You may be new to functional medicine or holistic health care practices or you may be a long-time user of natural remedies. Where ever you are on that spectrum, everyone needs a group of people who support you as you fight to heal yourself in natural ways.
We happen to live in a community that is very mainstream western medical minded, but as we open up to people in our community we find that many people are already searching for natural and alternative approaches that they can incorporate into their personal healing journeys. This post is all about having a support system, because if you are doing something that is outside of the “norm” having good support is essential.
How to Talk to Friends and Family about Your Health Care Choices
If you are suffering from symptoms or even a diagnosed disease and have started taking an alternative approach to you’re healing, you will need to make changes in your lifestyle. These changes can also affect your close friends and family. You need their love and support as you fight to gain control over your health. You do not need negativity or judgment. You can inform and educate open-minded friends and family who want to support you, but you do not need to be dragged down by those who disagree with your treatment decisions.
If you have chosen to approach your condition holistically (addressing both mental and physical aspects), you may get backlash from friends and family who truly care about you and believe you are making the wrong decision. They may want you to simply pop a pill or take an injection, and not worry about lifestyle changes, functional medicine doctors, or the making dietary changes.
The trouble is that when you are already down and out and overwhelmed by your symptoms or new diagnosis, it’s natural to want to go with the flow and not trouble the waters. It is so important that you stand up for yourself, find your voice, and do what you truly believe is best for your mind and body. After all, you are the one who has to live with the disease, both now and in the years to come.
There is no need to be pushy or aggressive; just be assertive. Find your voice. Stick to your guns about what feels right for you—even if it is just a gut feeling. Many people ignore their gut feelings and intuitions, but in reality, our bodily intelligence evolved long before our mental intelligence. As long as you are educated about the treatment options, it is okay to listen to your intuition. You do not need to justify your own treatment decisions to others.
The bottom line is this: Even if your friends and family strongly disagree with you, do what makes you feel the best—whether it is a mainstream medical approach or a holistic integrative approach. You’ve been living with symptoms or a disease; treat it in the way that gives you the most mental and physical comfort.
A Support System is Key
Research shows that a strong support system can reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of chronic disease. The trouble is that the unpredictable periods of flare-ups and remission can make it difficult to maintain social connections. The following steps to help you create the best support system you can.
Step One: Educate others.
You must educate your close friends and family about your symptoms or even the unpredictable nature of your diagnosed disease. That way, if you have to cancel plans at the last minute because of a flare-up, they will be more likely to understand. Keep open lines of communication and resist the urge to isolate yourself when you don’t feel well. Everyone has good days and bad days—with or without an autoimmune disease. Acknowledge your pain and don’t be afraid to let others in. People will appreciate your honesty.
Step Two: Learn to set boundaries.
While it is important to share with people, you do not need negativity in your life. If you find that a certain relationship is dragging you down, you may need to draw a line in the sand with that person. For instance, you may be able to hang out in groups with that person, but not in a one-on-one setting. Setting boundaries is a huge step toward healing—emotionally and physically.
Step Three: Check out support groups.
Finally, you may find that support groups are helpful—or not. In some cases, the relationships you form may be beneficial because you are able to relate to another person who is in the same situation with the same disease. But in other cases, the relationships can be toxic because some people are negative—focusing on suffering rather than hope. You must decide for yourself if a support group is right for you.
Whether you decide to join a support group or not, a support system made up of family and friends is vital to your recovery. Do not overlook the importance of social connections as you make plans to overcome your health challenges!
How to Respond to “How are you?”
On days that you are truly suffering from overwhelming symptoms, how do you answer the question, “How are you?” In our society, this question is usually asked so casually and flippantly, expecting the pre-programmed answer: “Good.” Saying anything besides “good” seems to throw off the rhythm of the interaction. But saying that you are fine or good is a lie. In fact, saying this suppresses your true emotions, and emotional suppression is not good for anyone.
Emotional suppression is linked to higher levels of inflammation because the body simply absorbs the negative emotions that it doesn’t let out. So what do you do? You don’t want to bring others down, but you don’t want to lie. It is best to start with the word “honestly,” so that the question asker knows that you are being real with them. Then—just tell the truth! It’s that simple. It won’t hurt anyone, and it will help you because the people around you will understand if you are slower or more tired than usual. Finally, end on a positive note, and thank the question-asker for asking.
Here’s an example: “Honestly, I have (list symptoms or disease), and it is flared up today. But I’m sure tomorrow will be a better day. Thank you for asking! How are you doing?”
There is no harm caused by this genuine statement, and the people you interact with may actually appreciate your honesty. After all, it is very refreshing to hear something different than “good” all the time. Nobody is “good” all the time!
With the highs and lows of a holistic healing journey, be real with the people around you so that you don’t have to hide the disease and carry the burden all on your own. You may be surprised by the outpouring of compassion and empathy that you receive in return for your show of honesty, courage, and optimism.