July 24 is International Self-Care Day, an annual event. What exactly is self-care? It is defined as the decisions people make and the actions they take to prevent illness or improve their state of health when they are sick.
According to the International Self-Care Foundation, self-care includes the following seven pillars:
1. Health literacy
In order to make smart choices about our health, we have to be able to find, understand, evaluate and interpret medical information. Don’t hesitate to speak to your healthcare professionals if you have any questions to help you understand your treatments!
2. Self-awareness and motivation to act
We can have a lot of medical knowledge, but if we don’t recognize our own needs or aren’t motivated to change a situation (e.g. quitting smoking), this knowledge will be useless.
3. Physical activity
Numerous studies have shown that being physically active can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and dementia. The World Health Organization (WHO) and many other learned societies recommend that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc.) most days of the week.
4. Healthy eating
A poor diet is one of the biggest risk factors to our health. Self-care therefore includes improving our diet, for example by eating a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods.
5. Risk avoidance or mitigation
When it comes to health, there are various measures you can take to reduce your risk, such as getting vaccinated. You can also reduce your risk of injury by making a habit of wearing a helmet when cycling or skiing, for example.
6. Good personal hygiene
The most important hygiene measure is to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. This simple habit greatly reduces the risk of spreading viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
7. Proper use of healthcare products and services
In order to get the most out of our healthcare services, it’s important to use them properly. For example, make sure to respect the dosage of any medication prescribed to you (do not take more, or less, than what the doctor prescribed) and speak to your pharmacist before taking an over-the-counter medication, to make sure it is suitable for you.
By integrating these seven pillars of self-care, you are doing your part to stay healthy or get healthier!