Beyond and Alongside Asthma: Taking a Health Inventory
Asthma is just one aspect of your health. While sometimes it can seem like a big part, and that your health is defined by your asthma, it is truly just one part of many things that affect your body, mind, and health as a whole. Just like you might see your doctor for a checkup or physical examination annually (as opposed to the more frequent asthma check-ins), it is important to check-in with yourself regularly, too, to stay as healthy as you can.
I’m going to call this check-in a “health inventory”. Looking at the “big picture” of your health can identify things you may be concerned with currently, or areas you’d like to think on a bit more to grow in. By reflecting on these things, too, you may also see how you’ve grown or how you’ve improved your health by the choices you’ve made.
Since we know health isn’t just about your body, the public health field breaks health into different domains, or clusters. Sometimes, these are referred to as the “domains of wellness”, rather than health. Let’s explore these—let your mind wander a bit as you read: how do these things fit into your world, and into your own perception and definition of health?
Probably among the first thoughts when you think of health, especially if you have a condition like asthma! Physical health is ensuring your body is able to deal with whatever demands are thrown at it—the things that you want your body to be capable of. Asthma may be one part of your physical health, but nutrition, exercise and sleep are all big contributors to your physical health, too.
From our first moment on the planet, we all expressed our physical needs emotionally. As we grow older, though, often people will display less emotion—particularly negative ones. Reconnecting to your emotions—including sadness, anger, stress, frustration, and of course joy!—is important to our health as humans! (I’d recommend a viewing of Inside Out on this topic!)
Unchecked feelings, especially stress, can cause a whole bunch of hormonal changes in your body, and in turn, affect your asthma—as if dealing with a chronic disease wasn’t enough, right?
They say “You learn something new every day!”. I’m still not sure who ‘they’ are, but it’s true—if you open your eyes, you don’t have to be in school to learn something new! Learning a new thing every day, and reflecting on it, can help you feel a sense of accomplishment, and maybe even have more interesting conversations with others that deviate from the typical “How’s the weather?”—even on the most monotonous of days, there’s something to be learned.
No, no, social health doesn’t quite mean hanging out at bars and being that kind of social! From colleagues at work, to classmates, to the people you’d just consider your “friends”—or, even strangers!—meeting new people makes us healthier (well, as long as they don’t have anything contagious!). Even for the introverts out there, human contact is important in sharing our thoughts, ideas, feelings and developing who we are.
Religion = optional. Spiritual health is about forming a connection with something greater than yourself—including concepts like hope, peace, or something intangible but positive.1 This can include a faith community like a synagogue, church, or temple, or, spiritual development can take place on your own. Often, belief in some sort of spiritual force helps people feel more control over their circumstances—a stability that may feel a bit fleeting when dealing with the unpredictability of asthma.
Environment can either be the Earth around you—the outdoors, nature, and forming a connection to keeping our planet healthy and our personal impact—or, it can be a simpler look at our own environment—say at home or work—and determining how that affects us. If you have asthma and allergies, it doesn’t take long for you to realize the impact your environment, indoors and outdoors, has on your health!
Your occupation is best explained as “the thing you do”—okay, I know, that’s a terrible explanation! However, if you are a stay-at-home parent, that is an occupation; if you are a lawyer, that is an occupation; if you are a student, that’s an occupation. Essentially, you don’t always get paid to be at your “job”, but, you should be happy to be doing what you are doing—or at least recognize the reason for why you do what you do, and seek to find something positive in that. And—if you dislike your job that much, maybe it’s time to reconsider where you want to see yourself in the future… and take steps to make it better for the interim!
Now, how do all of these areas interweave for you? Where have you seen improvement in the last month, or year? What would you like to see different? How does your asthma fit in?
Taking a health inventory can be a good way to start figuring out what goals you have for yourself, and from there, you can figure out how to set those goals to be successful at the change you want to make. While all of these areas may not seem like they have much or anything to do with asthma, small changes add up! How asthma affects certain areas may be more clear for you than others, but, I (personally) can fit asthma in all of these categories to an extent, which would lead me to believe that being healthier in every area can probably have a positive impact on my asthma!