Healthcare as Selfcare: A Bold Plan for 2021
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
by guest blogger Kim Sims, M.D.
I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Why? Because people tend to come up with these grand plans that they only stick to for 1-2 months and then gloriously fall off the wagon. However, what I do tend to notice is that at the end of each year, I naturally tend to reflect on the year, seeing if I’ve grown as person. Have I improved on the human I was the previous year. How do I want to improve in the next year? I think it’s a natural closing of a chapter.
This year has been like no other in most of our lifetimes–it has brought about a different kind of stress, a different kind of reset. And so, at the end of this year, it does bring about a different kind of reflection.
My friend has given me the honor of being a part of her wellness retreats and speaking on physical health. We began just trying to pick up the pieces that COVID had shattered. Next was a REFOCUS, as we shifted our vision back to those things that could keep us healthy in mind, body and spirit (I, of course, focus on body in my sessions, but fully agree in the whole approach). This time, we REBUILD, as we plan for how we will enter 2021, in a new head space.
I want to caution everyone from thinking that 2021 will be perfect–because we all entered 2020 thinking it had to get better than 2019, and look what we got…lol! So I think the first lesson is to be prepared for ANYTHING, and GRATEFUL in EVERYTHING!
As we prepare to rebuild in whatever 2021 has to offer I want to remind us that healthcare IS selfcare, and if we’re going to achieve it, we must plan for it.
Here’s the first steps:
Get Your Mind Right
A few important principles:
Be realistic about your preferences and your lifestyle. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you already wake up at 4:30 for work, you likely aren’t going to get up earlier to do anything. If you don’t eat green foods, you likely aren’t jumping straight into plant-based. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Set small, realistic goals, and celebrate every small win.You want a schedule, and not a to do list. A to do list tends to make you feel a little like you have a never-ending list of things you didn’t get done, and reinforces a failure mind set.
We have to start by believing that it can happen. “Fake it til you make it.” “Speak it into existence.” “Believe it and you can achieve it.” For me, it all came together when I read the book Psycho-cybernetics and was confronted with science and real world examples of the self-fulfilling prophecies and self-limiting beliefs that everything came together. It made the practice of affirmations make sense. So part of what I want everyone to do is assign an affirmation to each piece of what you plan to accomplish as you move through your plan of self improvement, because whether you believe you will or you won’t, you’re right!
Remember, imperfection is okay, giving up is not. Plan for imperfection. Know that you will not be perfect, and there will be moments you’re going to have to pick yourself up from falling off the proverbial wagon or horse or whatever. Plan to fall AND GET UP EVERY TIME.
I always start here because if you aren’t resting well, nothing else in your life will go well. You must get enough sleep (7-9 hours nightly for adults) in order for good mental clarity. However, it also regulates weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, appetite, cardiovascular health….you get it, it regulates a great deal. You need sleep. Additionally, you need other types of rest: meditation, mindfulness, and play. Don’t forget that we are not designed to be on all the times. Studies show that we are more productive and healthier when we incorporate the right types of rest into our lifestyle.
Example: Set your reminder on your phone for when your evening ritual should begin. Commit to having this relaxing time and going to bed at a relatively regular time.
Exercise is beneficial for so many things. It helps control weight, improve cardiovascular health, decrease joint pains, strengthen muscles, improve cognitive function, control depression and anxiety, strengthen our immune system–again, I can go on and on. I like to think of exercise as the fountain of youth. If you don’t have an exercise plan, this should be high on your priority list. Jogging as little as 7 minutes daily can make a difference in cardiovascular health, and 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise weekly is what is considered an active lifestyle (75 minutes of high intensity)–that’s just 30 minutes daily. Truly, being sedentary is one of the greatest risk factors for an early death, and we are all doing much more sitting with working from home, zoom meetings, etc.
1. Commit to walking 30 minutes daily during a meeting that can be off camera.
2. Commit to waking 30 minutes earlier to zoom a zumba class.
3. Commit to walking 10 minutes on breaks three times a day. *Hint* You can multitask and watch videos for a class, watch taped shows, or be in a meeting while being on a treadmill, bike or elliptical
Feeding our Bodies Well
The old adage says “You are what you eat” and it’s proving more and more to be true. I like to say, “You get out what you put in,” and I think of food as the ultimate medicine. It’s so important to choose foods well, because our diet plays an important role in our over all health. Your choice of diet should really depend on your personal risk factors and natural tendencies, but generally sticking to a healthy plate won’t steer you wrong, and I like to teach this often. When you are picking which diet you’d like to go with, please remember that it’s important to consider your preferences, your lifestyle–be realistic, because consistence is key. The important think is that plants are your friend, whole foods are your friend, and it’s important to watch your portions. To learn more about the individual diets, select the links: Plant-based, Keto, Intermittent fasting, Mediterranean
1. Have a grocery day and a cooking day *Hint* It only takes about 30 extra minutes to cook several sides and prep proteins for the week.
2. Commit and budget to purchase meal prep.
3. Consider grocery delivery if not already participating.
Stay One Step Ahead
We have to stay one step ahead of our health by being on top of our screenings preventative health. This means going to our doctor’s visits, knowing what our numbers (cholesterol, blood sugars, blood pressures, BMIs) look like, and having a long term plan for our health. We need to make sure we are on top of screenings such as colon cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, osteoporosis screening, and cardiovascular screening, lung cancer screening and prostate cancer screening (age, gender, and risk specific). We also need to get our eye and dental exams. Don’t let these things fall to the back burner–prevention is care–I have saved lives through early detection.
1. Look at your schedule now to begin booking your healthcare appointments and scheduling that time.
2. Budget for the money you may have to spend on additional tests. Healthcare unfortunately does cost money in the United States.
Chronic Illness Control
This year has really thrown us for a loop, and it may be time to refocus on getting some chronic illnesses under control. The things above are important factors in controlling chronic illness, but if you have hypertension (high blood pressure), it’s also important that you be monitoring those numbers. If you have diabetes (high blood sugars), you need to be checking these numbers as well. It’s important that you have the supplies needed and that you make the time to monitor your health status. It’s also important that you take the time to make sure you are taking any prescribed medications that help keep your chronic illness in check. With my migraines, I have a few pharmaceuticals that help me manage my headaches–one is daily, one is monthly, and one I have to go in for quarterly to for injections. I will confess, I struggled for while with that daily medication–but I had to come up with some schedule to help me remember to get it in. I also have to make sure I make my quarterly appointments–and not just that–my weekly to biweekly physical therapy appointments, and as much as I hate working that into my schedule, it must be done. Make sure you are planning ahead and making the time to take care of your health.
Chronic Illness Control Plan
1. Attach taking your medications to an action that you do daily. Don’t do it until you’ve taken your medication.
2. Commit to taking your health measurements whatever prescribed frequency. Come up with a similar adherence plan.
Remember: this whole thing has been about us being on the schedule–us being a priority on our list. Don’t let the excuse for not accomplishing the above be because you were too busy doing something for the other people (husband, kids, employer) on your list. You are important. You matter. You are first on the list. Make it happen.
So remember, you need to book you me time. Sit with a work calendar and pick some days or afternoons off in advance–plan for those preventative care visits. Plan for your rest time. Plan for your exercise. You deserve it.
My body is a temple and deserves proper maintenance and care.
I prioritize rest and my health because I am important.
I have presence of mind and choose my response to stress. I eat when I’m hungry–not emotional, and stop when I’m satisfied.
I invite you to share some of yours that you will use to help you on your journey to better health in the coming year!
This post originally appears on Kim Sims, M. D. blog http://www.kimsimsmd.com/
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Dr. Sims was one of the resource speakers during the H3W REBUILD workshop organized by our wellness partner Karla J. Aghedo of Houston Wellness Workshop for Women. Check out her page.