NAHC Blog March 2013
Amidst all this talk of health care reform and the very fact that NAHC’s name has the word “health,” in it what does it really mean to be healthy? A couple of years back, I looked at my own health. I figured I’d try to align my behavior and choices with some kind of picture of health. If I work at a community clinic, shouldn’t I try to be healthy? The mainstream idea of healthy has taken roller coaster turns throughout history. Certain cultures value strength, mass, thinness, etc. Even in the U.S. during certain eras, the meaty Marilyn Monroe image is compared to a willowy image of a runway model and the discourse is which is, “better?” And for folks of color, looking at mainstream images, even in health-related media, can feel daunting. They feel daunting to me, anyway. Because when I look at mainstream media, health and beauty are often conflated. The images I see are of people that don’t look like me and that makes me feel bored and frustrated at the same time. So I decided to shut all that out for a moment and look within. To me, health is very much aligned with NAHC’s commitment to holistic health. I value my body, my mind/spirit, my family, my partner, my finances, my professional and intellectual development, my friends, my dogs, etc. If I am nurturing those elements and values—that makes for a healthy me. But what does that mean in every day actions?
Some practices that have helped my journey toward health are: running; yoga; journaling; finding constructive ways to express feelings so I am heard and at the same time, respectful of the other person; spending time outdoors with my partner, friends, and my dogs. And really looking at myself. I weigh close to 180 pounds. It took me a long time to accept my body as it is about 34 years. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t imagine running. Heaving my body around on the concrete, outside in exercise clothes felt silly and embarrassing. I started running on a treadmill for just 2-3 minutes at a time and after about a month, I was able to run a couple miles. Now running has become a part of me and a habit that I constantly turn to. It’s the time I use to be alone, think, and commune with my spirit. Another practice is yoga. I take the Monday class @ 7D where we recently celebrated a year of practice. Yoga helps me slow down and pay attention to my body for a quiet, but challenging hour. For me personally, I need a combination of alone time and exercising around other people to feel good.
Another and final component of personal health is emo- tional health. How do I feel? Why? What do I need to do to feel better? What are my needs and how am I going to get them met?
If you are asking some of these same questions, we work in a clinic that is rife with resources. From the CWD department to Nutrition and Fitness, there are many NAHC staff that work on their own health that can be great thought partners. We have a Wellness Committee that is happy to provide resources on exercise and wellness. We have an Em- ployee Assistance Program that has a huge, on-line archive of health-related information. We have access to traditional, American Indian spiritual practitioners. We are very lucky.
So for a moment, let’s put aside all the statistics and politics (although they are important) and take a look inward and see what’s there. Maybe take a walk or talk to a friend or do one action that takes you toward feeling better. Habits build upon habits and it takes 6 months to a year to build solid habits. Be nice to yourself. List all the things you’re thankful for. We have more resources at hand than we think.