A Catholic Nurse's Take on Holistic Wellness

August 13, 2021

As a young single mom I was no stranger to stress.  My fast paced job as a registered nurse involved overtime and on-call.  And my three small boys were very active.  

My health, for the most part was good, but one winter I came down with a case of bronchitis I just couldn't kick.  So I turned to mainstream medicine.  

Taking the Medical Route

I took round after round of antibiotics, self-administered albuterol nebulizer treatments and began the bronchodilator theophylline which was potentially so toxic it had to be monitored through bloodwork.  This would have been fine - if anything I was being told to do had helped.  But it really didn't.  In fact, every time I began to feel a little better, I'd relapse.

Finally, my doctor suggested prednisone.  I was familiar with prednisone and its side effects - and already experiencing significant side effects from the other medication I was taking.  So I decided to look into complimentary and alternative modalities.

Complimentary, Alternative  and Holistic Wellness

The first thing I learned was the difference between complimentary and alternative wellness.  Alternative health care is exactly what it says - an alternative to conventional (or biologically based) medicine.  Complimentary (or holistic) measures, on the other hand, work alongside - but do not replace - mainstream medical management. 

Once I understood the terminology, I was pleased to learn that many complimentary approaches were well within the scope of standard nursing practice.  These included simple comfort measures, environmental changes, and support strategies - like optimal nutrition, hydration, exercise and rest.

I also learned a bit about the history of nursing and was surprised to find a rich tradition of complimentary nursing practices going all the way back to Florence Nightingale, my childhood idol.  These practices included some things I'd learned about in school and a few that I had not (such as simple herbal remedies and aromatherapy).  

The school I'd attended (Misericordia University in Dallas, PA) had stressed independent nursing practice and a holistic (body, mind and spirit) approach to wellness.  So I was very comfortable with the complimentary / holistic measures I was learning about.

A Holistic / Balanced Approach

I  did a lot of thinking that winter about what taking a holistic approach to wellness really meant.  While I didn't feel that my faith in my doctor was in any way misplaced, I could clearly see that I had been emphasizing body based solutions over the spiritual. 

I was very out of balance.  I had relied upon traditional medicine completely, ignored the emotional cost of overwork, and drastically underemphasized my Catholic faith.  So, with the full cooperation of my doctor, I began my own simple holistic treatment regime.

This regime included daily prayer, attending Mass several times a week, taking garlic honey in the morning, elderberry tea in the evening, rosemary inhalations (which I no longer recommend),* increased fruits and vegetables, a moratorium on overtime, and spending more time out of doors.  And, while it didn't happen overnight, I did get better!

Holistic Wellness Meets East and West

That first experience with holistic healing occurred over twenty years ago but, in many ways, it changed my approach to nursing - and life.

I am now a holistic nurse, a student in the Science and Art of Herbalism program, and a member of the American Holistic Nurses Association.  As such, I am a big proponent of holistic wellness - but I do have a couple of reservations.

The first reservation is that, as a registered nurse, I believe that moving forward with any treatment approach without involving your physician is always potentially dangerous.

While it is true, that in ancient times people relied completely on herbal and natural remedies, western medicine is not our enemy.  Instead it is a vital part of any sound approach to healing and wellness.  It is only when we rely upon certain aspects of western medicine exclusively (like pharmaceuticals) that we are likely to become unbalanced - from a holistic perspective.

My second reservation concerns the many new age and eastern practices (such as chakra work or Reiki) that are now associated with holistic health and wellness.

My problem isn't that people who identify as Hindu (or new age for that matter) may be using these modalities - it's that the general population is being told these practices are spiritually neutral or non-religious.  This is absolutely not the case.  

As a matter of fact, for many people practices like yoga, Reiki and eastern meditation can serve a gateway to deeper involvement in the new age and occult.

My Media

I will be sharing some Catholic friendly holistic wellness resources both here in this blog and on YouTube.  This will include some specific wellness strategies - as well an emphasis on our Catholic faith.

Our God is a god of healing.  This doesn't mean that we should deliberately test Him by refusing to go to the doctor or omitting commonsense wellness strategies.  But it should cause us to have faith in His ability to guide us on the path to restoration and health.

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*Please note:  Herbal inhalations done with hot water can burn delicate lung tissue.  Essential oil diffusers are now readily available and much safer.  Please do NOT directly inhale any kind of steam or vapor from any source - including a diffuser.

For info on elderberry and garlic please see Garlic, Elderberry Tea & a Resistance to Viruses

For the American Holistic Nurses Association website please click here.

For my YouTube channel please visit YouTube.com/c/Barbara Graver



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