By Matthew C. Popkin, M.D.
Founder, President and Chief Medical Officer at i-Medical Consulting
As a physician, I deal with resiliency every time I see a patient and do so unconsciously. To merge western and eastern medicine with every visit on an individual basis requires a deep interpersonal understanding of my patients. From prescription medication to herbal supplements and traditional medicine to mind-body healing the common thread is empowering the patient to engage in their treatment program and to guide them down the path of learning so they can make educated decisions. What was originally called “alternative medicine” with its somewhat negative connotations in the medical world, in time, morphed into “complementary medicine” which was better accepted and ultimately became what is known today as “integrative medicine” which is the universally accepted term for this type of medical practice.
Integrative medicine is ultimately the wellness mindset of eastern medicine superimposed on the foundation of evidenced based western medicine.
The spectrum of both disciplines is broad and requires both the physician and the patient to be educated appropriately in order to create an effective treatment plan. Commonly overlooked aspects of the western medicine treatment plan include proper rest, nutrition, exercise, stress management, time management and mind-body healing. By adding these eastern medicine components and engaging the patient as part of the healthcare team, we can achieve better treatment outcomes. Wellness medicine is preventative medicine and utilizes lifestyle modification to either prevent illness from occurring in the first place or greatly improves treatment outcomes for existing diseases. For example, the three major illnesses that cause heart attacks and strokes are diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The focus should not be on the treatment of these three illnesses individually. Instead, we should focus on the common theme of wellness medicine and incorporate lifestyle modification to be the basis of treatment for these illnesses to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. This includes education, proper nutrition, exercise, stress management and patient engagement in the treatment program. Then the addition of prescription medications, when necessary, will be more effective as the patient is more likely to be compliant with the treatment program.
Another example is PTSD, which is a very common problem that is often misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed or never diagnosed at all. People who are not properly diagnosed tend to suffer in silence for extended periods of time, self-medicate, isolate and disengage in normal daily activities and interpersonal relationships.
By increasing awareness in the community and teaching people how to recognize the symptoms of PTSD, we can help those who suffer to seek out physicians who employ an integrative approach to treatment.
This integrative treatment program is the same as in the above example. Educate the patient and empower them to participate in their recovery, employ lifestyle modification using diet, exercise and stress management tools and provide sound psychiatric care including counseling and medication if needed.
When I talk about lifestyle modification, I am talking about the component of the treatment program that the patient has the most involvement in. These are the day-to-day activities that the patient must perform and is where the human spirit is subject to weakness. These activities include diet and nutrition modification, exercise, stress management techniques, time management skills and continued education. This is where resiliency comes into play and can make or break the healing process.
The inherent obstacle is getting people to actually incorporate these lifestyle modifications into their daily lives.
This is much easier said than done, soo I tried an exercise myself. When I read Lauren Monroe Allen’s 21 Ways to Resiliency, I thought of how beneficial these steps would be for my patients to adopt the lifestyle modification principles. I then thought of how I actually incorporate Lauren’s ideas and wisdom into my daily life. I thought I would share it with everyone. Here goes….
On a daily basis, I nourish the relationships with my patients to get to know them better so I can help them stay connected with their medical issues and feel comfortable with me. This allows them to share their feelings openly so I can be mindful of what they want from a wellness standpoint and what they are willing to do to achieve their goals. I can then guide their thoughts toward the positive and away from the negative so they can practice acceptance of the medical issues they have, to forgive themselves and others for their misfortunes and be grateful for the goodness they have in their life. I teach them to have faith in the treatment process, make healthy choices to achieve their goals and be open to learning how to improve their health.
In times of stress, patients should create a sacred space and calming rituals to restore normalcy to their lives.
I am part of the community and at my patient’s service at all times to help them to clarify their perspective and change their questions to learn how to better help themselves and embrace the challenges of their health issues. Being patient and incorporating stress management techniques including how to meditate, breathe, and laugh deeply is an important part of the treatment process. Listening to nature, which is the voice of the body and spirit, will help them to achieve their wellness goals. The daily practice of medicine allows me to connect to my purpose, which is to help my patients create powerful paths to resiliency.
I am truly blessed and privileged to have the ability to be a part of people’s lives in such an important and spiritual way. Through education and awareness people can be taught to use the power of one’s own inherent resiliency to heal both physically and emotionally by integrating the disciplines of western and eastern medicine.