Holistic Health is actually an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit (Holistic Health Association, ahha.org).
Consideration is applied to different aspects of an individual’s health such as the physical, psychological, environmental, spiritual and social in order to bring about balance and wellness for the whole person.
As an example, Stress is an important factor to consider when assessing an imbalance in an individual’s health. Biological aspects of stress relate to any situation or event that may cause a physiological reaction to stress such as a person’s heartbeat and their breathing rate triggered by a fright or emergency – this reaction has been called the fight-or-flight response because it prepares a person to attack the threat or to flee. During the fight-or-flight response, the perception of danger causes the sympathetic nervous system to stimulate the adrenal glands of the endocrine system to secrete epinephrine, which arouses the body, but the state of high arousal can be harmful to health if it is prolonged.
At this point, we can begin to see how interwoven our biological, psychological and social systems are in the experience of stress. While stressors produce physiological changes, psychological factors play a crucial role in determining how the stressor is perceived by the individual and how they respond to the stressor.
Cognition and stress – Not only can stress affect cognition, but the reverse is true, too. How a person perceives and in turn thinks about an event will determine their level of stress about the event. A holistic health approach addresses all aspects of an individual’s health and recognises areas of imbalance that need to be addressed to bring about a sense of wellbeing and wholeness.
Adapted from Caltabiano, Sarfino & Byrne. Health Psychology.