Each area is connected to one another. So, improving health in one has benefits in other areas too. Studies show that people facing life-threatening illnesses who address health holistically live longer and have a better quality of life. Some people think holistic means excluding things, like medicines. Instead, it is an inclusive approach that uses medicines as needed, but also addresses other needs.
The key to creating a solid long-term plan is to make gradual improvements, ones that you can sustain and fit into your lifestyle. There's no one right way to do this -- no perfect recipe. In fact, tailoring a plan that you feel good about and matches your beliefs about health and well-being is central to success.
It's easy to see how improving the body might have a positive impact on your psychological health as well. Reducing stress not only strengthens the immune system, but it also clears the head! Many people with HIV experience depression, especially people who are co-infected with HIV and hepatitis B or C. A disproportionate number of people live with both HIV and mental illness. Some mental illnesses may be caused, sustained or worsened by HIV. Seeing a therapist, especially one with HIV experience, can help you manage the unique challenges of living with HIV. Seeking support groups with professional facilitation is another option. Resolving tensions or resentments, dealing with your fears, addressing depression and diagnosing and managing mental illness all help to improve your psychological health. This includes finding space and time to reflect on your life and your mental and emotional health.
Project Inform provides many resources about biological health and HIV. This includes information on anti-HIV therapy and preventing and treating serious infections. It also includes information on nutrition, stress reduction and strategies for understanding your test results and monitoring your health regularly. Building a strong foundation of biological health will strengthen your body, reduce side effects of therapies and increase the likelihood that you will benefit from therapies. Also, if you choose not to use therapies, strengthening your body will help it fight disease and remain healthy.
Eight hours a night is recommended. This isn't possible for everyone, especially women with young children and infants. But if you only sleep five hours a night, then five hours and fifteen minutes is an improvement!
These are just a few things to start thinking about when building a holistic foundation of health. You might find it useful to keep a diary. You could record things like your lab work, menstrual cycles and changes, how you're feeling and any symptoms or health conditions you're experiencing. You could also outline what you're doing to promote your health in various areas.
Project Inform is mostly a resource for biological health, as it relates to treating HIV and its related conditions. Biological health is only one aspect of overall health, however, and information about therapies and ways to treat HIV is not the entire picture of biological health. It also includes general healthcare, routine physicals and age-appropriate screening (like mammograms to detect breast cancer, bone density screenings for osteoporosis, etc.), addressing substance use and addiction to name a few.
Resources for exploring and promoting psychological, spiritual and social health are available in your local community. How you address health in these areas will likely be as unique as you are. There's no one holistic health plan that's best for everyone. The first step to defining what's best for you requires you to define health for yourself.