How Do I Help My Patients Understand Their Symptoms
Symptoms come in many forms. A rash, a tight chest, a crick in your neck, a feeling of longing, sadness, or headaches. It is common knowledge that these types of symptoms can give you a clue into some aspect of your physical health such as a more serious disease, a mental condition, or a disorder. Symptoms can give you insight about other aspects of your life as well. Such as your relationships, your work, or your emotional needs.
So often people search for a diagnosis or a medication that will rid them of their symptoms. Of course sometimes we do need serious medical attention, but almost just as often, our body uses a certain symptom to send us a different kind of signal. If we take the time to listen and understand, sometimes a simple lifestyle change can be all our bodies need to heal.
How Symptoms And Lifestyle Relate
Your body is constantly sending you almost instantaneous signals regarding your environment, your safety, and your sense of balance in the world. For example, it’s exam week and you’ve been studying so hard and getting so stressed that you come down with the flu. Or you are working in a toxic environment and want to quit your job so badly that you get stress headaches every weekday. At first, physical symptoms may seem to appear out of the blue. But taking a moment to tune in to your body can help you to see how connected to the events of life they really are.
To make matters worse, when we are experiencing a particularly stressful event, or going through certain emotional trauma, we often neglect to care for ourselves as we ought to. You may drop your regular exercise routine, forget to eat meals, lose sleep, or engage in negative thought patterns. These are all factors that can lead to negative symptoms and, if left untreated, can eventually lead to actual diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, or cancer.
Deciphering Your Symptoms
One way to decipher your body’s symptoms and clues is to ask yourself how the symptom is serving you. For example, a migraine might serve you by keeping you from the stresses of work, giving you a much needed day off and allowing you to catch up on missed sleep. So perhaps your migraine is your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down, get more sleep, and take more time for yourself. Being able to listen to your body and learning to watch for these signs and adjust accordingly might just save you a lot of unnecessary symptoms.
Listening to your body takes practice, but with time you will be able to detect things such as:
- Positive and negative emotions associated with certain lifestyle habits
- How you feel in social, professional, and personal relationships
- How certain foods affect your mood and health
- Where you hold stress in your body.
Taking time out of your day to tune in with your body and watch for any connections with various symptoms will greatly benefit your health. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, you will find that it makes a positive difference in your life in the long run. If you find that your symptoms can be controlled by your lifestyle, take the time to adjust. It may end up saving your life!