When I was in my young twenties a friend introduced me to a trio of Chinese medicine practitioners: Dr Kuang, the acupuncturist; his wife, Dr. Yao, the herbalist; and their assistant, Nurse Ling.
For the next 15 or so years the three of them fixed every ailment I had, from joint pain to flu to the weird virus that left half my face numb and my balance off-kilter. Life was easy.
But then one day they upped and left. Their neighbor informed me they’d returned home following their son’s hijacking. He was fine, but they weren’t taking any chances. I can’t blame them.
As for me, my dentist was now the sole medical professional in my phone book. While excellent at keeping my smile healthy, he was in no position to take over from Dr. Kuang et al. That’s when I realized the importance of having a cadré of wellness experts to call on.
What constitutes a wellness expert?
First, let’s start by unpacking what constitutes a wellness expert. You may be thinking of your regular G.P., your dentist or even your therapist, and you’d be right on all three counts. However, I’m going to prompt you to expand your view on what you think a wellness expert is (or isn’t).
A medical doctor is useful if you find yourself laid up with a virus, for example, but what if you’re not actually sick? Rather than wait until something is wrong, a better approach is to focus on improving your health while you’re well.
This requires finding people who specialize in different healing modalities that you can visit on a regular basis to not only remain healthy, but get even healthier with each passing year. Think vibrant and alive, as opposed to slipping idly into old age.
Putting together an all-star team of wellness experts is different for everyone. What resonates with me might be off-putting to you. The important thing is that you take to the task with an open mind. At least give something a try before vetoing it outright.
The allopathic approach
I’m not a huge fan of Western medicine, though I do recognize its value in certain situations. Having a like-minded G.P. to call on is always a good idea. As the portal between you and so many things in the medical world, they’re useful to have around.
The first (and only, thankfully) time I had kidney stones, it took a trip to my G.P. to diagnose the problem. Dr. Val was a rare find in today’s world. She’d easily spend 30-45 minutes with me, discussing options, explaining symptoms and talking through the details.
Find someone with a similarly holistic approach to health. At a minimum, this person needs to view your wellbeing as a joint effort and not hand out antibiotics like peanuts.
I’m a huge proponent of alternative and complementary therapies. I find them to be far less invasive and a lot more reliable when it comes to healing my body. It’s very much a personal preference though, so it’s important to find what works and resonates for you.
The benefits of acupuncture, for example, have been known and documented for thousands of years. And with good reason. It works. Of course, just how well depends on finding the right person for the job.
Nowadays, a lot of Western doctors are adding acupuncture to their resumé. There may well be some good ones out there, but I’m old school when it comes to allowing someone to ‘needle’ me.
Dr. Kuang studied for years at a top Chinese university to hone his craft. I’ve been to a few acupuncturists since he left and none of them came close to exhibiting his level of expertise or bedside manner.
For now, I’ve added a great physiotherapist to my cadré. Like Dr. Val, she too talks me through everything she’s doing. When I leave her rooms I not only feel better, I understand why I’m feeling better.
The advantages of an exercise coach
Your wellness cadré doesn’t just have to consist of healing professionals you visit when you’ve pulled a muscle or caught a bug. Having a couple of exercise coaches in various disciplines can do wonders for your overall health and wellbeing.
I’m in the hugely fortunate position to have found three at my local gym and they’re all included in the price of my monthly membership fee. One is a yoga and Pilates instructor who has more knowledge about the human body and how it functions than anyone I’ve ever met.
The second is a spinning instructor and the third is a swim coach. Each of them has a wealth of expertise in their given area and I always come away from a training session with them having learned something new about my body or my approach to exercise.
The healing benefits of massage
Massage therapy is definitely worth indulging in on a regular basis. Among other things it can reduce pain, improve the quality of your sleep and may even alleviate depression symptoms. As a runner, I love getting my muscles worked on.
Like with anything, finding the right therapist for the job is key. It can mean the difference between a really great experience or a truly agonizing one. Once you’ve found your massage person, you won’t look back.
Recently, I added a reflexologist to my cadré of wellness experts. Chido navigates my tender runner’s pads with enough pressure to get the job done, but not so much I don’t enjoy the experience. She’s a foot aficionado in every sense of the word.
Of course, no cadré of wellness experts would be complete without a personal growth / mental wellness guru to assist you on your journey to becoming the best version of you. If you want to get great at life you need to be antifragile.
It takes hard work and practice (like all the good stuff), so having someone to help you will make all the difference. My go-to guy for self-improvement is Brian Johnson, founder of Optimize. If you’re not sure where to find a personal growth coach, try hanging out on wellness platforms instead of social media.
Remember, rounding up a team of experts to help you navigate life in the best possible health takes time. Don’t rush it and definitely be choosy about who you decide to add to your cadré. If someone isn’t a good fit for you, ditch them.
‘He’s been our family doctor for years’ is a terrible reason to keep going to someone who doesn’t actually help you. It’s your health that’s at stake, after all. Most of all, have fun. Enjoy your journey of discovery as you look for new therapies to try.
About the author
Angela Horn is one of two urban hippies behind Mostly Mindful: a not-so-hardcore blog about buying less, doing more, and living sustainably in the city. Watch her TEDx talk on minimalism and join her on her mission to declutter the world.