Self-care is about looking after the person who runs your life: work, play, relationships, family and all the things you enjoy. That’s you.
These might include healthy lifestyle choices (like eating cleanly or avoiding smoking), responsible use of medicines (when it comes to dosage, storage and disposal), knowing when you need to see a doctor or pharmacist, and monitoring or even managing your and your loved ones’ wellbeing.
Because you already know what is good for you, you may be familiar with the twinge of guilt that accompanies less-than-stellar self-care behaviour.
You’ve probably also heard the alarming statistic, from the World Health Organization, that non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are currently the leading causes of mortality (www.who.int/).
Did you know that 80% of these diseases could be prevented by self-care? And did you know that self-care makes you more likely to enjoy:
1. a longer life expectancy,
2. improved wellness,
3. higher self-esteem, and
4. the cost savings that result from a reduced use of healthcare services, both public and private?
The good news is that there is a global shift in healthcare thinking from “pharmaceuticals for the consumer” to “consumer products about health and wellness”. Even manufacturers are thinking and innovating to empower consumers to manage health, rather than just treat illness.
Real-world evidence of this trend includes healthcare apps, which are growing rapidly with cardio, diet and women's health accounting for half the volume; smart devices to improve efficacy and control; and sensors, which give the consumer direct feedback on their state of health.
In addition, the over-the-counter (OTC) self-care medication market continues to show steady growth, particularly in developing regions like the Middle East and Africa, where there is 3-year average growth of 9.9%.
Inspired by Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Day on 19 February 2017, here are some basic self-care steps to a healthier lifestyle:
1. Get some insight.
The first step is self-assessment. Be honest with yourself about your health status. Are you getting the correct treatment for any chronic health problems?
2. Look at lifestyle.
Beyond inadequate physical activity and poor diet, bad lifestyle habits include unmanaged stress, insufficient sleep, and over-use of alcohol/cigarettes.
Four of the best ways to handle stress are:
1. write (spend 10 to 15 minutes a day with a journal, noting down the details of stressful events and how they made you feel),
2. talk (laugh, cry, or vent with friends or family members),
3. breathe (in through the nose, out through the mouth, while counting to a total of 10, before repeating for 5 or 10 minutes), and
4. do something you enjoy (like gardening, painting, playing with pets, etc.)
Schedule a relaxing bedtime ritual at the end of each day: a cup of herbal tea, deep breathing, or even a physical ‘check-in’ from head to toe.
A calming activity before bed, conducted away from bright lights and electronic devices, helps to separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety - all of which threaten deep, sustained sleep.
Give up smoking and moderate your drinking. You know these things will help you, but both are easier said than done. Are you supposed to give them up together? No. It can take considerable effort and self-control to extinguish habits that are associated with physical addiction. JoinClubSoda says you should place all this focus on one habit at a time, to get better outcomes.
3. Move more, daily.
For many of us, movement isn’t part of every hour. It’s homework. But how about making regular movement – not necessarily formal exercise – part of your daily life, as part of your self-care? There are several ways:
· Make your life less convenient, by taking the stairs, parking further away from your destination, and re-arranging cupboards and drawers.
· Sit, stand and repeat, every 30 minutes if you have a sedentary job.
· Download the JAMM app, which offers simple 1-minute ‘exercises’ every hour, to improve mobility, strength, flexibility, breathing, balance, etc.
4. Eat healthy and clean.
There's no one healthy diet; many eating patterns sustain good health. But let’s be honest, you know what’s good for you: smaller portions; less sugar; lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; healthy proteins and fats; and better planning. So pick one of these areas to focus on, each week.
What now? Well, you’re already equipped for better self-care, with the mix of your existing knowledge, the information made available to you here and elsewhere, and sound professional advice. All you need to do is start.