WELLNESS REVOLUTION Taking back control of our wellness.
Our busy lifestyles can make it hard to prioritise our health, yet we are often our own best healers, says wellness author
With thousands of operations scrapped earlier this year, the crisis in the UK’s National Health Service is hitting patients hard. For the past few years, online petitions have been doing the rounds, warning Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt of imminent breaking point.
If that point is nearly here and not going away any time soon, what can each of us do to take control of our own health? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. The big stu is best left to the experts, of course, but much of the rest is up for grabs. It’s a question of educating ourselves and tuning into our bodies.
‘Listen to the whispers and you won’t have to hear the screams’ – this Cherokee proverb sums it up entirely. Most of us know the feeling of having ignored those little, niggling ailments that end up causing much bigger problems in the long run. But sometimes we might need a bit of help to translate those whispers.
One woman pioneering this approach is health advocate and philanthropist Sara Davenport, who has decades of experience in the complementary health eld, having founded Breast Cancer Haven (www.breastcancer haven.org.uk) in 1998.
The charity now operates across seven centres in the UK, each o ering information, counselling and the widest range of complementary therapies in the country free of charge to anyone, anywhere, a ected by breast cancer.
Sara’s decision to establish Breast Cancer Haven came after a close friend was diagnosed with the disease and experienced disastrous treatment. “No-one read her notes. Her treatment was duplicated by mistake. She never saw the same doctor twice,” recalls Sara. “After the mastectomy, there was no more help. She was left to get on with the after-e ects and to nd help for her various issues where she could.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated case. “Wherever I went, people told me the same story. There was a huge gap that too many people were falling into and something needed to be done. It never occurred to me that I would be the one to do it.”
At the time, Sara had been running a successful art gallery in London for 10 years. But her conviction for supporting the emotional needs of cancer patients was so strong that she sold all of the paintings through an auction house, closed the gallery and used the money to establish the rst Breast Cancer Haven.
The charity has provided respite and support to tens of thousands of women over the years, but for Sara it consolidated a passion for health that has remained her life’s work. Her interest in complementary therapies (developed over years of rst-hand experience) works in
“We only have one body. If we treat it
like a car, with regular MOTs and repairs, we can improve the parts that
don’t work as well as they used to”
harmony with orthodox medicine, creating a tailored, informed approach to our health and wellbeing.
Today, the gap that Sara saw back in 1998 has resurfaced again 20 years on, but this time the crisis is more complex. She believes that the shortages and nancial strain faced by the UK health service are being compounded by our modern, technology-reliant lifestyles. “Sometimes we forget to stop and listen to our bodies. In a stressed, busy world dominated by the digital, we can be cut o from our physical selves. As a result, there are times when we don’t realise how badly we are functioning,” she says.
“Many of us are also su ering from a lack of con dence in taking care of our own wellbeing,” adds Sara. “We’ve been taught to hand all of our health concerns over to doctors and presume that when times get tough, they will sort it. In doing so we have forgotten that when it comes to everyday wellness and minor complaints, we all used to be our own best healers.”
So, what is the alternative? “We only have one body. If we treat our bodies like our cars, with regular MOTs and proactive repairs, we can improve the parts that aren’t working as well as they used to,” Sara says. “If we know how our body works and understand what its systems and organs do, we can spot problems way before we need to visit the doctor. And, at that early stage, issues are often simpler to sort, too.”
Sara might not be a health professional, but she considers this to be her biggest strength. “I am not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist, nor a psychiatrist or anything else with a label on it. I stand rmly in the middle with a wider view than most. Health is my passion and I have spent 30 years researching every aspect of it. I have personal experience of just about every therapy, I’ve listened to the stories of hundreds of very ill people, and I spend my spare time reading the latest health research. My overview and understanding is far wider than if I’d trained in a speci c eld, plus I have access to specialised professionals for greater depth of information when needed.”
Sara has channelled this experience and proactivity into a new book: Reboot Your Health: Simple DIY Tests and Solutions to Assess and Improve Your Health (Hay House, £12.99). In it, she considers all aspects of physical, mental and emotional health, o ering easy tests and questionnaires to give a clear picture of exactly how healthy you are right now – what is working and what is not – before o ering easy-to-follow explanations and suggestions for addressing any imbalances or problems. “I sat down and wrote my ultimate DIY manual for how to get healthy and stay healthy,” says Sara. “We all want to be healthy and happy now and in older age. And you really can take steps to get there. I really wanted to share this message.” Read more from Sara on the Reboot Health website (www.reboothealth.co.uk).