To better yourself, invest in physical, emotional selves

If you were asked to invest a bit of your money in the wisest way you could think of, how would you invest it?

Would you invest in the stock market or an educational plan for your children or grandchildren? Would you upgrade your vehicle? Would you pay ahead on your mortgage? Would you get an MRI for clues as to why you are experiencing pain? Would you spend it on medications like antidepressants, antihistamines and pain pills you may or may not actually need?

Or, if you knew for a relatively small amount of money you could drastically improve your mental, emotional and physical health, would you choose you?

Frequently, by the time patients reach the doorstep of my clinic, they are in utter desperation to feel better. One common thread to treatment success is understanding that nothing or no one is more important to invest in than yourself. 

What does it mean to invest in oneself?

It means putting each aspect of your health and wellness first. It is helpful to understand that each element of our health is related to each and every other element.

For example, organ systems are not separate entities, rather organs working together in a harmonized way. In fact, the health of one organ system directly affects the health of others.

Furthermore, our emotional health directly impacts each organ system, and the state of the environment around us also affects our physical and emotional health. 

Learning to put yourself first can be an involved process. Often, the first step is developing the belief you are worth taking care of. Practicing putting yourself first can start with something as small as choosing a leisurely stroll at sunset rather than attending to a chore inside the house.

Then, recognizing the benefits of addressing your health mentally, emotionally and physically simultaneously can be a giant leap forward in both your health and fiscal futures.

How does learning to put yourself first correlate with your health? Consider this patient example, which reflects undertones of a common scenario in my clinic.

A patient, Lucy, comes to me with chief complaints of chronic shoulder and stomach pain. She has already dutifully undergone a host of Western medical diagnostic testing, all of which gratefully came back negative and without many clues as to the nature of her discomfort. Through a “review of systems,” a technique practitioners use to develop a complete health picture, the patient reveals chronic stress. She also admits to extreme fatigue, as well as to experiencing irritable bowel syndrome.

Acupuncture would help alleviate her shoulder and stomach pain, but it would be short-lived if further steps were not taken to address her pain and emotional health simultaneously.

Here is the step-by-step process taken to help Lucy regain her health. It took three months, and not years, because she approached her health in a focused manner. 

■ Within her Traditional Chinese Medicine consults, she learned that excessive worrying and overworking were adversely affecting her digestive system. She also realized her chronic shoulder pain was not healing because her body lacked the building blocks (normally obtained from a strong digestive system) to optimize the healing process. Each acupuncture treatment gave her increased relief of her shoulder and stomach pain.

Foods were recommended to strengthen her digestive functions.

■ She met with a life coach and psychologist to develop tools to reduce stress and remind her how to nourish herself emotionally.

■ She received massage after acupuncture to increase blood circulation to her shoulder and calm her nervous system.

By the time Lucy’s shoulder and stomach pain were resolved, she had also developed a healthier respect for herself, setting energetic boundaries for herself. She felt better and happier in general, and she was able to contribute to her life, as well as the lives of her family, friends and co-workers in a more meaningful way. These results packed the punch for her time and financial commitment toward her health.

You have likely heard the directions when flying, “Before placing the mask on someone who needs help, always apply the mask to yourself first.”

If you are suffocating from being too busy or starving from eating junk food or drowning in a sea of to-dos, not only are you digging yourself into an energetic hole, you are of no help to those you love and care about. You may also be sabotaging your self-fulfillment endeavors. You have the power to choose you. Will you?

Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.


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