Seven Steps To Advocate For Your Health
Ever feel like an aggressive driver? Chalk it up to years living in Los Angeles. In LA, if you don’t drive fast enough, if you don’t run the yellow, and if you don’t get out of the way you WILL get the bird from other drivers. Or dangerously cut off. So I prefer to think of myself as an assertive driver.
I also like to think of myself as an assertive person - especially when it comes to health. After years as a nurse and a patient, I’ve seen both sides of the curtain. As a nurse, I really need my clients' honesty so I can see the full picture. And as a patient, I really need my healthcare providers to answer my questions so I can make the best decisions for my health. This is where partnership comes in.
In my moments of weakness, I tell myself: To learn the answer you have to ask. To ask you have to speak. To speak to someone you got to get the damn doctor on the phone.
Jesus said the same thing. Or something like it.
More likely than not, you are the only person who can advocate for you. You’re also the best person to advocate for you. Why? Because you know yourself the best! So here are seven tips to advocate for your health:
1. Listen to your body. I’ve said this before. And I’m sure I’ll say it again and again. Only because it’s so, SO important. You know your body the best. So listen to it. Honor it. Advocating for your health doesn’t start in the doctor’s office. Advocating for your health starts in your body, how you listen to it, and how you treat it. When you get a splitting migraine every time you drink five vodka Redbulls, listen to your body. When you get diarrhea after a midnight milkshake, listen to your damn body. It’s talking.
2. Write down your questions. This is especially important before appointments or if you suffer from chronic conditions. Chances are, even if you see a specialist every three months, you’ll think of questions in that ninety day period. And then you'll forget them. So write your questions down. Keep a notepad handy or save a list on your iPhone.
3. Ask a licensed medical professional. Now that you have the list, go through the questions one-by-one with your doctor. Even if your doctor is short-winded, chances are they will appreciate your interest in your health. It may even help them become better educators in the process. Also - going on WebMD does not count as asking your doctor. Yes, the internet is great. Yes, it provides unlimited education to the average person. But is reading about riding a bike the same thing as actually riding a bike? The same is true for diagnosing. Leave the diagnostic process to the licensed professional. And if you come across helpful tools in your WebMD journey - that’s great! Share your findings with your doctor and grab a second opinion if you don’t feel heard. I always tell my clients: if your doctor isn’t listening, it’s time to find a new doctor.
4. Do your body good. This is so important. The best way to advocate for your health is to do so before you end up in the hospital or doctor's office. Take care of your body in the here-and-now. Preventative care really does matter. While no one can escape death (except maybe Austin Powers), there are many health issues that can be avoided or treated with lifestyle changes: preventable cancers, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and infections. Don’t just own your body later, when it’s worn down and tired. Own and love your body now.
5. Value your values. Everybody has values. They make look different. But we all have them. Get into the why behind your lifestyle choices. Maybe feeling confident in a bikini is very important to you. Good! Now use that as motivation when advocating for yourself! Or maybe you could care less about Baywatch, but want to be active with your kids as they grow older. Focusing on why your health matters puts some oomph behind your daily health decisions.
6. Think outside the box. When training at Duke Integrative Medicine for health coaching, an odd example kept coming up in conversation. The example involved Mary, who’s goal was to lose ten pounds. Mary’s first action step towards her goal was to exercise four days per week. But she just could not get it done. Until Mary realized that she felt miserable and dusty exercising in her cramped, crowded garage. So Mary thought outside of the box and decided to clean out her garage before even trying to work out. Once her garage was cleared, she felt comfortable working out at home, which helped her achieve her goal. Who would have thought that cleaning out her garage would be the first pivotal step in her health journey? Not me! So think outside the box. Switch it up. Maybe even partner with a health coach to work on the process together.
7. Connect with others. Almost nothing is more isolating than feeling alone with health issues. Chronic conditions and illnesses emotionally isolate, but also physically isolate! So connect with people who support you, who ask how you're doing. Even better, connect with others who need that same support from you. By connecting with others facing similar difficulties, you can both receive and provide support, you can swap health tips, and you can see you’re really not alone in this.
Interested in learning more about how you can advocate for your health in everyday life? Contact me to learn more about working with me!