“To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion
We are all unique. Different mind, bodies, genes and therefor risks. Our bodies also evolve, to our surrounds, what we nourish it with and what infects us. We have this knowledge, this power, to decide how we will live and how we confront adversity and illness. Sometimes we knowingly make choices that we know are risky, we mitigate our risks and make choices of risk and reward that come with consequence, to us and others around us. There is always consequence, sometimes good and sometimes devastating.
This forms a daily part of my job and existence. I assess an injury, situation, contributing factors and then often advise people on what they need to do to improve an injury or health or lifestyle outcome. Often my work as that of being a facilitator or teacher. What the person chooses to do with that information is up to them.
Recently I have had to advise and offer, more than usual, advice and opinions to clients and their loved ones regarding health and wellness choices and options. My profession primarily deals with the physical aspects of these choices, but the emotional and practical realities of these choices and consequences must be taken into consideration. To every decision or choice we make regarding our health, we will have to live with the consequences. Some of these consequences affect us directly, some have an affect on our loved ones and those around us, physically and/or emotionally. Our grade 6 daughter was, this term, learning about the Constitution and her Rights in history, what a relevant and topical subject at the moment! Something I have learned, on a deeply personal level growing up, is the Responsibility that comes with these Rights – knowing the difference.
So how do you make decisions? I have learned that it is one of the most valuable health/life skills. This is essential in health affecting decisions, mental and physical, ultimately all our decisions will eventually affect our health – the consequences will always catch up to you … eventually.
When I have a choice to make, I am definitely an outcome-based thinker. I often start at the outcome I want and work backward to figure out how I get there. I have always been analytical and detailed in my decision making, sometimes too much! I am definitely an over thinker, a blessing and curse. There are many ways to go about decision making and the method you use should be based on what is most important to you and your strengths. The questions you ask yourself in this process, however, should be as broad as possible, sometimes you need help.
What are the symptoms/problems? All, in detail, physical, emotional, contributing factors. Asking the right questions is also critical to getting to the deeper issues and context.
How serious is this decision and therefor the consequence? If you decision has serious consequences you need to give it more consideration.
What is the cause? How can you go about finding the true cause? Who has the most credible and reliable information and can assist you? Are they impartial? Accountable?
What are your options, medical, financial, consequence of delaying? Risks vs rewards? Current data and evidence?
What are you prepared to do to improve, manage or solve the situation? You have to be honest with what you are prepared to put into your goal and solution, oftentimes we are not and then frustrated when the outcome is not what we hoped for. Manage your expectations.
What are the consequences to you and those close to you? What is it really that you hope to achieve by your decision?
Acceptance. It is always advisable and best to be prepared for all potential outcomes and most importantly ready to accept responsibility for your choices.
We will sometimes not have the options or resources, financial or otherwise to achieve a desired outcome. This is where things can be difficult, especially emotionally. Speaking to someone and asking for help is a good start. Something that has always helped me when I find this challenge in my life is the words of the serenity prayer, "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference". Somehow, sometimes knowing that I have exhausted all viable options in path forward helps me find acceptance, to make peace with an outcome.
These same principles apply to our life as they do our healthcare choices, short term vs long term goal, risk vs reward. What we need to remember is that we must live with the consequences of these choices/actions and they can be long reaching. Once you commit to what you want, what you choose, finding the path there can be difficult. Sometimes the solutions are fraught with curve balls, sometimes they are clear and more obvious – however – they often require consistent effort, sometimes sacrifice. Education is power, it is your most valuable tool, your most valuable alley in this journey.
I love the scene in Forest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you going to get”. We don’t know what’s coming, but we can control the things we can, make the best decisions based on what we know now, for sure. You never know until you try, but there will always be consequence to our choices, Newton’s law applying to life.
When it comes to health, when it comes to life:
“Do the best you can until you know better.
Then, when you know better, do better”
Education Focus: Dr Google and Professor Social Media
We live in a new age of connectivity. There are so many sources of information it becomes overwhelming. So what is the good the bad and the ugly of internet searches as pertains to health related diagnosis? Never before have we had so much information at our fingertips. With the click of a button we are inundated with an unfathomable amount of information. So much good has come from this, yet too has so much bad.
Doing a Google search or symptom checker can help you, there is no doubt it has a place in educating and improving your health related knowledge, but it should never replace your Doctor/healthcare practitioner with a full medical interview and diagnosis.
An assessment seeks to narrow down, based on history, questions, examination and observation, the cause of your complaining symptoms, then provide you with options based on this, for further testing or treatment. Your healthcare provide does this after years of study and experience in the field of question. The internet can neither examine or observe you, nor does it know your history, and therefor the questions are limited to the narrow data imputed. The internet does not question you, but rather gives you information based on your limited search. Doing an online search prior to a consult can equip you with better questions, medical vocabulary, anatomy and perhaps finding the right practitioner. Unfortunately it is also full of misinformation, limited in context and sometimes completely inaccurate, this can cause undue anxiety, fear and added stress. Google can become far more valuable after you receive a diagnosis, in getting more information and support.
Sources of online information should always be questioned. We know that social media and the internet use algorithms for targeted advertising, in some places more than others. Sometimes the information is outright false, with no accountability. The ability to discern the difference can be impossible at times and all information should be questioned, fact checked and verified.
Why is a consultation with a Doctor/healthcare worker more reliable? Findings are more accurate as it is personalized. They have a professional obligation to offer you an evidence based assessment and treatment program. They are held accountable to their decisions and can loose the right to practice if they do not meet this standard of care or act in any negligent manner. They, not only, offer a professional, personal and highly educated service, but also are held to to highest ethical standards and accountability. In a time of covid, many are also risking their lives in the care of others (this should never be taken for granted, We, personally have immense gratitude).
Be inquisitive, ask questions and educate yourself, but when you have a medical problem, seek medical advice from someone who is qualified to give it and accountable for it.