Self-care 101: Navigating Your Body and Primary Care

Since my mid-20s, I’ve made it a primary goal to take charge of my health and be more self-advocating.  As a long-time endurance athlete, I cannot stress enough the importance of making your overall health a priority – whether you’re an athlete (though ESPECIALLY if you are an athlete) or a middle-aged professional desk jockey, looking to complete your first couch to 5k.  Once I reached 26, I was on too many prescriptions to count and still felt like death warmed over.  Sorry, but a 26-year-old should feel anything but lethargic and just all around poopie.  Luckily, thanks to my sister, I was introduced to a couple physicians that eventually changed my life and health dramatically.  And for that, I am extremely grateful!  Slowly I began educating myself, asking questions of my physician and nursing team and started to learn what it meant to be my own healthcare advocate!  Not every doctor knows everything – medicine after all is half art, half science and doctors, like us, are just human!  I grew so tired of seeing a doctor for less than 5 minutes, being handed a prescription with little or no reason as to why I was taking it and sent on my way.  I started to understand these drugs were like ‘band-aids’ – treating symptoms instead of root cause(s).  That just isn’t right and no one, no matter your age, should take that as the answer.  However, it is up to every person to take charge of their health just as they do with their fitness.  So, I hope this edition of VibeOn helps guide you and/or provide ideas and options you didn’t realize were available or what the heck they even are, never mind what they do!  

Primary Care

Each individual should see their provider at least annually for a full physical – and I mean FULL – inside and out!  If you’re about to embark on your first Iroman journey, for example, the amount of stress this puts on your body is TREMENDOUS!  You should absolutely consult your physician, let them know what you’re taking on and progress with a complete physical and mental overhaul.  So many people are out their living with hidden, underlying conditions.  This is not to be taken lightly or scare you, but rather, educate you.  Typically, every race, you’ll hear about or read of emergency rescues out of the water or bike wrecks ending in a ride to the nearest emergency room.  They’re inevitable in the sport of triathlon.  If you have even an ounce of ability to prevent any additional ailments from happening during an ironman trek, I cannot stress enough to, as Nike says, JUST DO IT.  This is where you start to really learn your body – inside and out.  Listening to its feedback daily, whether you’re training for a triathlon or not, is so key to a healthy lifestyle.  So, my main message:  GO TO THE DOCTOR!  But first, let me tell you about HOW to prepare to communicate with your provider and take full advantage of your visits.  It isn’t, nor should it be, just about ‘take two of these and call me in the morning” anymore.   

By now, most of you have some sort of primary care provider selected.  Whether you know them by first name or not, or even what they look like will vary person to person.   Personally, I know my entire primary care provider staff and full care team by first name.  I am lucky enough to have a husband and wife team, Dave and Anne Stewart, as my physicians (www.lhhp.com).  Granted, I pay for this first-name basis relationship as they’re a concierge practice.  By this I mean I pay out of pocket for a membership and services vs. picking one out of a catalog the size of the yellow pages.  Personally, I demand this level of personal attention from my entire care team because I’ve made it a priority.  Additionally, my physician practice is an integrated and holistic one – providing traditional western medicine when needed, but more wholly, and also combined with a more holistic approach.  Does everyone need to do this or are they even able – NO.  But that doesn’t mean you must take your current provider(s) at their word without asking questions, demanding they provide detailed information about what they’re prescribing, what protocol(s) they’re following, etc.  It is your right and everyone should absolutely take advantage of that.  This level of care is what I demand and, of course, pay for monthly.  I am very fortunate and I know not everyone is able to afford this level of care – and guess what – that’s ok!  Every doctor and care provider out there has taken an oath to do nothing short of provide the best care they’re able.  If you feel you aren’t getting that high level, then voice it!  It doesn’t matter if it is a small concierge practice you consider ‘family’ or one that has thousands of patients aged 1-99!  YOU are your best advocate, not the clinician.  Remember, as mentioned above, doctors and other providers are human too, they are just as tired as you, maybe even more so.  If they don’t tell you one thing or another about a certain medication they’re prescribing, for example, that doesn’t mean it may not be important or pertinent to your treatment.  They forget things too!  A little reminder I like to do before each appointment is to make a list – one with questions, how I’m feeling or what I’m seeing them for, etc.  This helps remind me as well as ask the doctor/provider about details they might otherwise simply overlook or not even think about.  A simple post-it (hey, that’s why they were invented, right?) will do – try it next time you have an appointment and let me know how it goes.  

Integrated/holistic vs. Traditional Western Medicine:  What does it mean and how is it different?  

Simply put – integrated/holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions – in the quest for optimal health and wellness.  According to holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health – the primary goal of holistic medicine practice – by gaining proper balance in life.  After reading that initially, I just sat back and said YEEESSSSS!  Why wouldn’t we all want that?  A multitude of reasons I’m sure come up for most, such as “I don’t have time” or “I don’t know what that even is”.  My doctors are both MDs, not some google educated freaks who decided to set up shop and sell voodoo out of a back room.  Admit it, some of you envision this, don’t you?  I was a skeptic initially too but as I started to come out of my ‘prescription drug fog’, that sealed the deal.  Does that mean I and my doctors don’t ever rely on western medicine?  NOPE, not at all true.  Balance is the key to life, and practicing medicine is no different.  I’ve gone through many antibiotic rounds for my Lyme disease as eastern and holistic treatment protocols just weren’t effective – FOR ME.  Other folks, those optional or alternative protocols work just fine.  Medicine is trial and error, art and science, an individualized treatment balance.  Sense a trend here?  One doctor or clinician isn’t all knowing either – which is why you’ll find specialists for this ailment and others for that ailment.  I’ve spent the last 15 years connecting with and educating myself (another important word here throughout this write up – EDUCATE) through multiple clinicians and their practices.   Some provide general internal medicine, some poke you with a hundred needles using acupuncture to cure what ails you, and others teach yoga and meditation, providing you instruction on how to come down from your fast paced, highly digitally focused day.  

So now that you have an introduction on how to become your own healthcare advocate, I will continue to cover how to incorporate self-advocating and overall self-care into your daily lives and training regimens!  Learning to listen and read your body is key to daily health, no matter if you’re a 9-5 desk jockey, stay at home mom, or a full-time professional athlete.  Stay tuned for the next volume of VibeON: Self-care 101 coming soon. We will continue to discuss pealing the layers of this healthcare ‘onion’ and learn how to lead our best and healthiest lives possible!

Thanks for tuning in!  Stay healthy and as always – VibeOn! 

Tiffany 

One thought on “Self-care 101: Navigating Your Body and Primary Care

  1. What a great article! So much valuable information for people. I agree that it is so important to be an advocate for yourself and to have a full spectrum care team.
    I will be 49 next month and I am feeling the quagginess {is that a word} of not moving enough. So thank you for the inspiration to move my body more! I have a long life to live and I want it to be comfortable.

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