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I never talked about stress at my corporate job. It was a spooky topic avoided at all costs—what would others think? Those of us who suffered from stress would write it off as a baseline emotion that came with the job. I pushed past the warning signs—migraines, a lingering cold—and kept my head down.
As my health deteriorated before my eyes, I eventually turned to traditional medicine to seek answers. The appointments with primary care physicians felt shallow and often had me walking away with more questions than answers. I was overworked and exhausted and knew the last thing I wanted was a medication that felt more like a band-aid than a lasting solution.
Emotional Healing First
For Dr. Habib Sadeghi, author and co-founder of Be Hive of Healing, the story of hustle over health is familiar. Dr. Sadeghi has spent his lifetime creating an individualized approach to healthcare that takes into account the psychosomatic effects, like chronic stress and emotional trauma, to heal patient cases that were otherwise deemed hopeless by traditional medicine.
Take the powerful CEO with stage IV prostate cancer as an example of one of Dr. Sadeghi’s patients. “He’d already been to some of the biggest hospitals and specialists in the U.S. and Europe,” says Dr. Sadeghi. The CEO’s body was rejecting the cancer treatment and Dr. Sadeghi was his last hope.
Dr. Sadeghi worked with his patient to uncover emotional trauma that had been stored deep within the body. Through talk therapy and psychosomatic intervention, he discovered the root of the cancer lived on—get this—a subconscious level.
“Long-held emotional pain is always echoed somewhere in the body. Problems in the urogenital organs usually signify unresolved emotional pain related to rejection or abandonment,” Dr. Sadeghi shares. The work was not easy, but within several months he received a call from the patient. His body was responding to the treatment after years of struggle and he was finally in remission.
What is Integrative Medicine?
You’ve likely heard this term and had a few questions. It’s not woo-woo, it’s not crystals, and it’s not syncing your vitamin regime to the full moon (though that actually kinda fun). Integrative medicine is the practice of looking at ALL areas of a person’s health. It considers a myriad of details (emotional, mental, and physical) in order to determine a potential cause for a person’s ailments. There’s also often a therapeutic relationship between patient and practitioner—this is especially the case with Dr. Sadeghi.
He describes integrative medicine as a method of treating illness through traditional Western medicine and treatments that come from a number of holistic modalities. Of the ranging holistic modalities used in integrative medicine, the psychosomatic component is what sets this approach apart from the rest.
“Every thought, whether joyful, stressful or something in between has an immediate impact on our biochemistry and internal terrain,” Dr. Sadeghi says. “We’ve known for decades that stress in any form suppresses immune function, making us more vulnerable to everything from colds to cancer.”
Hmm. I was beginning to see a correlation. Given the effects of stress on the mind and body, this knowledge begs to question why traditional medicine plans rarely include a psychosomatic component. If the body is holding onto stress, what else is it storing and what impact does it have on overall health? I was like a child who had gotten their first ever potato chip—addicted and hungry to dive deeper into the metaphorical bag.
As Above, So Below
Here’s the deal: Every emotion we experience has a biochemical echo in the body, which triggers a physical response. With the build up of these experiences and no form of release, chronic illness can manifest in the body.
“Our subconscious compartmentalizes emotions and stuffs them away in the recesses of our minds as a way to protect us,” says Dr. Sadeghi. The mind locks those emotions away, short circuiting our ability to fully process them and discharge the related stress.
The idea that long-term emotional states are reflected in the body as either health or disease over time goes back to ancient Hermeticism. You may recognize it through the famous proverb: as above, so below. Dr. Sadeghi explains that whatever happens on one level of reality, whether it be physical, emotional or mental, also happens on the other levels. In the case of health, whatever happens above in the mind, a corresponding change also happens below in the body. That’s often times with resentment, stress, and anxiety find of a way of oozing out if we don’t address them—everything is connected.
Start An Inner Dialogue
With the constant hustle in our society, do we ever stop to converse with our bodies when illness arises? I personally struggle with this. In a sea of text messages, emails, social media posts, coffee meetings, and happy hours, it’s really hard to let go of external stimulation and go inward. In a sense, physical disease acts as an outward signal in the material world that there is a related emotional issue in our internal world needing attention.
For example, issues with the thyroid or throat are often associated with feelings of not having a voice or being unable to speak up, or as Dr. Sadeghi explains, “difficulties with the legs can involve not being able to move forward with life.”
Like we saw with Dr. Sadeghi’s cancer patient, it is when trauma is properly realized and released, that the body often responds dramatically to existing treatment in new ways. It’s not necessarily too late—but it won’t get better unless we listen.
The Healing Path Through Integrative Medicine
Paired with traditional medicine, integrative medicine looks at the entire mind-body connection to create a super-personalized treatment plan that is rooted in the details of your individual history. It’s basically custom designed healthcare.
“Psychosomatic exercises,” as Dr. Sadeghi explains, “involve forgiveness, resolving guilt, anger release, healing shame, abandonment and rejection, freeform writing, projections, and more.”
Dr. Sadeghi acknowledges that there will always be skeptics, but the proof is in the results he sees with his patients. Whether it is cancer going into remission or a patient with arthritis no longer needing any pain medication, the evidence of integrative medicine healing chronic illness has our attention.
Having a deeper understanding of my stress has given me a perspective that I’ll carry with me through the rest of my life. Sure, the new title at work or raise is nice on paper, but in the long run, I realized it wasn’t worth the weight stress was carrying within my body. In the end, it isn’t about the material items or the prestige, it is the moments in my greatest health and happiness—usually on my mat or connecting with friends—that make the biggest impact.
It isn’t always easy taking a fine tooth comb through your past and emotional trauma, but with stories like these, I’m willing to do the work. And especially if that means living life in a healthy body and mind. Totally integrated.
Ava Johanna Pendl is a wellness writer and teacher based out of Southern California. Between teaching meditation, yoga, and breathwork at events across the globe, Ava focuses on providing readers with online mindfulness practices via her blog and her podcast, The Alchemized Life. Check out her website, Instagram, and podcast.