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Whole Health

VA Whole Health is a cutting-edge approach to care that supports your health and well-being. Whole Health centers around what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. This means your health team will get to know you as a person, before working with you to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals.

Whole Health Logo

Whole Health Veteran Sessions

ALL Veterans are welcome!

  • Classes are offered online;
  • Veterans can connect easily through e-mail or web link;
  • Movement classes can be modified for Veterans comfort and level of ability;

Call 202-745-8000 extension 53882 or via MyHealtheVet Secure Messaging address, Integrative Health & Wellness Scheduling, or ask your provider for more information.

Introduction to Whole Health

During the Introduction to Whole Health Orientation session, Veterans learn more about the Whole Health approach to care, the concepts behind Whole Health living, and complete a Personal Health Inventory.
You can download and complete the Personal Health Inventory before you even step into the classroom.

 Whole Health Personal Health Inventory form (PDF)

Taking Charge of My Life and Health

Participants in the Introduction to Whole Health Orientation session are invited to join an 8-week Taking Charge of My Life and Health group course. This multi-week session provides an opportunity for more self-exploration, self-care, and goal creation around what really matters to the Veteran. Through these Whole Health offerings, Veterans explore their new missions, delve into each aspect of the Whole Health circle, and begin to create an overarching personal health plan. 

Whole Health Coaching

Whole Health Coaches work with Veterans one-on-one and in group settings to empower the Veteran to develop and achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Coaches support Veterans in mobilizing internal strengths and external resources, and in developing self-management strategies for making sustainable, healthy lifestyle, behavior changes. As partners and facilitators, coaches support Veterans in achieving health goals and behavioral goals, while collaborating with the Veteran’s healthcare team. Coaches assist Veterans to use their insight, personal strengths and resources, goal setting, action steps and accountability toward whole health changes.

Well Being Programs & Resources

Components of Proactive Health and Well-Being

The Components of Proactive Health and Well-Being picture will help you think about your whole health. All of the areas in the circle are important. They are all connected. Improving one area can benefit other areas in your life and influence your overall physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. The human body and mind have tremendous healing abilities and we can strengthen these healing abilities.

The inner circle represents you, your values and what really matters to you. Being in a state of mindful awareness helps you see what matters to you. The next circle is your self-care. These are the circumstances and choices you make in your everyday life. The next ring represents professional care you receive. Professional care may include tests, medications, supplements, surgeries, examinations, treatments, and counseling. This also includes complementary approaches such as acupuncture and mind-body therapies. The outer ring represents the people and groups to whom you are connected.

Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) Approaches

Some examples of CIH Approaches may include:

 

The practice of Tai Chi balances the energy within the body creating ease of mind and an overall sense of wellbeing.  The class focuses on extension movements (while seated or standing) that are linked to a deeper whole body breath within the movement, stimulating and massaging vital organs.  Tai Chi is considered a moving meditation, allowing participants to increase both their inner and outer awareness.  By focusing in a certain way, called cultivation, one can experience greater relaxation and increased connection to the inner self and outer world.  Tai Chi enhances cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, balance,  and physical function and can be beneficial for those with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  It is also associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression, better sleep quality, and improved quality of life.  Qigong invites participants to learn soft movements, aligning the breath with movement, and increasing internal awareness to foster peace of mind, promote healing, and improve health and an overall sense of well-being.

Yoga sessions may incorporate movement/postures, breathing practices, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation.  Studies show that yoga can be beneficial in decreasing symptoms, improving functioning, and increasing quality of life in a number of health conditions including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia, back pain, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.  Yoga can also help calm the nervous system, increase resiliency, and promote a sense of well-being.  Yoga can be practiced standing or in a chair, and modifications can be used to support individuals with various needs or health conditions.

Acupressure and Acupuncture are based on Chinese medicine, in which the understanding is that we are made up of different Channels (energy lines and pathways).  When energy is blocked, or out of balance, disharmony can arise.  Acupressure and acupuncture involves stimulating points on the body associated with Channels (energy lines and pathways).  It may help in decreasing headaches, motion sickness, anxiety, fatigue, stress, improving sleep, and restoring energy.

Meditation and Mindfulness practices invite you to turn your attention and awareness to a particular object, concept, sound, image, or experience in order to increase insight/clarity and improve well-being.  These practices can help improve blood pressure, pain, stress management, and sleep.  It can also reduce the psychological suffering that arises from our reactions and judgements about what we want to happen, allowing us to accept what is present. 

Biofeedback is a process that uses your body’s own signals like heart rate and body temperature to bring about healthy changes. Biofeedback can improve health issues that are caused or worsened by stress. HeartMath is one approach to biofeedback which focuses on Heart Rate Variability (HRV), using research-based, self-regulation techniques and technology that support you learning how to manage emotions, build resilience, and improve performance, mental focus, and decision-making. 

The Circle of Health

The Circle of Health illustrates the big picture connections between your health and other aspects of your life. Whole health opens the door to discuss not only your health conditions, but the things that impact your well-being.

This is a Whole Health circle of health logo.

Me

The innermost circle represents each of us as unique individuals. We start at the middle saying, “I am the expert on my life, values, goals, and priorities. Only I can know WHY I want my health. Only I can know what really matters to ME. And this knowledge needs to be what drives my health and my healthcare. I am the most important person when it comes to making choices that influence my health and well-being. I am the leader of my team, and my medical team professionals are some of the invited players.”

Examples of the types of services Veterans can access and use to support this area include (but are not limited to):

  • What REALLY matters to you in your life?
  • What do you want your health for?
  • What is your vision of your best possible health?
     

Mindful Awareness

Mindfulness is being fully aware, or paying attention. Sometimes, we go through our daily lives on autopilot. We are not fully aware of the present. We often dwell on the past and plan events in the future. We do not spend much time really paying attention and noticing what is happening right now; without judging or trying to fix it. Your body and mind send you signals constantly. If your attention is elsewhere, you don’t notice. Then, the signals that began as whispers become loud warnings. For example, when you miss the whispers of an early discomfort or a sad feeling, you miss the opportunity to make a change before it grows into real pain or depression. Being mindful, or aware, allows you to make conscious proactive choices about every aspect of your health. Mindfulness connects you to each component of your well-being, and to your whole self.

 

The Eight Areas of Self-Care

Self-care is often the most important factor in living a healthy life, which in turn allows you to live your life fully, in the ways that matter to you. Self-care includes all the choices you make on a daily basis that affect your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In fact, how you take care of yourself will have a greater impact on your health and well-being than the medical care you receive. Evidence shows that each of these eight areas of self-care contributes a great deal to your overall health and well-being. They can also affect your chances for developing diseases as well as the seriousness of that disease. Consider your values, lifestyle, habits, and motivations in each area. Taking stock of where you are now and where you want to be in each of these areas is the first step in living a healthier life. 

  1. Moving the Body “Energy & Flexibility” –> Exercise/movement gives you energy and strength.  Movement can make you more flexible.  Exercise/movement is also good for your mind.  Regular exercise/movement can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease.  Examples of exercise and movement include walking, gardening, dancing, or lifting weights.  It’s important to find what works for you.  Moving the body can include: yoga or tai chi.  It can also include increasing your activity by parking further away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  2. Surroundings “Physical & Emotional” –> Your environment can affect your health.  This includes considering where you live and who you live with.  Is your home peaceful or chaotic?  Do you live in a safe or unsafe environment?  What aspects of your environment can you influence and change and what aspects do you not have control of?  So, safety may be a challenge for you, or it could be other things in your environment like clutter, noise, bad smells, poor lighting, or water quality.  Again, you may be able to change some of these problems, and not able to change others.  It starts with paying attention to the influences of your environment on your life and health.  Improve what you can.  It’s good to have a safe, comfortable, and healthy space. 
  3. Personal Development “Personal Life & Work Life” –> No matter where you are in life, your personal and work life are very important.  How do you spend your time and energy during the day?  Do things give you energy or make your tired?  Do you spend time doing what matters most to you?  How do you feel about your finances and how they’re affecting your life?  Maybe you’ve thought of how you might like to volunteer to support others during the pandemic?  These factors affect not only your happiness, but also your health.  Self-care might include taking a course that you’ve always wanted to take.  Perhaps volunteering?  Maybe you have an interest in learning a different language, taking a painting course, or learning to play an instrument? 
  4. Food and Drink “Nourishing & Fueling” –> What you eat and drink can nourish your body and mind and have a tremendous effect on your health and well-being.  Choose healthy eating habits that fit your lifestyle.  Certain supplements can support your health goals.  Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.  Keep your body and mind properly fueled.  What we take into our bodies… What our diet consists of or doesn’t include…  How mindful are we of how foods impact our health, our mood, our energy?
  5. Recharge “Sleep & Refresh” –> Sleep is very important for your body and mind.  Rest can give you peace.  Relaxation can lower stress.  Activities you enjoy can help you feel recharged.  A good balance between activity and rest improves your health and wellbeing.  How do we use our time to unwind?  Do we engage in relaxing hobbies?  Do we get sufficient sleep each night?
  6. Family, Friends, and Coworkers “Relationships” –> Feeling alone can sometimes make you get sick or keep you sick.  Positive social relationships are healthy.  A healthy intimate relationship with a life partner can be a source of strength.  It’s good to talk to people who care about you and listen to you.  Who is our support system?  Is it our family?  Do we have people in our lives who are supportive? 
  7. Spirit and Soul “Growing & Connecting” –> A sense of meaning and  purpose in life is important to many people.  When things are hard, where do your turn for strength and comfort?  Some people turn to spiritual or religious faith.  Some people find comfort in nature.  Some connect with art, music, or  prefer quiet time alone.   Some want to help others.  You may express this as a guide to living fully.  Connection to ourselves and the world around us.  What feeds us spiritually?  How are we connected to others?  With nature?  Music? 
  8. Power of the Mind “Relaxing & Healing” –> Your mind can affect your body.  Sometimes when you think about stressful things, your heart rate and blood pressure go up.  You can use the power of your mind to lower blood pressure or control pain.  Learn to use the connection between your body, brain, and mind.  Warriors and athletes use the power of the mind to visualize a successful mission or event.  Mind-body practices tap into the power of the mind to heal and cope, and can help us advance what we want most in life.  How we think, and how we see the world.
     

Professional Care

Prevention and treatment of illness or disease and traditional and complementary medicine are part of professional care. Preventive care includes things like immunizations and cancer screening. Common treatments include checkups, medicines, supplements, physical therapy, surgery, and counseling. Complementary medicine includes approaches like acupuncture and mind-body therapies. It is important to stay current with your personal care plan for health and well-being.

Community

The outer ring represents your community. For some, their community is close by and for others it is far way. Your community is more than the places where you live, work, and worship. It includes all the people and groups you connect with; who rely on you and upon whom you rely.