Today marks the start of Self Care Week 2017! Self Care Week is an annual awareness week in the United Kingdom that focuses on establishing support for self care across communities, families and generations. More needs to be done to support people to better look after their own health – including those individuals living with long-term health conditions. Empowering individuals to self care has many benefits for short- and long-term health, as well as helping to manage the demand on health services, particularly during the winter months, so that those who need care the most are able to access it.

Self-Care Week 2017

What is self care?

The Self Care Forum’s 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.”

The self care continuum

continuum

The self care continuum illustrates the sliding scale of self care in the UK, starting with the individual responsibility people take in making daily choices about their lifestyle, such as brushing their teeth, eating healthily and choosing to do exercise.

Moving along the scale, people can often take care of themselves when they have common symptoms such as sore throats, coughs and so on, for example by using over-the-counter medicines. The same is true for long-term conditions where people often self-manage without intervention from a healthcare professional. The Department of Health suggests that people with long-term conditions spend, on average, four hours a year with a healthcare professional, which means that the remaining 8756 hours are spent self-managing.

At the opposite end of the continuum is major trauma, where responsibility for care is entirely in the hands of healthcare professionals, until the start of recovery when self care can begin again.

The National Health Service (NHS) can support people to self care at any point during the continuum.

Embracing self care for life

The theme for 2017 is Embracing self care for life: engaging and empowering people to look after their own health. In the busy world that we live in, it can be easy to forget to give ourselves the time, and indeed the permission, to look after ourselves. This is even more important if you live with long-term conditions. Having an understanding of the services and tools that are available to you can help you to self care for yourself, and those around you. The Self Care Forum that runs the Self Care Week campaign aims to encourage everyone to make self care a lifelong habit.

Some useful tips for self care, from One You Merton, include:

  • Be mindful of yourself, your health and your happiness this winter – it’s easy to wear yourself out so make sure you take time for you;
  • Stay healthy in body and soul by eating well and being active;
  • Your local pharmacist is the health professional on the High Street –they can help with advice on self care for life;
  • Check your health conditions on NHS Choices and know what to do next;
  • For tips on living well, NHS Choices can help;
  • NHS Choices also has advice on long term conditions.

Get involved this week

  • Get involved on social media to raise awareness of any planned activities, as well as communicating key messages. If you are on Twitter, tag @SelfCareForum and use the hashtags #selfcareweek and #selfcareforlife.
  • Join the Self Care Week Tweetchat today (Monday 13 November 2017) from 12pm until 1pm GMT, #SCWChat, with host Pritti Mehta, where we’ll be talking about New Care Models in the UK.
  • Visit the Self Care Forum website, for tons of resources, guidance and information about self care – some are included below!

 

Written by simonrstones

Simon Stones BSc (Hons) is an award-winning patient leader, advocate and researcher from Manchester in the UK, who was the winner of the international WEGO Health Award for Patient Healthcare Collaborator in 2017. He is a passionate advocate and ambassador for people living with invisible illnesses, inspired and empowered by his own journey with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease since childhood. He is currently an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and a trustee of Fibromyalgia Action UK and RAiISE.

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