Holistic Health A Nontraditional Alternative

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY LIVING
Five Elements Living, Colton, New York.

BY: Jen Jackson

As “self-care” becomes a part of the everyday American vocabulary, interest in holistic and “alternative” healing has grown exponentially in the last decade. And while definitions of holistic care may vary, it can include everything from massage therapy and acupuncture to shifts in traditional medicine toward treating the whole person, physically and mentally.

    According to several local holistic practitioners, north country women are increasingly choosing treatments that aim to heal both body and mind.

    Shelby Connelly, owner and operator of the Adirondack retreat Five Elements Living, in Colton, says many people, especially women, are looking to feel better and have run out of options within the confines of modern medicine.

    Ms. Connelly has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has practiced acupuncture for 20 years. Her services also focus on yoga, nutrition and meditation.

    Five Elements Living is “designed out of the premise of self-care,” Ms. Connelly said. “Complementary therapies coming together to give women a whole picture on their health.”

    But what are the biggest proven benefits of holistic care?

  • Stress reduction

    The seemingly endless quest to reduce stress has become of a fixture of American culture. As the pressures to have a successful career, financial stability and familial bliss mount, we’ve also watched stress take its toll, from anxiety and depression to heart disease and high blood pressure.

    And for many, holistic healing is the key to managing stress. Yoga classes encourage participants to be mindful of their bodies, meditation offers coping mechanisms in times of mental turmoil and even simple breathing exercises have been shown to reduce blood pressure.

    Mental health often takes a backseat in a busy life. Part of the popularity of holistic care is due to the emphasis on the mind as equal to the body, whether looking to bust basic stress or struggling with a larger mental disorder.

  • Supplement to traditional medicine

    Even modern medicine has its limits. While holistic care is not the solution for every patient, it provides non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical alternatives for many.

    Massage therapy has come into the mainstream to treat injuries, headaches, and provide relief for chronic pain and even cancer. It can reduce inflammation, which in turn strengthens the immune system.

    One of the benefits of treatments like massage, acupuncture and reiki as an alternative to traditional treatment is that they are safe and non-habit forming. Many pain relievers are highly addictive and some patients may suffer from allergies and be unable to take certain prescriptions.

    Even many doctors have begun recommending holistic care in addition to modern, western medicine, to boost the effectiveness of treatments and to provide comfort to the patients.

  • Lifestyle changes

    Holistic care can also help practitioners form healthy habits. Attention is focused on the health of the whole person, from diet and exercise to stress relief and pain management.

    The simple act of taking time for oneself, while foreign for many women, can be the foundation for a longer, healthier life, according to practitioners.

  “Educating women to be proactive instead of reactive with their health is critical,” Ms. Connelly explained. “Women take care of the world and yet they can be the first ones to have their being shift when they aren’t tending to their whole body. Much like putting on their oxygen masks first, they need to set an example for their children on how to care for themselves.”

    Holistic healing often teaches that putting oneself first, however temporarily, is a skill we should all learn, but many women lack. Even in 2018, the pressure for women to be eternal caretakers remains.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a yoga class or an aromatherapy massage is in learning that self-care is not selfish.