Self-Care: The Pillars of Health

Self-care can be a set of tools, habits, behaviors, and practices that perhaps started when someone taught you. Who are your teachers, your role models, your “influencers”? I spend time interacting with holistic lifestyle medical providers on our educational networks, and these providers enjoy, overall, very good health.I also spend time with individuals suffering with chronic pain, or function loss, my patients. And as we all age, we experience loss, it is inevitable, with challenges to our physical functions, as well as bereavements.

I just tore my ACL and MCL and have had to slow down, walk with a brace and striding poles, and an MRI last nite poked my claustrophobia bear. Injuries are teachers. Emotional awareness, stress management, and allowing time for rest and recovery are key parts of self-care, and I blew it for a few days trying to do too much and flaring up my knee. So I have had to reflect, re boot, and use the pillars of health to get back to feeling better. Here are the 6 pillars of health recognized in Lifestyle Medicine:

  1. Nutrition: Whole food plant-based nutrition, ie eating well.
  2. Exercise:Exercising within my limits to not flare my knee, walking flat vs hills with the brace on.
  3. Stress management: finding and accepting help (Medical and Social networks, support!), Meditation: Feeling the current state of moods, emotions, cognition, and deciding to shift to focus on all that is present and good, and hope for the future. Awareness of your breath, body tension, and engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy or other practices can help to develop insight and emotional resiliency.
  4. Avoiding “risky substances“: I am not a smoker or drug user but it is easy to want another one or two glasses of wine with dinner. Alcohol is a “risky substance” for women if used daily, or often consuming more than 2-3 drinks, now considered “binge drinking”!
  5. Good sleep: Restorative Sleep. Cycling through light, REM, and deep sleep. Waking refreshed, ready to begin the day, and not feeling the need for a big nap mid-day.
  6. Social connection: Friends, community connections, enjoying work and play with others, feeling needed, valued in the community, supported, appreciated, and involved. Research into “blue zones” where people live into their elder years with the best health worldwide points to social support networks as the strongest factor in wellness and longevity.

July 24 is Self-Care Day, Look at the list above and consider where you could shift a habit towards improved self-care. To be candid, I have had some challenges with nutrition and gained weight (apple shape!) in the past 3 weeks by less exercise (I typically walk 25 miles/wk), I forced my knee range of motion and strained as I tried some deep squats and lunges without the brace, pushing it and felt a pivot-shift strain, felt sleep deprivation by staying up too late watching some so-so tv, drinking 2 glasses of wine, and feeling tired in the am. And try rushing to the bathroom with a painful knee and striding poles, bladder problem! I don’t want to come across as a preachy wellness goddess, seeking optimum health is a daily adventure for all of us. To your peace, and power, and pillars of health!


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