Six years of working with people in the NHS as a Social Prescribing Link Worker and my personal health experience has taught me how we can take more control of our own health.
You don’t need to accept that this is it
You may have been given a clear diagnosis or explanation for your health condition, or perhaps you suffer with unexplained symptoms. I would recommend being respectful of any medical diagnosis and it’s implications, but I’ve seen too many people see this as an end point, when really it’s just the start.
For example, some people think or have been told, well I’ve got (x) condition and this means (x, y and z) “I guess I’ll just have to live with that”. There may be some truth here, but we also know that people experience very similar conditions in very different ways, and each person’s journey with that condition is completely unique, and may lead to very different outcomes. There are also many stories of people overcoming their health challenges in ways they didn’t think were possible at the time of diagnosis, including my own!
If you feel “this is it” and have resigned yourself to a certain level of wellbeing due to a health condition, I would encourage you to look beyond your diagnosis and believe that creating greater wellbeing is possible in any situation. Start by improving your daily experience WITH the condition, in small steps, and you never know what level of health you can achieve.
You can take the lead
When something ‘goes wrong’ with our physical or mental health and we do not have the expertise to solve it for ourselves, we seek medical advice. The one thing we want is solutions to get rid of our problems. This is sensible! Though, sometimes health isn’t ‘black and white’ and the solutions offered may not be what we’d hoped for, or even non-existent.
Commonly, people will keep going back to their GP or healthcare professional, time and time again, hoping that one day they will get the answer they are looking for. I’ve been there! But, for many this can feel disempowering and lead to feelings of distress, or exacerbate anxiety or depression.
It is important to remember that whilst you may certainly need to seek advice, you also spend 24 hours each day with yourself and in one way, you are the expert on your health. You are in charge of behaviours or habits impacting your wellbeing, you can decide to seek second opinions, or to learn and educate yourself about your condition. You can consider looking for alternative health approaches and you can keep believing there are solutions that haven’t been found yet.
Life changing information is out there
Whilst the established pathways that begin at the gate of the GP, remain essential, there is also a world of wellbeing out there to support us. Some of the globes best health information, products and services are now available at our fingertips.
Whether it’s a credible podcast by a renowned health expert, a book full of evidence based wellness advice or an online condition specific community, we can access guidance on practically any health subject. In addition, we can attend classes, watch videos or learn from known leaders in the health space, who are sharing their own stories and expertise via social media. We can even order a blood test to our front door or consult with a therapist online. There are science backed apps for mental health and chronic pain and wearable devices that track various aspects of our health. Some of this costs but much of it is free! Most importantly we can connect, with people who may be going through a similar situation to us and ultimately feel less alone.
Healthcare is changing. Preventing illness is part of the NHS long term plan and Social Prescribing has begun to support people to access community groups and services, outside of their GP practice. Simultaneously and with the advancement of technology, wellness is a booming 3 trillion dollar industry. Although we must exercise caution, more than ever, we can access additional resources to help us take charge of wellbeing, giving us so much power when it comes to solving our own health problems.