend of these, the oils pass into my body and help to fight the intruders as well as helping others around me to avoid becoming ill. To help with aches and pains I may make a different blend to soak in in the bath, and a gel mixed with a third blend of analgesic oils helps to soothe and clear headaches. If I am experiencing a stuffy nose or sore throat, sinus pain or anything else I will make another appropriate blend.
- Use reflexology. By working the reflexes on my feet and hands I can hope to support my immune system further in doing the good work it’s already engaged in and also relax my body and mind so that I can get plenty of restorative sleep.
- Pay attention to my diet once I am feeling better. As a well nourished healthy adult in the first world I usually have no nutritional deficiencies but while unwell I will probably not have been eating a balanced diet. Now is the time to bring in plenty of varied fruit, vegetables, good fats and high quality protein to make sure that I get back to full health.
- Ask myself what I’ve learned from this experience. One of the most useful things included in my training as a holistic therapist is reflective practice and I do this for all of the treatments that I give, including those on myself.
And finally – celebrate and enjoy life to the full when I am well again.