Being as well as we can

Many of us make at least some effort to live in a healthy way. We may exercise, watch what we eat, take time out for enjoyment. A regular meditation practice can be a very effective way of maintaining balance and wellbeing. Of course sometimes living healthily is easier than others and most people will also go through times when our habits are the opposite of healthy. Many of us, in normal circumstances, will self-regulate within a certain range of behaving in a more or less healthy way. Often the trigger for a renewed engagement in healthy habits may be a sense that we are starting to notice that we feel less well than we did, driving a motivation to do what we can to be more healthy.

What happens, then, if we fall ill? Do we continue to take responsibility for our own wellbeing? If we experience long term physical symptoms it can be hard. We may think at this point that medical interventions are more important than our own efforts to be healthy. If we try to continue with exercise it may even seem to make us worse, or to not be possible with the condition we now have. Yet traditional Western medicine will not address every aspect of our health - it is important still to continue to manage our own wellbeing alongside any necessary physical treatments.

When we have long term symptoms to contend with, whatever the cause, doing what we can towards our own wellbeing is crucial. Put simply, our challenge, as it always has been, is to respond to our current reality in the best way we possibly can. This is likely to be particularly challenging if the symptoms we experience are particularly disabling or have progressed rapidly. Yet we can never do more than responding to what we experience now in the best possible way. We need to do what we can, when we can that we believe to be healthy. Doing so is likely to involve adaptations to the things we did before and may include developing whole new skills. Whether or not our response includes meditation, it is important to remember that doing something healthy is better than doing nothing healthy or something unhealthy - both emotionally and physically.

Helpful immediate responses to intense physical symptoms may include using grounding techniques, slowing our breathing, soothing ourselves with gentle words and reaching out for help and support when we need it. It is also helpful to look out for common reactions that don't help so that we don't get pulled too far into them. Common unhelpful reactions include trying to ignore symptoms and get on with 'life as usual', putting all of our faith in the ability of medical authorities or other factors outside of our own influence to cure us and giving up on stress-relieving activities and habits.

At the end of the day, the onset of long term physical symptoms may mean that we now have to enter a partnership with health professionals but never mean that we should hand over responsibility for our physical and emotional wellbeing to them. The more we already understand about the best way to meet our own needs for wellbeing and the more flexible we can be in finding ways around blockages and difficulty for this the better we will be able to continue to take responsibility for our part of the picture.

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