Friday, January 18, 2013

Put on Your Life Ring!

As many of us are discovering, a large part of our health and well-being depends on our self-care -- the health choices that we make every day.  Self-care encompasses a wide range of choices – from where we choose to put our attention and our energy, to our eating habits, or perhaps how we relate to others, manage risks, and use health care resources.  The good news is that over 50% of chronic disease can be prevented based on the choices we make.  The bad news is that we may feel overwhelmed and unprepared to take on the responsibility of managing our self-care effectively.

As a nurse practitioner and a health coach, it is my joy and passion to assist people in taking on their self-care in a proactive and powerful way.   Becoming an expert in your own self-care is a journey that involves increasing knowledge, deepening self-awareness, building skills, and taking action.  It’s a lot of work – exhilarating work – but work nonetheless!  To support those who are embarking on this journey, I’m beginning a series of blog posts that will offer resources on various aspects of self-care.  These posts are based on my program, Supporting Optimal Self-Care (SOS) for Life, and I hope that you will find them helpful.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed – like you were drowning and having trouble keeping your head above water with all the demands of life?  You are not alone!  In our busy culture, it seems that this feeling is becoming more common.  We are constantly being exposed to new information and new expectations, and it can feel hard to “keep up.”  Unfortunately, when we are faced with challenges, most of us are inclined to work harder and faster, which often only adds to our stress and overwhelm.

The metaphor of “drowning” suggests a powerful solution.  When we’re “in over our heads”, we need a Life Ring  (or life preserver) to keep us afloat.  Without this additional support, we risk having a bad outcome.  When we feel overwhelmed, what is the Life Ring that helps you keep your head above water? 

For me, the Duke Wheel of Health is a great visual tool to accompany the idea of a “Life Ring”.  This model depicts a comprehensive view of different aspects of self-care and professional care that relate to our health and well-being.  I invite you to consider using it as a way to support your health journey! 

Too often, when we are overwhelmed, our self-care goes out the window.  We may stop exercising, fail to get enough rest, eat poorly, ignore our body signals  -- you get the picture.  My experience is that, in order to address stress effectively, we need to increase our level of self-care to help us through the challenges!  The Wheel of Health reminds us that well-being begins with paying attention to what we need and taking appropriate actions in different areas of self-care and professional care to get our needs met.

As you consider the Wheel of Health, I invite you to think about what self-care strategies are most helpful for you when life gets challenging.  Then, the next time you feel yourself “drowning”, remember to put on your Life Ring!

Your well-being begins with YOU!

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