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Holistic Approaches to Mental Illness and Finding Empowerment

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Teri DluznieskiThere are so many contributing factors to how we feel, and how well we function, both emotionally and mentally– including the physical. Some of the top holistic practitioners are beginning to understand the intrinsic connection between the mind and the body– as being more than just a hokey crunchy metaphor.

The vagus nerve makes a link between the GUT and the brain/ mind. SO, if the GUT- where 80% of the immune system exists– is in distress, from poor diet, bad nutrition, chemicals, toxins and artificial garbage (btw- artificial sweeteners are the biggest contributor to mental and emotional distress – often literally ‘inducing’ mental dysfunction at neurological levels).. but.. by healing the body, physically.. often,we can remove a good portion of the mental and emotional burden.  Wouldn’t that be amazing, to realise you can feel better and be happy- JUST by changing what you put into your body as food?

Additionally- honouring where people are, at the emotional and mental journey, is crucial. Modern culture does not honour sadness,grief, or any type of unhappiness. When something goes wrong, people say, take your mind off of it, it’s for the best, you’ll get over it etc.. all sorts of cliches and platitudes that do not allow a person permission to spend time in their “dark places”  HOW is this helping?  … Sadness, grief, depression and the whole range of emotions– they are messages FROM us.. FOR us! We need to learn how to pay attention to the message that something is wrong, and something needs changing. Why do we tune out our own voice?  And what affect does that have on our well-being?

When the physical body is injured, like a sprained ankle– the body immobilises it, and it HURTS when we try to walk on it (because of course, we ignore our better judgement lol:).. but– it is a message from the body, saying DONT do that! And we listen to that information. Taking asprin or pain killers- serves to mask the pain.. but then the injury does not heal, and in fact, will become worse over time and abuse.

Additionally with emotional pain– when we mask it, ignore it, or disown it… it becomes more intense.. looking for other ways to “out”… Where else could it go….?

I watched an amazing TED talk from a schizophrenic who heard voices.. and it wasn’t until she learned the power of the voices as ALLIES.. that she built a relationship with those voices ( one voice?).. THEN, she was able to heal, and restore her own mental well-being and happiness. MED-FREE, pain-free!  This woman’s speech was PHENOMENAL. What she shared, onstage, in front of thousands of people, was ground breaking and turning everything conventional counseling professes, upside down.

While medication MIGHT be in order, in extreme instances and for the short term (someone is suicidal, for example).. but the goal of a medication, should be like a band-aid. a TEMPORARY event.. the band-aid should be removed and the wound tended.

Hopefully more people will begin to use a holistic and whole-person approach to addressing some serious mental health conditions.

What I find surprising is that more people DON’T find rampant use of ‘medications as cures,”  repulsive…. how have we become such a passive society? How did we become a culture that says- hand me the “cure,”  so I don’t have to do any work, think about what’s wrong, make any changes, or feel any distress about the things that are wrong.

What I find intrinsically problematic, is that this is like saying, ‘I am inherently flawed, my brain chemistry is bad,’ (not incorrect, BUT, not in-correctable)… and that ‘it is not my fault’ (probably true, as we are equally nature-nurture).. THEREFORE, I own no responsibility to own my situation, understand it or do anything to change how I feel, or my environmental circumstances- be it poor diet, a bad relationship, etc–

It also builds a victim mentality- things are done TO us.. and we are powerless… yes- things ARE done do us.. what we do THEN.. defines us…  How can we choose, when we have been conditioned to be passive?

On another note- i have had many conversations with kids ( I also youth coach)… about the rampant drug use and abuse in our culture.  How can we tell kids not to do drugs- when we have been drugging them almost from the day they are born.  They watch their parents medicate, and self-medicate.  They are told this or that is “wrong’ with them, and to take “this or that”  to cure it.. from aspirin that literally tastes (grossly) like candy, for small children.  It is a small step for kids to cross the line into other drug use/ abuse.  but even without that, most of them are growing up, inured to this systemic cultural flaw.

It is sad and disheartening that “the system”  has created passive victim zombies taking medications, and never becoming the empowered agents of change that they could become! Healing traditions teach- you cannot heal the path you have not walked.  healed, or resolved wounds- hold  TREMENDOUS POWER!   I wait in anticipation for those who have come through, and begin to create the paradigm change that helps us all, to become empowered by our experiences, rather than diminished.

Anyone else have experiences of empowerment like this?



I am an Education Specialist, Health Coach and Author. I work with aspects of the teachings I have learned from Andean shamanic and cosmology, to health, nutrition and education.  Everything is energy. Energy must flow. Like water, when it does not flow, it stagnates and is not healthy. These techniques help your life to flow. I have been initiated into many of the ancient lineages and learned ceremonies, rites of passage and healing techniques.  I have worked as a healer and done workshops and taught some of these aspects – passing the teachings on.

Author of:
Dancing in Your Bubble : ancient teaching, modern healing
Natural Support for Alzheimer’s
Getting a Handle on Happy : find and fix causes of stress and depression
The Naturally Smarter Kid : a parent’s guide to helping kids succeed in school and life
Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts : behind the veil of ordinary – a paranormal-ish fiction book





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