The Road to Wellness

Taking a holistic inventory is the first step toward self-empowerment

by Robert Zukowski

wellness-roadEvery morning I wake up and go to the medicine cabinet. Inside it are the pills for my high blood pressure. Really, it’s all a very simple process when we look at things from a conventional medicine point of view. My doctor runs some tests, sees some numbers and prescribes a pill. The label says take one capsule by mouth daily. Again, a simple process. Whole medicine, is not quite that simple. It is a very personal journey that one embarks upon out of a need to treat not just the physical body, but the mind, the spirit, the energy and the soul as well.

It would be wonderful if we could see our physician or pharmacist, tell them what we think, we feel, we lack or suffer from, and get a prescription for tai chi, aromatherapy, or meditation. The truth is that sometimes it’s not quite that simple. But starting down a path of whole medicine is exciting. Are there obstacles? Certainly. There is research to do. There is trial and error. But it is a journey well worth it. It is taking some matters into your own hands and empowering yourself toward enhanced wellness.

The road to finding the right combination of integrative, holistic, complementary and alternative options for us is a very personal journey that arises from need and requires self-awareness. It is a matter of looking at the perhaps less tangible and physical aspects of our being. It is looking at ourselves honestly on every level, inside and out.

I am fortunate that, in my line of work, I come into contact with many different kinds of holistic healers. But still, with all the resources around me, in the end, no one knows what is really right for me other than me. No one knows what works for me but me. Yes, my physician knows what I need for my high blood pressure, but only I can diagnose my spirit.

I personally have always had trouble with digestive issues. I experimented with herbs and tried fennel, peppermint, and ginger. Some things worked and some did not. Eventually, I went to see a holistic nutrition counselor who did a series of energy-based food tests and I found the things I should eat and the things that I should avoid from an energetic perspective.

I tried aromatherapy for stress and experimented with white sage and lavender. These work for me, while others did not. I found that while traditional Swedish massage is excellent for helping me to relax, that I also need deep tissue massage, sports massage and energy work to address the assortment of whole-person issues. I find that some forms of music therapy in conjunction with meditation and positive imaging helps to put my mind at ease and propel myself in the right direction.

What would I recommend for you? Start with self-awareness. Is it the physical body that is in need? Or perhaps your energy feels low or negative. Is your mind rarely at ease? What does it feel like you need? Pay attention to yourself and what you feel and when you feel it. For example, I had a client whose chief complaint was muscular pain in the neck and jaw along with headaches. Every session we focused on those areas. In time, we came to find that the muscle tension was coming from repetitive motions brought about by stress and anxiety. While we still treat the muscles, the client has embarked on stress-reduction activities such as meditation and tai chi. It has helped immensely in lessening the muscle pain. So we learned to treat the symptom and the cause.

I recommend research. There is a world of information available to you about the many holistic options out there. There are scholarly articles available, results of research projects, and much more. For example, a simple online search for “holistic remedies for anxiety” will return many results for you to explore from established medical institutions to energy workers.

Trial and error. Don’t be afraid to find what doesn’t work. At some point, I attempted yoga, and, while I am a fan of yoga for many reasons, I find that I am just awkward and unbalanced enough that, instead of holding a pose, I topple over like a house of cards. Yet, tai chi gave me what I needed.

Pay attention. I make it standard operating practice to send a follow up email to my massage therapy clients a few days after each session to check on how they are feeling. While I consider this good for business, I also realize that life is fast-paced and we move onto the next thing in life quickly and forget the days and things before. I like to ask my clients how they are feeling a few days later, not just from my own business perspective, but for them to realize that, “yes, I have felt better since that massage therapy session.” It helps to help them to be self-aware.

Remember to replace the bad with the good. At times we may engage in bad habits to ease tension or stress. If you find a holistic option that relives your stress, run with it and do without the other less healthy options. Face the problem from both sides; in with the good and out with the bad.

Finally, talk to professionals. Make sure the holistic healers you choose are certified, licensed, experienced and truly invested in their trade. I encourage you to take this journey. I encourage you to take an active part in your own wellness and empower yourself—it’s key to living well with HIV.

After a lengthy career in the arts and LGBT activism, Robert Zukowski pursued his goal of a career in complementary and alternative healthcare. He is a New York State licensed Massage Therapist, a Certified Medical Massage Therapist and is certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. In addition to his hands-on work, he is a writer and lecturer in the field of therapeutic massage therapy.