Self-care is a term that we often see banded around in lifestyle magazines and across our socials, but what does it really mean?

Sunday 24th July 2022 is International Self-Care Day, and in November this year the UK has a whole week dedicated to it, so it must be important right? In this blog we look at the meaning of self-care, why it’s important, and how you can embrace it.

 

What does self-care mean?

According to the UK’s Self Care Forum, the definition of 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.

In other words, it’s the choices people make, the actions they take, and the lifestyle they adopt to stay healthy both physically and mentally.

When scrolling through your Instagram, you may see your favourite celebrity influencers relaxing in a spa or rocking the tree pose at hot yoga, captioning the popular hashtag #selfcaresunday. As a result, self-care has become synonymous with luxury treats, but the reality is there is a much broader purpose than self-indulgence.

Self-care can be measured on a continuum, and whilst massages and yoga sit at one end of the continuum - alongside brushing your teeth, eating a healthy diet, and other individually managed daily choices, it also covers:

  • minor ailments such as coughs and colds that you can treat with over-the-counter medicines
  • long-term conditions that involve self-administered medication
  • in-hospital care and the actions you take when recovering from major trauma.

The NHS currently supports people at any point along the continuum, whether that be advice and guidance, the supply of prescription meds, or medical intervention.

Why is self-care important?

The increasing pressure on the NHS is no secret. From the Covid-19 pandemic to the shortage of healthcare professionals, the NHS is struggling to meet demand in GP surgeries, A&E departments, and with pre-planned surgeries.

Recent figures show:

  • There are now 1,737 fewer fully qualified full-time GP’s compared to 2015
  • GP practices have on average 2,057 more patients each than in 2015
  • There are now just 0.45 fully qualified GP’s per 1,000 patients in England
  • There are 57 million GP consultations a year for minor ailments at a total cost to the NHS of £2 billion.
  • As of April 2022, the NHS waiting list was at a record high of 6.5 million patients

Practicing self-care encourages us to look after ourselves when we can, and only utilise the NHS when we need to. It can be hard to know when to self-care and when to access professional advice and if in doubt it should always be the latter, however this doesn’t always have to be a GP.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw pharmacies become the gateway to the NHS. As people struggled to get a GP appointment, pharmacists and their teams were able to use their clinical knowledge and expertise to help people manage their health. If you are feeling unwell, a pharmacist may be able to help you in the first instance, by making recommendations on how you can self-care, providing access to medicines that are available to buy over the counter, or making a referral to another healthcare professional.

Lovima's parent company, Maxwellia, is further supporting the concept of self-care. A pioneering British company with the interest of the UK’s population at heart, Maxwellia identify prescription medicines that meet an unmet healthcare need in society. By following a rigorous process called ‘switching’, these medicines are then made available to buy over the counter following a short conversation with a pharmacist (just like Lovima®). This process helps people look after themselves without the need for a doctor’s appointment and prescription, empowering them to self-care.

How can I self-care?

The likelihood is you are already practicing self-care through your daily lifestyle choices. Some of the most common forms of self-care include:

  • Maintaining good oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day
  • Exercising daily for at least 30 minutes
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Following a regular sleep cycle

Whilst these may seem like simple things, they can play a role in the prevention of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease – so they are worth doing!

Other ways that you can self-care and help to reduce the pressure on the NHS include:

  • Managing minor-ailments at home or via your pharmacy – such as coughs, colds, and mild skin conditions
  • Using the NHS website or app to make informed decisions around your symptoms and when you might need to make a GP appointment
  • Staying up to date with cervical screenings, mammograms, vaccinations, or scheduled health checks
  • Checking yourself for lumps or changes to moles, and making sure you seek medical advice if you notice anything unusual
  • Avoid smoking, using recreational drugs, and limit your alcohol intake.

You can find out more about International Self Care Day from the International Self-Care Foundation or follow them on Twitter @ISFglobal.

 

Sources:

https://www.selfcareforum.org/about-us/what-do-we-mean-by-self-care-and-why-is-good-for-people/

https://isfglobal.org/what-is-self-care/

https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/nhs-delivery-and-workforce/pressures/pressures-in-general-practice-data-analysis

https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/nhs-delivery-and-workforce/pressures/nhs-backlog-data-analysis#:~:text=More%20patients%20than%20ever%20are%20waiting%20for%20treatment&text=The%20latest%20figures%20for%20April,far%20higher%20than%20pre%2DCOVID

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