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We don't carry snacks or water, don't plan lunch, and cavalierly figure that we will simply grab something when we get hungry. But what if we're not close to anything healthy when we get hungry? Each neuron has an axon, a long, rope-like structure that sends electrical signals from the cell; Premature infants, for example, are very floppy in part because their nerves aren't yet fully myelinated. This means that signals from their brains to their muscles don't travel rapidly enough to effect basic physical tasks, such as holding the head upright. Also, because the lungs are underdeveloped, less oxygen reaches the brains of these infants, which interferes with normal myelin production there. Without this essential coating, brain cells can atrophy, leaving these babies more susceptible to neurological diseases like cerebral palsy and even death. In the worst cases, this lack of sufficient myelin can cause significant morbidity and mortality among premature infants. In addition to oxygen, myelin requires thyroid hormone in order to develop properly. Congenital iodine deficiency syndrome, also known as cretinism, provides a dramatic illustration of what can happen when this hormone is absent. The syndrome is marked by severe neurological impairment, among other physical attributes, and it affects children born to mothers who suffered from hypothyroidism and iodine deficiency while pregnant. When myelin is damaged, whether through autoimmune disease, inflammation, compression, viral infection, stroke, or other causes, nerves can't conduct signals as quickly or effectively as they should. How can we justly apportion the world's resources to give all beings a chance at life? What does it take to live a spiritually meaningful life? How can we care for ourselves without destroying our planet? What would it look like to restore the sacred to our considerations of health? And particularly important for modern Westerners, how can we assert our individuality and still feel part of a loving, caring, and interconnected community? There is no doubt that we need to find new stories in every arena of modern life; For us, the process begins not by fixing the medical insurance system, discovering better pharmaceuticals, or inventing more elaborate robotic technologies, but by changing the way we think, feel, and talk about ourselves and our world. The current conversations about health are stuck in endless feedback loops and the proposed solutions will not resolve the problems we face.

Because the questions we're asking miss the mark, arising from a too linear, quantitative, materialistic point of view that cannot begin to fathom the vast, multi-dimensional complexity of our lives and the challenges facing global change to health care. The current cultural debate about healthcare is mired in a dualistic worldview that separates rather than connects, puts profit and the bottom line before empathy and relationship, and has no way to deal with the non-quantifiable dimensions of human experience. I often wonder if, in their minds, nothing compared to their early days of living in community at the commune, so they just kept looking and praying that God would bring that fellowship into their lives again. During this time, my parents felt called to pull us from traditional education and homeschool us. No one even knew what homeschooling was in the early 1980's, much less if it was legal or who was doing it. My parents were pioneers and non-traditional in almost every area of our lives because they felt like God called them to follow Him instead of what man's tradition dictated. While I love my parents' desire and bravery to follow God, their decisions meant that we never grew up with a traditional church experience, never attended school, never played sports, and didn't develop friendships outside our family. As children, we were always the weird ones who couldn't throw a ball, wore garage sale clothing, and came from a big family that was really poor. My siblings and I often felt clueless in social situations and didn't know how to interact with normal kids, so we huddled up and stuck together. I remember once when I was around 9 years old, my family actually visited a church. All of the kids were outside the back of the church building playing in the alleyway while the parents talked indoors. Mom told us to have fun and make friends, so we went out with all the other kids. Don't force yourself to be more positive about them than you feel. However, don't get overwhelmed with a vision of disaster. Check your feelings throughout the day. You'll notice that they change back and forth quite a bit. Observe Without Judgment You'll learn the most about yourself and heal more rapidly if you keep in mind to make no judgment. You can use all this new information for your benefit if you observe without judging whether things are right or wrong, good or bad, likeable or not. Judgment stops curiosity and investigation.

Just collect information; This is a time to weigh and consider. You may also collect evidence for your views, assumptions, and convictions or against them. There are biased and misleading cognitive distortions, but they may also be profoundly rooted. Dislodging and substituting them includes proof of how rational they are. You will need to list facts showing that a belief is right and compare the list with facts showing that the view is skewed or just plain wrong. If you personalize other people's actions, for example, you can sometimes blame yourself for problems that are not your fault. You will profit from looking at evidence that demonstrates that an effort has nothing at all to do with you. Cognitive restructuring helps individuals discover new ways to look at the stuff that happens to them. Part of the practice requires coming up with logical and constructive alternate theories to replace the distortions that have been adopted over time. For instance, if you didn't score well on a test, you could consider ways to improve your study habits instead of generalizing that you're bad at math. Or, before your next exam, you could consider some relaxation methods you could try. Paraphrasing questions Follow-up questions Clarifying questions are posed to better understand an issue or subject. For example: What I heard you say was. If I understand you correctly. What does that mean? Can you share some examples?

Can you be more specific? Can you clarify that for me? Stress that is prolonged increases in intensity. If it is not alleviated, it can cause you to have a nervous breakdown. You definitely will not make the best judgment calls when you are in this state of mind. It can escalate to panic attacks. When you are experiencing anxiety, your heart rate increases dramatically. Over time this will cause problems with your blood pressure. Some people have even had heart attacks due to stress. It is easier to manage the problem before it gets to that point than to try to relieve it once you are there. This is why you need to learn to relax and also be able to recognize when you are at your limit and need to take some time to focus solely on your mental health, otherwise known as a mental health day. You've probably heard of these before, and they are actually quite helpful. Or not close to anything period? One thing I have learned about myself is that when I go too long without eating, I become edgy and irritable and crawly inside my skin. I get almost desperate-feeling. And I have witnessed the same effect in others to greater or lesser degrees. This is one obvious way that food intake and moods are directly related. So when we skip eating because there's nothing convenient to grab, our sense of well-being deteriorates steadily the longer we hold out, and rather than feeling thin and successful, we feel hostile, and we unknowingly set in motion what I will call the starvation syndrome. We allow ourselves to become so hungry that when we finally do have the opportunity to eat, we do so in a kind of frenzy. We eat fast and furiously and take big bites, and we cannot get our fill until we are overstuffed.

And then we likely feel frustrated because we ended up eating more than we intended to, or than we needed. There is nothing mindful or pleasurable in this kind of behavior. In multiple sclerosis specifically, this damage--demyelination--can be so severe as to form scar tissue around the axons, which slows, and in some cases completely halts, the brain's ability to communicate with the rest of the body. As a result patients might experience a whole constellation of symptoms--weakness, fatigue, cognitive deficits, and physical and emotional impairments--that can range from mild to completely debilitating. In patients with clinically isolated syndrome and relapsing-remitting MS, especially, such symptoms can be nonspecific, variable, and intermittent enough as to make it almost impossible for health care practitioners to diagnose based on clinical presentation alone. But multiple sclerosis is easy to spot on an MRI: Its characteristic scars, or lesions, are visible as white spots in the brain. MRIs are immensely valuable, both for identifying multiple sclerosis and for explaining its symptoms. However, they don't always uncover new lesions, and they can't be used to track activity in the gray matter of the brain, which includes areas responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, and executive functioning. Some people can live in remission for decades, barely affected by their condition; Fortunately, most MS patients are able to be mobile, live fairly well, and still work. There's no pill for this. Not yet, anyway. It leaves the innate wisdom and self-healing capacities of the body out of the conversation. Although modern Western medicine has achieved astonishing miracles in many areas, it was never meant to deal with every aspect of human suffering. As a good friend and devoted primary care physician said to me, Western medicine is being asked to do too much. In the middle of everything else I have to do in the course of my day, I don't have time to teach people to listen to their bodies, to be self-aware, to figure out what really matters to them, so they have a reason to exercise, eat well, and generally take care of themselves. And yet that's the very thing that could interrupt the progression of most of the expensive, time-consuming, yet very preventable illnesses I treat. My doctor friend was expressing frustration that she didn't have the time or the expertise to address the dreams, desires, and fundamental needs of her patients' souls or the wounds and losses that have led to their failure to know how to care for themselves. That isn't what she was trained to do, and it isn't in her job description.