What do you think of when you hear ‘self-care’? It’s likely that each individual has their own ideas about what this wellbeing practice entails, and there are a number of ways you can introduce a self-care ritual to your own life.
The Self Care Forum says that self-care is “the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others, in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness”.
The actions, therefore, will vary from person to person, but they should all have the same end goal ‒ to positively benefit your mental and physical health.
Some examples of self-care include:
- Practising the prevention of illness
- Adopting good hygiene
- Taking Vitamin D supplements, particularly if you spend a lot of time indoors
- Adopting good nutrition and regular exercise
- Understanding how to manage and cope with both minor and long-term health conditions
- Getting a good night’s sleep
- Taking medication to treat symptoms of an illness, like the common cold.
Self-care has become so important that there’s even a whole week dedicated to it. Run by the Self Care Forum, the idea is that communities, organisations, businesses, schools and more can take part to spread awareness about self-care and hopefully make a difference to people’s lives.
More than 800 organisations and individuals reached millions of people in the UK via the help and resources offered during the awareness week.
With all this in mind, how can you practise self-care to keep your mental and physical health well balanced? It might start at your local pharmacy.
Self-care and pharmacies
Did you know that around 80% of all care in the UK is self-care? Many patients feel that they can treat their own minor ailments and conditions on their own, stopping at a pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter products that can reduce the symptoms of their cold or ease their hay fever, for example. This is particularly the case for tiredness, headaches and joint pain, the three most common complaints in the UK.
Your local pharmacy can be the first port of call when you’re after medication or help and advice. Below, you can find just some of the ways you can look after your own health and practise self-care at a pharmacy.
Have a blood pressure test
Some NHS pharmacies can offer you a blood pressure test. In some cases, this may be free of charge, but may only be available to people over the age of 40. Blood pressure tests are a good way to practise self-care and understand the health of your own body. If you qualify, the test takes around 10 to 15 minutes, and the pharmacist will run through some basic lifestyle queries with you before taking your blood pressure. Depending on the results of the test, they can offer further advice or refer you to a GP.
Seek advice about a minor ailment or concern
Health literacy is a large part of self-care, and the Self Care Forum encourages those taking part in their awareness week to help other people understand how they can manage their long-term health conditions.
Pharmacists are knowledgeable healthcare professionals. In fact, every pharmacist has to train for five years in the use of medicines to ensure they can provide you with the treatment and advice you need. They are trained to manage minor illnesses, so you can speak to your pharmacist about things like:
- Emergency medication
- Pain relief, like paracetamol
- Minor health concerns
- Healthy living questions
- Techniques for using medication, such as using an inhaler
- Medication dosages
The types of minor illnesses you can speak to them about include:
- General aches and pains
- A sore throat
- Colds and the flu
They can also give you additional advice if you’re starting on a new medication to treat asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Get over-the-counter medication and treatment
Not only can a pharmacist provide you with advice, but they can also give you over-the-counter medication or treatment to cure or improve the symptoms of your minor ailment. Examples include creams to treat athlete's foot, burns, skin conditions and rashes or tablets to help toothache, coughs, colds, travel sickness and sprains.
You can also get products such as the contraceptive pill from your pharmacy. Some pills are available over the counter, instead of on prescription, meaning you no longer need to book a doctor’s appointment.
Get advice about smoking or vaping cessation
Self-care isn’t necessarily just about taking measures that can benefit your health ‒ it’s also about removing the substances or habits that can have a negative impact on your health. This can include quitting smoking, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, being vaccinated for certain illnesses, like COVID-19 and the flu, etc.
A pharmacist can offer help and advice should you wish to give up vaping or smoking. You may have been referred to a pharmacy based programme by your GP or from hospital. The programme usually consists of regular face-to-face meetings at the pharmacy or phone consultations, and they may review or amend your nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), too. Such meetings would last for up to 12 weeks and the programme is thought to increase participant quit rates in the first year by 11%.
There are more ways a pharmacist can help you with self-care, so don’t be afraid to go and speak to someone about your concerns. Even if they’re not able to help you, they will always point you in the direction of someone who can, whether this be a sexual health clinic, a GP, a support group or other.