By Dr. Alexis Peraino, Board Certified Internist and AMEC Member
Health and wellness are more than just exercising, eating well, or taking supplements. They are part of an individualized lifestyle approach to taking care of ourselves, doing things to preserve our health and help prevent or manage chronic disease. The path is different for everyone as we take stock of our own health and habits to find the best way to feel well and promote long-term wellness. Start with the basics:
Identify your personal health and wellness goals.
Do you want to sleep better, run a marathon, lose weight, go vegan, quit smoking, become more fit, get better control of a long-standing medical condition, or focus on prevention of a disease that runs in your family? Take some time to figure out what is important to you, find one goal or several, and give yourself time to meet those goals. Some of these goals could take months to accomplish and that is ok. Significant life changes take time and planning so that you can manage small setbacks and ensure long-term success.
Get an annual physical exam.
Baseline screening allows for a good starting point to better monitor your progress objectively. What are your risk factors for disease based on family history and current habits? An annual exam allows you and your physician to focus on a full review of your history, medications, and supplements, as well as an opportunity to complete age-appropriate screenings and set realistic goals for health and disease prevention.
Find the right physician for YOU.
Primary care physicians are important because they are your first line of access to establishing optimal healthcare when it is needed. This can be a family practice physician or an internal medicine physician who takes care of you for annual exams as well as acute illnesses. You should be able to call them with questions and/or concerns so that you feel you have an ally as you focus on disease prevention, especially in our new world of Covid-19. A primary care physician is the manager of your healthcare. You want a physician that you can talk to about your health and wellness goals, so they can provide guidance and encouragement as well as additional resources when needed. Find a healthcare provider with whom you can build a relationship with based on honesty and trust.
Focus on one major goal at a time.
Once you have established your new wellness plan, start with an important goal and aim for small changes that are realistic. When starting an exercise program – start with adding small amounts of activity per day and build upon it over several weeks and months. It’s OK if you encounter small set-backs – long term change requires thoughtful planning and does not require perfection. Sometimes you might not be able to meet your goal, but starting again the next day is important. We all know things can happen that are out of our control, so we need to be patient with ourselves and focus on the end result. It takes time to set up new habits and routines, be kind to yourself as you start a new wellness path.
- Use the resources around you for support – your physician, friends, a partner, an app on your phone, or a support group. Studies show that when you have a support group or network around you, your chance for change significantly improves. Having a cheerleader to encourage and support you is important and improves your chance for success. Still wondering how to get started? Take the Alurx wellness quiz and start planning https://alurxwellness.com/#wellness-navigator.
Health and Wellness can take many forms. Start by evaluating your own health and wellness habits to determine if you need to make changes. Wellness can be physical, emotional, social, spiritual, or intellectual – so pick one area to start with that will help you feel, work, and live better. Once you accomplish one goal you will have the confidence to set the next goal.