What is your approach to health and life in general?
Most of us use the R-and-R approach (and neither R stands for rest or relaxation).
The first R is our everyday mode: routine.
We settle into our daily patterns of doing and thinking.
Most of us wake up at the same time each morning, eat the same breakfast and go to school or work along the same route. During the day, we’ll have our usual type of lunch and follow a well-worn pattern of activity.
Our activities become so practiced that we often act inattentively. That’s how we can watch a YouTube while eating and check our text messages while walking. In fact, turning to our smartphones has become a reflex when we’re in an elevator or waiting for an appointment or class to start.
Smokers may reach for a cigarette and light up without much conscious thought. We might find ourselves snacking on junk food while watching TV.
Routine is fine if our habits of thought and action foster personal wellbeing. Examples include beginning and ending each day with thoughts of gratitude, greeting each person with a smile and kind word, and enjoying healthy meals.
But the R of routine can turn into a rut.
If we are habitually thinking negative thoughts at work, remembering the things we dislike in others and replay our bad experiences, we can get stuck in anger or unhappiness. We won’t be open to the positives in our day. This is like walking through a beautiful park but only seeing a smartphone screen.
The second R is our crisis mode: reactive.
When the unexpected happens – accident, illness or a relationship crisis, we are startled, shaken and reactive, and because are never fully prepared, we can feel overwhelmed.
This is how most people approach their own healthcare. We end up going to the emergency department when we suffer a heart attack or stroke. We see our family physicians when we’re sick or troubled by the symptoms of illness.
This is completely appropriate, but could we reduce the incidence or delay the onset of many serious conditions by being more proactive and conscious with our self-care?
We know we can. Consider the two components of your personal healthcare: 1. your self-care – how you live each day, and 2. professional healthcare – the support you receive from healthcare providers including your family physician.
The four foundations of self-care are (1) what you eat (and other things you put into your body), (2) what you do (physical activity), (3) how you feel (how you manage your emotions) and (4) how you relate (how you attend to your relationships).
Use your healthcare team to support preventive and proactive care. Share your values and goals with your family physician, and ask what you can do to prevent illness and foster greater wellbeing. Are you due for any screening tests? How is your blood pressure? What can you do to improve your diet and level of physical activity?
As a family physician, I love to support my patients in the pursuit of their positive potentials. It’s an investment in future health and happiness.
Today, examine your routines. Do they help or hinder your wellbeing? What small change could improve your life? What are you investing today towards your future self?
On Oct. 4, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., I’m giving a free public talk at the Tommy Douglas branch of the Burnaby Public Library on “What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure.” As seating is limited, please register by phone at (604) 522-3971, or in person at any Burnaby Public Library.
This presentation is provided by Burnaby Public Library in collaboration with the Burnaby Divisions of Family Practice.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at www.davidicuswong.wordpress.com.