I’m not sure if you noticed but there has been a lot of talk about healthcare in the United States lately. Actually, the discussion is nothing new. We have been talking about the merits of our current healthcare system for years–even generations–all the while debating the efficacy of existing model. Does it work? Does our healthcare system actually keep us healthy? Regardless of any political opinion, there is one area where most people tend to agree.
In the annual APA report, Stress in America, 53% of those surveyed stated they receive little to no support from their healthcare provider in the area of stress management. Although shocking, that figure is not surprising. Why? Because in the United States we have embraced and accepted a reactive healthcare model. Aside from an annual physical ( although I believe that is spotty at best), and perhaps an apple a day, there is very little emphasis on proactive measures focused on maintaining or improving overall health and wellness. In the current model there is very little time spent on keeping people well. There are just too many sick people to deal with on a daily basis.
Here is the part of the equation I find fascinating. We have too many sick people to spend any reasonable time on wellness care, yet more than 90% of medical visits are due to chronic stress-related conditions. Now I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, but it seems to me if you treat the cause of the illness instead of the symptom, you will end up with a healthier patient.
To be fair, the onus is not just on the healthcare system. Most of us have grown up with the idea that we go to the doctor only when sick. Staying or being well is completely on us. And yet when asked, most surveyed said they do not take care of themselves. 83% of those with high stress levels said they do not do enough to manage their own stress. That isn’t surprising, either. When you are highly stressed, all of your energy goes to reacting or avoiding that which is stressing you out. There simply isn’t the time or the desire to find proactive ways of dealing with and de-escalating stressful situations.
Stress levels are not mandated by socioeconomic status or position. I have seen exhausted and miserable executives who are two beats away from a heart attack. I have also seen general office workers stoke out and spend the rest of their lives on disability.
It all comes down to how you chose to care for yourself.
The APA survey listed the most common sources of stress:
- 61%–The economy
- 57%–Family Responsibilities
- 52%–Family health Problems
- 51%–Personal health concerns
Most people do not recognize the effects or signs of stress on their own health or behavior. If they do, oftentimes they believe it is something they can manage on their own. Possibly this is true–everyone has the ability to manage stress effectively. But given the results of the Stress in America report, it would seem that few people chose to do so.
Why is that? Simple. It is not easy to create and maintain healthy lifestyle changes. Losing weight, exercising, and eating right may seem like good ideas. They sound great on December 31st. But what happens on January 15th when life gets in the way? If making these changes were easy, we wouldn’t have a country where two-thirds of the country is obese or overweight.
It isn’t merely a question of weight loss, either. Promoting a healthier well-being–an optimal state of personal wellness, if you will–comes down to a decision. A decision that you are worth the time and the effort to keep yourself healthy and happy enough to enjoy the life you have and create the life you want. A decision that stress does not have to ruin your life. That you have the power to make a choice about how you live your life.
My clients find me when they have reached a tipping point. They have tried to manage their health on their own, but realize support while making healthy lifestyle changes will ease the process and increase the probability of lasting success. In the same way they hire an accountant for financial management, they come to me when they need help managing and maintaining their own health.
For the time being, it seems our healthcare system will continue as a reactive model. There are provisions in the Affordable Care Act that address preventive and wellness measures, but how effective those provisions will be remains to be seen.