In this paper, I will seek to gain a more concrete understanding of my own attitudes and beliefs regarding health both in regard to myself and to the community around me. In this process, I will discuss my personal ideology or definition of health. I will then examine how my cultural heritage influences my personal ideology both consciously and in the other ways, which will be followed by measures to improve my health. Lastly, I will view my own practices and beliefs in comparison with those of my classmates and then seek to identify how all of this may influence my work in nursing.
Discussion and Analysis
Good health is every prudent individual’s and governments’ or societies’ joint responsibility. Good health in this case not only applies to the physical well-being of an individual but also includes mental and spiritual wholeness. It seems that a variety of definitions of health, or at least in so far as many individuals regard them, depend upon a kind of a “reverse” definition. Health is believed to be present when there is no illness or disease, and the person is able to fully function .This is supported by the fact that epidemiologists often use the terms “disease present” and “disease absent” to clinically define health states (Bonita, Beaglehole, & Kjellstrom, 2006, p. 15).
My own thoughts on the subject, I confess, are not definitive. More precisely, I define health as the state in which every aspect of my being is active and responsive to the needs of my life, my personal choices and the world around me. What is central here is that I do not greatly distinguish between physical and mental, or emotional health, simply because I believe these elements are inextricably linked. In a sense then, my definition expands on “disease absent” classifying to encompass individual wellness completely.
I believe that while no specific theory accommodates how I seek to improve my own health practices, the Theory of Reasoned Action nearly conforms to my beliefs. In this theory, it is understood that changes in an individual's fundamental beliefs are necessary before the individual successfully commits to change (Martin, Haskard-Zolnierek, & DiMatteo, 2010, p. 8). In applying criteria to determine my own health, I reflected on the traditions basic to my cultural heritage and increasingly adopted in the Western world. In Indian culture, as will be noted further below, there is a pervasive emphasis on totality of being. In my estimation, the U.S. citizens have traditionally believed more in purely physical determinants of health, while today it is better understood that there is no real dichotomy between mental, emotional, and physical health. This forms the basis for my self-evaluations as I seek to assess my health in terms of a comprehensive template. Nutrition, stress management, fitness, spirituality, and sexuality are all identified as crucial components of health (Floyd, Mimms, & Yelding, 2007, p. 2), and these are all components of which I maintain an active awareness.
In cultural terms, I feel that my background definitely contributes to the way I perceive health as well as the state of my own health. Traditionally, Indian culture embraced a health ideology that is not restricted to the body but to the entire self of the individual; there is no physical well-being without similar mental and emotional states (Girishwar, 2010, p. 267). As is obvious, my own views on health echo this comprehensive approach. I also believe that my cultural background, like others, has long suffered because of a misguided emphasis on technology and advances in health care. This is not to say that I dismiss how medical science has vastly benefited health care; rather, I feel that essential elements of it were for some time ignored. Essentially, the way a person feels in spiritual and/or emotional terms must affect their health as significantly as physical health influences mental and emotional states, and I am pleased that modern thinking tends to now reflect this traditional outlook.
Illness is not entirely a physical condition. So, I find focus increasingly on one factor that I wish to manage more effectively in my life, which is stress. It is now well established that stress is typically a major component in chronic illness (Weiten, 2012, p. 561). It is often mistaken as a misplaced drive, or poorly managed priorities. This has been my struggle in developing a strategy to combat stress. I overburden myself very hard, and this creates pressure beyond the task or objective at hand; I generate my own stress and, as a result, I have felt the consequences of always feeling unwell, incapacitated, and/or emotionally frustrated and short-tempered. I am determined to formulate an ideology or strategy that prevents me from “doing harm” to myself. I also think that the importance of the subject requires that I consciously evaluate each circumstance of my life to determine where and how I exceed my limits and cause my own stress.
With regard to assessing my thoughts on health in comparison with a classmate, I refer to X, with whom I have become acquainted. X is, in my opinion, a highly intelligent, diligent student, and a very agreeable person. We have discussed health issues together in what I would call a roundabout way; more exactly, as how a person makes choices in everyday living clearly reflects feelings about health. I believe I have a good sense of X's thinking. This translates to what some may call fanaticism and what I view as more an excessive focus on nutrition and fitness. X has made it plain that she is exceedingly careful in regard to everything she eats, and she will not consume anything without a thorough understanding of its ingredients. Her diet is largely organic, and she enjoys extolling the virtues of natural foods. More to the point, she adamantly feels that most of us poison ourselves, and that a rigorous attention to food is absolutely essential for remaining healthy. Similarly, she engages in exercise in the same calculated and committed way.
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While it would be both foolish and irresponsible of me to dismiss the importance of nutritious diet and fitness, I find that I cannot subscribe to how X feels about health. In my eyes, as much as we seek to eat well and maintain our bodies, such an approach denies another component critical to well-being, i.e. moderation. If turning away from a chocolate snack is better for the body, I also tend to think that occasionally, our mental well-being is served by indulgence. Similarly, as I like to exercise and keep myself fit, I am also aware that there are times when my emotional or mental state demands that I “skip” a workout. For me, true health is never an exact formula but a blending of needs, activities, maintenance, and a “healthy” sense of freedom in choices not necessarily healthy.
This thinking in place helps me pause to reflect on how it may influence my nursing work. The result is confidence. That is to say, I feel that a combination of my training and academic learning relates well with my fundamental beliefs about health, because the welfare of the patient relies on a total well-being. Certainly, I comprehend that, as a nurse, I am obligated to attain the highest level of knowledge in regard to biological matters; I cannot be of much service to a patient if I am concerned only with their emotional state. So, I must use my training to fully comprehend each physiological reality. I have referred to this as a complementary nature of illness, and suffering often begins from disease or illness and must be approached as the essentially physical conditions portray.
I do not wish to ever lose sight of the totality of the patient as I take this view in regard to my own health. In my estimation, for example, the patient who focuses too intently on a relatively minor illness or condition runs the risk of more severely impairing their health just as I feel that X's regimen is too extreme to be truly healthy. Excess of any kind is dangerous, so my awareness of a patient's excess in focus translates to a larger concern for that patient's health. After considering my thinking as expressed above, it seems to me as irresponsible to ignore the way a patient feels and thinks equivalent to ignoring the results of an MRI. As a nurse, I do not treat illness, I treat patients as whole human beings, and I cannot set that reality aside.
In reviewing my thoughts in regard to health, which must profoundly affect my work as a nurse, I am struck again by how my cultural background informs them even as modern thinking reflects that same background. Ultimately, I define health as a state of complete well-being not categorized by the absence of illness but more by the physical, mental and emotional energy a person manifests. I am also a proponent of moderation in all things as I do not perceive extremism even in nutrition and fitness thus promoting a true totality of health. Moreover, I have a deep trust in these beliefs and feelings. Although I must apply skills and learning as a nurse, I also feel that my personal ideology must promote the welfare of each patient in my care.