The Illusion of Perfect Health
We've all heard stories about people who were "never sick a day in their entire life" or "never missed a day of work". More often than not, those stories ended with the person facing a serious illness or worse, having died unexpectedly despite being in "perfect health".
As a health care professional, one of the lessons I teach my patients is that perfect health is a myth. Many of my patients come to me in the midst of a health crisis and I tell them I'm delighted to see their body responding with unpleasant symptoms because that means it's doing its job.
Symptoms are Not a Sign of Sickness
Although uncomfortable, runny noses, fevers, aches and pains are signs that the body is doing the job of handling a crisis. If the body did not show these symptoms in the presence of a virus or bacteria, I would be concerned. Symptoms are a sign of wellness, they're signals that the biological machine that is your body is in good working condition.
I know that's hard to fathom, but think about the fuel gauge on your car. When the light goes on, it's a signal that you're almost out of gas and need to fill up. When your body aches or your head is congested, it's a signal that you need to do something to take care of yourself.
Why We Ignore the Body's Signals
Did your grade school award certificates for perfect attendance? How does your employer perceive sick days taken? There is an unspoken social expectation to be active and engaged all of the time. That sounds a lot like perfect to me.
Somewhere along the line, we have learned to interpret the symptoms of illness with being un-well and as an impediment to achieving this perfection. The message seems to be "Can't do what you need to do? Take this pill to feel better so you can keep performing."
Big pharma suggests that many of the signs of body working are actually signs of it being broken and they have solutions ready to sell us to to fix the problem. I'm not suggesting that Western medicine should be shunned, but I do call into question the idea of ignoring the body's wisdom and of preventing it from doing the work it was designed to do.
A New Picture of Health
Health and wellness is not feeling good all of the time. Instead, there is an ebb and flow that's characterized by periods of optimal performance and necessary down time. The key is to listen to your body when it speaks to you. When it signals for a period of rest by showing symptoms, honor that.
Discard the myth that you don't have time to feel bad and replace it with the awareness that your body knows what it needs. When you're feeling bad or less than optimal, give yourself permission to make time for your body to heal itself. Give yourself space to rest and let your body take care of you.