Self care is important. Several countries, including New Zealand, Australia and UK, have already taken notice of the potential for self care to reduce the growing cost of health care, and have begun to weave elements of this approach into their national health strategies. Self care could prevent about 75 percent of the case of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, and more than 40 percent of cancers.
But what is self care, exactly? A commonly referenced definition of self care was developed in 1983 by the World Health Organization: Self Care in health refers to the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease. They are undertaken by lay people on their own behalf, either separately or in participative collaboration with professionals.
Self care is multidimensional. It involves how we eat, move, rest, express ourselves, allocate our resources, think, contribute to the world, connect with others and even we harmonize with nature. Not surprisingly, many of these elements overlap, which means that our return on investment can be significantly greater when our choices support more than one of these dimensions.
One study estimated that 25 percent of physician visits and 55 percent of emergency room visits were unnecessary. It is estimated that if the major risk factors for chronic disease were eliminated, at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40 percent of cancer cases would be prevented.
But while the concept of individual health ownership sounds great in theory, it can be a challenge to implement on a practical level. Keeping up with house hold chores, putting dinner on the table and getting the kids bathed and into bed are just a few of the cyclical demands that make me time scarce.
What does healthy mean for you personally? What does it look like? Having a vivid mental image of a healthy future helps increase motivation and activation. Create a vision board, draw a picture or translate your vision into words to get a clear picture of what you want your future life to be. This will also help to serve as a guide for making day to day decisions.
Exercising, setting healthy boundaries, getting enough sleep and building strong support systems may offer meaningful opportunities for health improvement. The best way to get started is to get started. Make a commitment to include at least on self care activity each week. As time goes on, try new things and work your way up to several activities each week.
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