When the road to wellness is literally a road: interview with Zarah Darling; nomad, vanlifer and magic catalyst!

ZarahDarlingFlowers_2What if you could change your life in 8 days? What if you could go from being almost bedridden with a chronic illness to a life of freedom, vitality and adventure quicker than you ever imagined was possible?

That’s exactly what Zarah Darling did last year when on a whim she decided to become a vanlife nomad! In just 8 days she packed up her 4 bedroom house, bought a van and set off to explore the magic of nature.

After over a decade of struggling with chronic fatigue from toxic mould exposure Zarah discovered her own unique road to wellness: literally living on the road! She says this radically different lifestyle was exactly what her body needed to feel vibrant and truly alive!  Now with a growing reputation as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst Zarah travels across the county whilst mentoring people on how they too can choose and create anything they dream up, and more! I caught up with Zarah yesterday to chat about her “journey” (yes pun intended) and how she’s helping people to unleash their inner magic.

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Wow! You live out of a van! What lead you to choose a nomadic lifestyle ? Was there a particular turning point or catalyst? 

When I was growing up, my dad had a few books about hippies living in converted school buses and I loved leafing through them just to relax and daydream. The buses had quirky features like wooden shingles added to the outside of them to make them look like houses. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense why I find this lifestyle so appealing now! Those books planted seeds of possibility in my mind but I didn’t choose the lifestyle until a year and a half ago after being sick for over a decade. Choosing to feel better, and being willing to do whatever it takes, was the turning point. 

ZDVanlife6_quoteI had been changing houses frequently for over 2 years after I discovered I was suffering from effects of toxic mould exposure – extreme fatigue, reduced brain processing function, physical injuries that wouldn’t heal, 24/7 aches and pains lasting for years.  I even moved to the desert where it should be really dry, but mould in houses was a problem there too.

After taking an impromptu road trip for a week to an organic farm (and seeing Cyndi Lauper in concert!), I confirmed there was mould in my latest home and knew I had to get out. I had already planned to drive 11 hours to a workshop. And if I didn’t have to turnaround afterwards to come home I’d be halfway to my best friend’s from 6th grade house. Within 8 days I packed up by 4 bedroom house, got out of my lease, bought a SUV, and and headed for that workshop in Houston. If you ever wonder if you can change your life or choose something different, it can happen very quickly if it’s really time for that choice.

Do you ever feel scared as a single women travelling alone? How do you feel safe and protected? 

I use my intuitive awareness to check in and see if it’s safe when choosing which areas to sleep at, or even which direction to go… I ask a lot of questions to tap into that awareness. For example, I might ask, “Is it safe here for me?” I’ll notice if there are bars on the windows in a neighbourhood, how many cars are parked in certain areas, and pay attention to the number of people walking around. So there are logical things to pay attention to, but I’m most comforted by checking the energy of, “Am I safe here?” If it’s light and expansive, I’m comfortable staying. If it’s heavy and contractive I choose another spot.

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Then it takes even more spidey senses to have awareness when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t any houses to get a sense of what happens there. When it’s just open fields, hills, mountains and cliffs that’s really fun to ask the universe, “Will I be safe here?”

I think it’s important to distinguish between fear and awareness and know what’s a legitimate threat verses what’s just noisy chatter in the head that will pull you off course and trip you up. So playing with that and reflecting in hindsight can be really helpful to learn your own energy vocabulary.

I review situations and ask myself, “Was that just fear I experienced or was it a true awareness where I knew something was off before it happened?” This can really help you develop the vocabulary of your intuition. I think those tools apply to all genders.

There are also some practical things I do to stay safe. When I park to sleep I climb through the middle of my seats to the bed in the back rather than getting out of the car to go through the backdoor. I do as little as possible to draw attention to my situation so that passersby won’t realize I’m in there.

I have an air horn and car keys clipped to me at night, so I can make a noise to startle any intruder or slide through to the front to drive away quickly if I have to. If I had to go out of the backdoor to get to the drivers seat that would make me feel more nervous. Also, I have a SUV so it doesn’t look as obvious as a camper van that someone would be sleeping in there and that helps me feel safe.

Can you tell us about your work as a “Magic & Awareness Catalyst”? Do you think the tools you use could be helpful for people suffering mental health challenges? 

Working as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst means I help facilitate people to live a more magical existence and to have the courage to be who they truly are. The tools I use really do help anyone experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues. First off if you’re not depressed about the current state of our world and planet, either you’ve found the magic answer or you’re not paying attention. Right? If you’re anxious it probably means you’re aware of a better reality and are wishing people would hurry up and realize they can help create it!

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If you’re experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues, I invite you to ask yourself if you’re actually super aware of what’s happening across the planet and what other people are experiencing. What if you could learn to distinguish between what’s yours and what’s someone else’s? If you are drowning yourself along with someone else, that won’t help either of you to survive!

But what if you can untangle yourself? Isn’t that the greatest gift to those around you; being a source of inspiration and showing others how it can be done? Even though I’m still really attuned to other people’s suffering I’ve recognised that it’s their choice as well. What if everything was a choice?

That’s different than the tone deaf suggestion of, “Hey just be happy, just pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” I’m not suggesting that. It’s not always simple and polyanna-like but if everything is a choice, that can mean choosing to find help, choosing to explore another alternative, choosing to have willingness for something different to show up and not even needing to know what that will look like exactly; just choosing a different possibility.

Do you have any tips on healing chronic health issues and what helped you recover? Was it mainly hitting the road that helped or were there other factors?

The key for me to get over chronic illness was to choose to do and be something different than what I had been previously.  I chose something different than being sick from the mould and it wasn’t just choosing to be happy or no longer sick, it was the willingness to do whatever it takes to experience something different.

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For me doing whatever it takes meant no longer living in a house and choosing to be out in nature with all the ions that help our bodies to heal and to experience all of the magic that nature provides. I was willing to receive that.. and here’s a funny thing; here’s how this mindset shift can just blow you away, since then my story has completely changed.

I used think OMG I’m so sick I can’t even live in a house. Now I can see how my subconscious mind created the illness to avoid judgement against what I knew I would like to choose. I figured, if I was sick, people wouldn’t judge me for living in a van, driving across country and and sleeping at camp sites.

What if I had just said gosh I would really love to live in a van a travel across the county. I’m just going to choose that and I don’t need to make myself sick to convince other people that there’s any logic to what I’m choosing.

I’ve also noticed that other people who have mould sensitivity share a common outlook on life. They share similar stories about how they were brought up and how they don’t trust anyone else in a very deep sense. It might look like it on the surface but deep underneath we don’t trust anyone else and feel like we have to do everything ourselves, on our own.

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We’ve got that whole martyr outlook that we have to suffer, work really hard, nothing can come easily and we’re really concerned with what other people think about us (even though we’d never admit it). So all those points of view really set me up to be the perfect victim to fall prey to mould and that’s part of my old story.

Now because my outlook changed I can create my life with far more ease. Before it was like I had to almost literally kill myself in order to create things in this world. Now I live in my own reality where I don’t make any appointments before 2pm, I work outside in parks and beaches and run 98% of my business from my iPhone.

What if you could create things without sacrificing your health, your piece of mind, or the enjoyment of living? To get out of a chronic illness situation, the first thing I invite people to do is practice choosing something different. Like if you have a usual route that you drive or walk to some location, choose a different direction or a different route. Or if you go to a restaurant and always order the same thing, chose something else next time.

And here’s the important part, choose it just because. Don’t try to come up with any logical reasoning about why you are choosing it.

What if you even opened up a menu and the first thing your finger landed on you ordered? How exciting would that be and what if the experience of that could be part of your daily life and how you do all things. If you’re thinking “OMG this feels out of control” what if you recognize how strong you are as you withstand a chronic illness? If you can withstand that you can definitely cope with making some changes and doing things differently .

Some of our readers are struggling with major depression. As a Magic & Awareness Catalyst what do you think might help them feel more joy? Any tips on how they can let their true magic shine? 

The antidote to depression is to believe in possibilities and the first step to that is to release the point of view that there’s something wrong with you. What if you first let yourself off the hook for everything? What if there was no wrongness of you and you started entertaining the idea that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s choices, and no longer have to align and agree with your own choices from the past? And note, this outlook of possibilities can partner with current support and treatment – just letting go of any stigma or wrongness may allow other therapies to make more of an intended impact. What if right now you can just choose from the magic that you are; that quiet voice that’s been struggling for you to hear it.

For whatever reason maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the quiet voice and maybe it had to get louder and louder and the only way it knew how to get loud was to become sharp pains or chronic illness or some other health issue.

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You are here with a special gift that this planet needs and even if you’ve been labeled different and wrong so much that you’ve started to believe it, what if that’s only because you are here to actually change the world? After all, if you fit in perfectly there would be nothing to change.

Instead of feeling that sensation of depression what if instead you label it as awareness and then eliminate the part where there’s any wrongness.

If you’re in allowance of who you are, then how much joy could you have then? And how much of you could you share with the world? Maybe that means finding the right people that are able to see who you are, but what if you get to show them how to see who you are by seeing yourself and allowing yourself to be all of yourself? That unique thing that you have to offer this world isn’t going to show up in anyone else and it’s not going to be set free into the world unless you choose to do that…. and we’re waiting… we want to see it!

For more info or to book a magic session visit:
A free download “Morning Mantra Mixtape”
is available at:

 

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Anger is resistance to loss

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I think Stuart Wilde nailed it when he said “anger comes from loss.” Anger and even frustration, in my opinion, are secondary emotions; the fiery layers above what’s invariably underneath: a sense of loss. You’re angry because you’re losing something or you’re afraid you will.

People choose anger over simply feeling the loss in the deepest sense because it’s a more active emotion. Its ferocity keeps us feeling a sense of movement through the situation rather than feeling powerless over it. But anger can also trip you up and get you in trouble if you don’t take the time to acknowledge, process and take action in response to what’s really there.

Sitting down with your anger and agreeing to lose that thing your afraid of losing is a simple but liberating trick! So often we’re holding on very tight in resistance to losing that thing, but resistance can keep us feeling very stuck! So what if you lost it? So maybe you don’t prefer to lose it but what if you were simply willing to lose it?

For example say you’ve been dating a person who’s super charming and charismatic but they’ve been giving you mixed signals and just cancelled the last date. Maybe you’re angry with them for leading you on or being unclear. Maybe at this point you don’t know for sure what they really want; perhaps they really are busy with work, or maybe they’re a royal jerk dicking you around. Either way agree to lose it. It’s not a pessimistic expectation that you are definitely going to lose it, it’s just the willingness to.

Agree to the possibility that anything can happen from here. It’s so simple but effective. It’s just a choice. You might think “Oh so I don’t actually NEED this person to be interested! Losing this romantic interest may not be what I prefer in this instance but I’m willing to let it go and leave it in time’s trusted hands!”

Have you ever agreed to lose something in this way? I’d love to hear about what worked for you in the comments.

Moving

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Hello great ones!

I haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been busy moving house! Holy hell it was seriously intense and physically challenging to say the least (as I did most of it myself) but I felt an unexpected sense of alignment through it all… like I’d made the right choice to move on. I definitely wouldn’t say it was “fun” (I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who said that about moving!) lol but I was really pleased with that background feeling of surrender and what I can only describe as “okayness”

Now I’m feeling a bit spaced out in the come down after the whirlwind. I’ve written several drafts of blog posts but finding myself distracted by guitar practice and songwriting rather than blogging. I’m not complaining as this is a good thing! But I’m also mindful of the fact that I do wish to continue with this blog and write some interesting content. I haven’t forgotten..

As I’m writing this from a cafe I’m keen to get back home to pick up my guitar again. I have no idea where all this practice motivation is coming from! I haven’t been this practice-focused in ages,… Happy to roll with it for now though… I’ve seen some amazing live music over the past week so possibly that has inspired my subconscious to get busy. I wrote a song yesterday which is super fun to play and would be a good one for a solo live gig.

Anyways… bye for now.. I’ll return next time with some more sophisticated content!

Best wishes xx

Therapeutic shredding: letting go of 2017

This is my ceremonial shredding of 2017’s crap…. ha ha.

2017 crap bye bye from The Truth About Mental Health on Vimeo.

Yesterday I bought this cheap shredder to destroy old paperwork, correspondence and copies of bills that I no longer need. I also thought the shredded paper would come in handy for wrapping occasional ebay items for postage.

What I wasn’t expecting was for this process to be incredibly therapeutic. Clearing out some cupboards and letting go of 2017 (especially the not so awesome aspects) feels great!! Unwanted correspondence; be gone!! Annoying old bills, paid…. gone!!!! Rejection letter from a potential employer………Shhhhrrrreeeeeedddd.

As I was feeding the papers through I thought about everything I’m happy to leave behind in 2017. What are you ready to leave behind ? This is my 2017 shred list. Feel free to share yours in the comments

Metaphorical shred list: what to leave behind in 2017

  • Bad habits, like over indulging in sweets
  • Wasting time on facebook
  • Seeking the approval of assholes. Wasting my time on people who aren’t worth it
  • Picking the wrong battles to fight. (not picking and choosing by battles)
  • Avoiding problems
  • Procrastinating
  • Neglecting creative projects

Blogger recognition award & happy holidays!

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I’m chuffed to be nominated by A Lot On Your Mind for the Blogger Recognition Award! When I set out to create The Truth About Mental Health in April of this year, I had very low expectations that anyone would actually read it.. initially it was a just a space to reflect; a virtual journal of sorts to contemplate and distill my opinions on mental health. If anyone happened to read it, well that was a bonus…

Now that “bonus,” to my amusement,  has become evermore frequent! I’m truly grateful for the people who have taken the time to read my blogs and explore the topics that are close to my heart. Your thoughtful comments, likes and follows have been a joy to receive.

blogger-recognition-awardI now have 200+ followers, (tiny in the scheme of things) but I’m still really pleased about it! Waking up to comments like “I love love love this so much” just makes my day and inspires me to consider what else is possible with this blog!

As part of the blog award process I’ve been asked to share some tips for new bloggers and to nominate 10 additional sites that I enjoy.

Here are my tips for new bloggers

  1. Set a challenge for yourself to help establish a blogging habit. Initially I set the goal of 30 blogs in 30 days which I found really helpful. Whilst I skipped a few days due to time limitations the overall goal helped me to get into the habit of blogging until I no longer needed a goal and it just became a natural tendency.
  2. Do random acts of blogging kindness. Look for like-minded bloggers and read their material. Show support to help foster a kindred community. Don’t worry if it’s not always reciprocal. Be kind and supportive because it feels good and will brighten someone’s day. If it comes back to you returned that’s a bonus too but don’t do it solely for that reason.
  3. Reply to blog comments. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted and forget to reply to someone’s comment on your blog. If they’ve taken the time to be thoughtful be thoughtful back and make sure you take the time to appreciate the gesture.
  4. Be yourself. Your story and perspective matters no matter who you are and what your background is. You might not think you matter but you do. We often have an impact on each other in ways we don’t always see or appreciate. Authenticity is a light in a world that needs it right now.

Here are my nominees (in no particular order)

  1. Sue Dreamwalker
  2. Three Worlds One Vision
  3. Thriving Under Pressure
  4. Katherine Otto 
  5. Naturally Connected
  6. Crazy Little Things
  7. Warriors Not Worriers
  8. Neurodivergent Rebel
  9. Untangled
  10. A Fractured Faith 

(sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone who’s blog is awesome and deserves a nomination… so hard to narrow it down; there are so many awesome blogs out there!!)

To participate in this award:

1. Show your gratitude to the person who nominated you and provide a link back to the person’s blog.

2. Give a brief story on your blog.

3. Share two or more pieces of advice for beginner bloggers.

4. Choose 10 other bloggers to nominate.

5. Comment on each blog by letting them know they’ve been nominated and provide a link to your award post.

How to like yourself

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Do me a favour. Grab a notepad and pen (or open your virtual notebook) and jot down 10 things about you that you’re grateful for. It can be anything from the basic fact that you’re alive and your heart continues to beat to some talent or skill that you possess. If you’re struggling to find things, go basic, and focus on simple fundamental aspects like the parts of your body that are healthy or your ability to be a kind friend to someone. This is my list for today:

I’m grateful for:

  1. the gift of my body and all of its function and capacity
  2. the fact that I can see, hear, walk, breath, taste, touch and think
  3. my ability to type fast
  4. a sense of caring for others
  5. a sense of caring for the earth
  6. my curiosity
  7. my desire to learn and expand
  8. my hopeful attitude
  9. my ability to sing and create
  10. how I don’t give up

Have you done your list? Do it now… go on!! …..

This is a really simple exercise but how often do you take a moment to really appreciate that gift your body? The gift of living? I find those basic truths like “I’m so glad my heart is beating and I get to live in this life,” really uplifting to reflect on. Often our brains jump to what is wrong with us and so we need to put some energy into what’s right from time to time. Otherwise we get the habit of distorted thinking and miss the opportunity to enjoy a balanced perspective.

Weirdly, as I’m writing this in a cafe I notice an infomercial segment the TV for a fat burning vibrational belt, lol… Wow! If I wear a special belt my abs can look perfect, tanned and toned like the women in the ad! And I don’t even have to eat sensibly or exercise. *facepalm.* Sadly these products sell because we are forever reaching for a beauty ideal is unattainable; we never achieve the unrealistic TV-induced cosmetic standards. We end up fundamentally rejecting ourselves as we are and so the urge to buy continues.

I find practicing basic self-gratitude provides a good foundation for other self-appreciating thoughts to live and thrive. It’s an excellent vaccination against the virus of unrealistic cultural beauty ideals.

 

The difference between medical minimalism and anti-medicine

Yesterday I read a smear piece on a holistic doctor who is “anti-medicine” according to the journalist because she is critical of conventional approaches to mental illness.  I’m not even going to share the piece as I think it’s a classic example of tabloid style click bait not even worthy of linking to in a blog post. In my opinion many holistic or integrative doctors are actually more like medical minimalists rather than anti-medicine practitioners, and I think there’s an important difference.

What is medical minimalism? It’s a cautious, critical and big picture approach to the use of pharmaceutical medicines. Medical minimalists use drugs only when they believe they are truly needed or helpful. When they do use medicines they use the lowest dose possible to get the desired result because they acknowledge the risks involved. They openly embrace lifestyle interventions as valid, and sometimes preferable to drugs and continuously apply a big picture cost benefit mentality to all their recommendations.

Medical minimalists are not against the use of drugs across the board but they use sparingly, or not at all depending on the illness or patient in question. They don’t believe drugs are necessarily bad but that the use of them can be destructive if better options are ignored. Just like minimalists believe less is more, medical minimalist believe less medicine can sometimes mean greater health. Since there isn’t research into the effects of prescribing a cocktail of different meds at once medical minimalists tend to avoid cocktail scenarios. They prescribe one thing at a time or give their patients a pep talk about lifestyle and diet.

Here’s an example of a very honest psychiatrist I came across on youtube who discusses the limitations of his prescriptions. Whilst he still prescribes at times when he believes it’s needed (always at the lowest dose possible) his aim is to get people off medications eventually and offer talk therapy and other strategies that he believe are more effective at helping people thrive for the long haul rather than just “getting through.”

I’ve really enjoyed watching some of his other videos on mental health too which are very helpful and refreshing. Also check out The forgiveness diet and How to let go of victimhood. Enjoy!

 

 

What you seek is seeking you…

Do you agree with Rumi’s quote “what you seek is seeking you”?

what you seek

It’s such a comforting idea but is it true? Does what we seek create some sort of magnetic force? When I first saw this quote I wondered if it could be used as an excuse to be slack about actually putting in the hard yards to reach goals… to make them happen. If your goals are seeking you then maybe you can just kick back and be lazy?

But after further consideration I think the quote is more like a catalyst for taking action. Seeking indicates searching, doing something… finding and that by doing so the world will match our efforts. That our searching is destined to be rewarded somehow. What do you think?

Grassroots health: Dr Google the people’s physician

In the age of the internet you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t “Dr Googled” a health issue before. In fact, one in every 20 Google searches are health-related, according to the tech giant.

Maybe you’ve googled one of the top 10 trending health questions like, can you get pregnant on birth control, what is TBI or in the number one slot, what is cupping?

Whilst it’s often frowned upon and considered potentially dangerous to rely on google for health answers, the reality is, we’re all doing it, and often. Commentators are quick to point out what could go wrong in this self-doctoring approach, but how many people are asking what could go right? What does this trend to consult Dr Google actually mean?

I believe the rise of internet has enabled grassroots holistic health movements to flourish, that I like to call “The People’s Medicine.”  It’s a new type of folk medicine that’s reviving the common sense self-care approaches of eras gone by.

In the 19th century there were a number of popular movements which encouraged people to “be their own physicians,” as reflected in this historic book title below.  Herbs were often the treatment of choice and it was not uncommon for everyday folk to be familiar with their preparation and use.

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Thomsonian Medicine, was one particular holistic health system that enjoyed wide popularity in the United States during this era, reaching over 1 million people in its height. Founded by a medical reformist Samuel Thomson, this movement promoted the idea of a self-directed health awareness and self-care care as a valid alternative or adjunct to “doctors orders”.  This approach appealed to members of the anti-elitist movement of the time as it offered people a more accessible and affordable way to manage common ailments.

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Excerpts from “The Thomsonian Manual”, by Samuel Thomson, 1835

In more recent times, the concept of self-care has been embraced once again in grassroots mental health recovery communities. The diversity of opinions found through the internet has allowed people to reclaim a sense of agency over their psychological challenges and look beyond homogenous conventional treatments.

The International Hearing Voices movement is one such example of people learning to be their own healers, or what could be called self-made therapists. In this movement people who have experienced auditory hallucinations meet in peer-to-peer groups to explore the value and purpose of these experiences rather than seeing them as an illness. They learn how to embrace their voices in a constructive and functional manner that often allows them to move away from psychiatric labels and medications.

“Our research shows that to hear voices is not the consequence of a diseased brain, but more akin to a variation in human behaviour, like being left-handed. It is not so much the voices that are the problem, but the difficulties that some people have in coping with them.” – from the international hearing voices website 

Smart Recovery  is another peer-to-peer movement that’s grown in popularly with the help of grassroots people power. Smart is a secular alternative to AA for people with substance use disorders but many physicians are unaware of its existence. Most people find out about it through a quick google search looking for an alternative. Much like Weight Watchers, Smart is facilitated by people who have recovered from addiction and been through the program themselves. The meetings, are based on psychological tools and mutual support.

There are countless examples of these sort of movements that are often very much driven by everyday people without health qualifications, who nonetheless are acting as catalysts for profound healing and change. There’s a support tribe for everything and if not you can start your own online.

There is of course a dark side to Dr Googling; obsession, hypochondria, panic or even the potentially lethal outcome of acting on dubious advice. But since people are unlikely to quit the internet, the best approach might be good old moderation mixed with a dose of common sense, as Doctor Thomson might have advised if he were living today.

After all an honest physician, he said, will tell you that:

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To find health …

to find health

The above quote is a variation of Andrew Taylor Still’s quote “To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.” (I replaced disease with illness because I think this idea is true for mental illness also.. which is not a disease as such).

Beyond coping, managing and dealing lies a holy grail called HEALTH. What small step towards true health can you take today?