An individual can play an important role in managing chronic diseases and maintaining good health by practicing self-care on a daily basis.
Self-care is a newer concept within healthcare that refers to a person’s ability to implement small, yet powerful steps in their life to strengthen their physical and mental health, said Marcus Washington, MD, primary care physician with Premier Health Family Medicine.
“Simply put, self-care is care for you, by you,” said Dr. Washington, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “It’s about identifying what you need and then making sure you take steps to get those needs met.”
Not everything linked to our physical and mental health can be relieved by a doctor’s visit or treatment plan. A person may see a doctor for chronic back pain and be sent to physical therapy, but in the end, it will be the small choices — or self-care — that a person implements in their day-to-day life that can make a difference.
“It’s about understanding that you can’t lift more than 25 pounds and then making the decision to abide by that,” Dr. Washington said. “Understanding and accepting your limitations can go a long way.”
Self-care is important for everyone to practice, but plays a particularly important role in the lives of people with chronic illnesses. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lower back pain and migraine headaches are some of the most common chronic illness issues seen in a primary care office, Dr. Washington said.
Self-care for most of these issues may include a healthy diet, tailored strengthening or cardio workout or mindful relaxation techniques. Implementing such changes into a life can help a person manage their disease and even prevent it from progressing, he said.
Dr. Washington said there are key steps a person can take to practice self-care:
Recognition comes first. The first step in self-care is recognizing you have a need that requires attention. Individuals often go on with everyday life and never realize there is something wrong. Once it’s identified, seek support on how to care for it.
Don’t complicate things. Effective self-care is often in the small details. Something as simple as placing a reminder on your phone to take medication at a certain time each day is small, but has a huge impact on your overall health.
Don’t overcommit. Get comfortable with saying no to things that don’t fall in line with your current priorities. This may mean declining an invitation to serve on a committee because the meetings will make it hard to fit in a daily walk that is good for your diabetes.
Remove barriers. Two of the biggest barriers to self-care is time and money. Carve out time in your schedule to do the things that matter to your health like a daily walk, but don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to do it. Skip the cost of a gym membership and choose to take a walk around the neighborhood instead.
Practice mindfulness. Be careful not to let your life slip into autopilot. Take time out during the day to focus on yourself. This may mean a time of reflection or meditation that helps to refocus your mind on what matters. Make smarter decisions with your time such as taking advantage of vacation days instead of powering through to accrue blocks of time off.
“We’re all busy people, and for some of us we feel a need to devote most of our time to helping others around us,” Dr. Washington said. “However, the truth is that if we don’t care for ourselves then we won’t be around as long to help those that we love.”
For more information on self-care or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, go online to www.premierphysiciannet.com.
Premier Physician Network is one of the largest groups of pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, and urgent care practices in southwest Ohio. For more information, go online to www.premierphysiciannet.com.