When we think of self-care, we often think of acts we can do to make us feel well: moving, resting, warm baths, snuggles, journaling, socializing, etc. An important part of self-care is taking care of ourselves with our team of professional healthcare providers. Generally, most of us are fortunate to live in countries where healthcare is advanced. Accessibility and equity are other blogs and soapboxes I will choose not to get on; however, it is important to note that they can be challenging for many. We need to learn about the inside and outside workings of our bodies and mind, both in times of need and for preventative measures. This is empowering and gives us information to work with. It’s important to build a team that supports your needs, aligns with your personal values, and fits into your life. As we continue to step into the new year, it’s a great time (and often forgotten) to plan out your healthcare visits and put them on the books. Here are some tips to help build the team that aligns most with you.
Make a list of the types of providers that you’d like to build into your healthcare village. There are many modalities to help us care for ourselves, and the good news is you don’t have to stick to just one. Gathering ideas from various approaches is helpful and helps us stay out of one narrow box. Who would you like on your team? Biomedical primary care, biomedical specialists (OB, cardiologist, endocrinologist, dermatologist, etc), acupuncturists, massage therapists, nutritionists, dentists, health coaches, functional medicine, therapists, optometrists, herbalists, chiropractic, physical therapists, pharmacists, etc. Make a list of the providers and modalities that are important to you or that you would like to learn more about to support your whole health.
Choose providers that align with your values. I personally have had not-so-great experiences with providers of all types. Where no one listened to me and just prescribed me anti-depressants for every symptom, or it felt like complete snake oil and a marketing scheme. Take time to sit down to find out what you want in a provider- they are out there! What are your health belief systems? How do your spiritual and/or religious beliefs align? What do you value in a provider- expertise, a good listener, gender-specific, location, etc?
Check your insurance and budget. See what your insurance plan covers, how many visits you get, and the cost. Compare with your budget. If you’re open to new providers that are covered in your modality, use them. If not, make a budget based on out-of-pocket pay and how often you can go. Be sure to use your HSA and FSA if you have them!
Check-in with employer policies and benefits. Review your employer’s paid time off policy for sick days, well visits, employer-covered wellness, and whole health benefits. When I worked in human resources, it was always astounding to me how much the company paid for and how low utilization there was, and it was my mission to get people the help they needed. Want something that you don’t see covered? Let our HR team know. Then, compare to your calendar and budget.
Make your annual preventative visits happen. No matter the modality, prevention is the best course of action, which means getting information on what is true right now inside of us. This means visiting your primary care to get those labs done, get your pap smear, your mammogram, the fun colonoscopy, and skin check- and anything else that is personal to your situation. Be sure to advocate for yourself at this time to get as many tests done as you need. This is your baseline of information, and knowledge is power. Science also tells us that the earlier we have information, the better the outcomes. It’s also important to know what is going well so we can celebrate and maintain certain habits. Or maybe we’ve been feeling low energy, and the doc notices our vitamin D levels are a bit low, and a simple supplement could make us feel better, and we didn’t even know it.
Vulnerability is ok. The unknown is scary. When we get labs, sometimes we fear the worst and think living in ignorance is better, so we don’t want to know. The setting can feel sterile, and it’s uncomfortable to literally sit there naked and talk about your life and get poked, prodded, and touched. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with previous providers and are skeptical or afraid. Maybe you’ve had trauma, and talking about some things is difficult. This is normal, and plan for what makes you feel comfortable. Bring someone to support you. Take yourself out for ice cream or lunch afterward. Give yourself a pep talk beforehand with self-compassion and that you’re going as part of your self-care to take care of yourself; knowledge is power. You’ve got this!
Get it on the schedule. Sometimes, the idea of just taking time to call and make an appointment to be put on hold or have to fill out more paperwork can be annoying. Never mind the idea that we have to fit another appointment into our already impossible schedule. So, set a goal to make the phone calls or website visits at a pace that works for you and your to-do list. Maybe you carve out time to get them all scheduled at once. Or maybe you do one provider a week. It’s ok to book out if you need to, as long as its on the books. And if you make multiple visits with a provider, see if you can book multiple appointments at one time. As you’re leaving an appointment, see if you can even book the next one or several appointments at that time- even if it’s several months out.
Adhere to your implementation plan. Whatever information you receive at these appointments, it’s up to you to process and take action at home. This is where a health coach can come into play to help you build habits or follow through on new things.
Model & connect. It’s important to model for others in our lives that going to the doctor is a normal part of life and a way to take care of ourselves. While we don’t always want to bring our kids or co-workers with us, it’s an ok conversation with others letting them know what is going on with your daily life. It’s also something to connect on. When I had a procedure done once, I thought I was the only one who experienced it, and it was isolating. I started sharing with some friends, and I quickly realized it was a lot more common than I thought, which was so helpful.