Finding balance in today’s world can be a challenge. With stressors such as COVID-19, world politics and negativity on social media, it’s no wonder so many people struggle with anxiety and other stress-related conditions.
As the medical profession does its best to help people in these trying times, many are at a loss and struggle to cope. Our situation would be easier if there was an instruction manual for how to deal with the situation we are currently in, unfortunately that is not the reality we are faced with.
However, there is hope, because success leaves clues and we have each other. So, by using a bigger lens when investigating how to manage stress, we can look to societies that were successful in achieving high levels of health.
From a historical perspective, until European settlers “taught” them how to live, the indigenous peoples of North America were among the healthiest people on the planet. There was, of course, mortality from acute injury in a battle or starvation, but a large body of evidence points out that unlike society today, chronic disease was not prevalent in traditional indigenous communities.
Now the question is, how did traditional cultures achieve such robust health and how can we learn from their success?
This is where the ancient concept of the medicine wheel comes in, and elder wisdom teaches that it is useful to view health in this way.
Imagine if you will, a circle divided up into four quadrants, with each quadrant representing an area of human life: one for the physical, another for the emotional and the remaining two for the mental and spiritual.
Now, when each quadrant is in balance, this medicine wheel rolls like a wheel, smoothly, with a life of purpose and direction. However, if someone develops symptoms, it is a signal from the body that something within the wheel is not in balance. The wheel then becomes more like a flat tire, and although it may roll, be prepared for a bumpy ride.
In a human life, these bumps may manifest into things, such as back pain, cancer, heart disease, depression, or any number of conditions related to chronic stress. On a positive note, it is an opportunity to reflect and ask a question: What quadrant of the wheel has been neglected to the point where my body is screaming for attention?
Symptoms we experience in life are not to be ignored; they are messengers pointing to a deeper cause. Think of it this way: if you look under the hood of a car to fix your tire, success is highly unlikely. Wisdom would say, look under the car first and see if there is a flat.
Address the cause of imbalance, and the body will move toward a deeper relationship to health. How to put this wisdom into practice will look different for everyone.
As a general rule, it is recommended to reflect on each quadrant of the medicine wheel regularly and ask: What did I do for each area of my medicine wheel this week?
If the answer is: I sat in a chair for eight hours a day then went home to sit and watch TV for another four hours, then prepare for a visit to your favourite chiropractor.
Jeremy Buhay is the owner of Marine Chiropractic and Wellness in Powell River.