Everyone needs to learn self-care skills – and take the time to use them – in order to live a healthy, balanced life.
Your primary care provider can help empower you to do just that.
They can counsel you on diet, exercise, sleep and other lifestyle changes, and connect you with resources to address social and emotional wellness.
Self-care is crucial to a healthy, fulfilling life – so why not make it part of your regular health care? Tomisha Byard, MSN, FNP-BC, a primary care provider at Regional One Health’s Harbor of Health, helps patients use their annual checkup to improve their self-care skills.
“That yearly exam is when we focus on preventative care and health promotion,” she said. “It’s my chance to help patients learn to take better care of themselves.”
While Byard tailors her advice to each patient, she always focuses on several topics:
Diet and exercise
A good diet provides essential nutrients and helps prevent conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Byard advises against fad diets, instead focusing on lifelong changes like eating more fruits, vegetables and lean meats and limiting refined sugars and carbs. She counsels patients to avoid nicotine, alcohol and drugs.
Drinking enough water is also important. “Water lubricates our joints, eliminates toxins, supports our digestive system, etc.,” Byard said. Divide your weight in half and aim for that many ounces.
You can supplement your diet with a multivitamin, but ask your provider about interactions with other medications.
Byard also encourages patients to be active every day to promote heart and respiratory health and strengthen bones and muscles.
She meets patients where they are when it comes to diet and exercise. For example, “Fresh foods can be expensive, so we look at frozen options. If somebody works long hours, we talk about getting up 30 minutes earlier to take a brisk walk.”
Mental and social health
In recent years, primary care has evolved to include mental and social health.
Byard suggests activities patients can do to find purpose and peace, like visiting friends, taking a nature walk, reading an affirmation book, or practicing their religion.
She also connects patients with mental health professionals. “If you need additional support for grieving, stress, dealing with loss, etc., I help you find resources to address your concerns.”
Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep. “Quality sleep helps you feel refreshed,” Byard said. “You can’t perform well if you’re tired or agitated.”
Her advice is to shut down electronics at least an hour before bed. “The light is bad for sleep, and all the alerts and notifications distract us from inner peace. Unplugging helps you mentally.”
Take it slow
Byard said to be patient with yourself as you develop a self-care routine: “All of these elements are important, but you don’t need to do everything at once! You can take baby steps and work on one thing at a time.”
A primary care provider can help. Your annual checkup includes a physical exam and bloodwork to identify what you need to work on most, and it’s also a source of motivation and support.
“I’m a cheerleader for my patients,” Byard said. “I give them information, answer their questions and give advice tailored to their personal needs, goals and challenges.”