Self Care Week took place in November. It’s run by the Self Care Forum, which was set up in 2011 to further the reach of self care and embed it into everyday life. So what is ‘self care’ and why is it so important?
Should we all forget the doctors and just do everything ourselves? No, I don’t want to do myself out of a job just yet! It means learning what you can do to safely treat yourself, or to maintain good health. After all, out of the 8,760 hours in the year, on average, we spend four hours with some kind of healthcare professional. That leaves 8,756 hours where we’re making choices and decisions for ourselves.
Self care is about gaining the knowledge, confidence and skills to understand what’s right for you. For people in good general health it’s about treating those minor ailments and injuries. Gargling soluble aspirin (300mg) for a sore throat, taking paracetamol and ibuprofen together for a bad back, keeping moving, and looking online for advice on what to do (www.patient.co.uk and www.sheffieldachesandpains.com are both great examples of trustworthy sites written by NHS teams).
For others with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or chronic pain, it’s about knowing what you can do to control your conditions. People living with long-term conditions can rarely get rid of them, so there’s a need to learn how best to live with them.
For some this will be about keeping active and mobile, choosing to walk or cycle to work, taking the stairs and not the lift, or even joining an exercise class. Some people may need to focus on diet changes, or altering the way they practice work or leisure pursuits. For others it’s simply about understanding their condition and how best to use medicines or therapies to help. Whatever the problem, we all need support to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle things ourselves.
It can be tricky to change habits of a life time, but evidence suggests that lifestyle changes are as important as the effects of the medicines you take, or the operations you may be recommended.
Increasingly, healthcare is being organised to support you in making these changes. Whether it is your GP, your diabetes nurse or even your boss at work, ask people around you who can help. You may even have access to health trainers or specially trained support workers who can help you to self care. We all start somewhere and all need different levels of support. Good luck on your journey!
For more information visit www.selfcareforum.org