The innermost circle represents each of us as unique individuals. We start at the middle saying, “I am the expert on my life, values, goals, and priorities. Only I can know WHY I want my health. Only I can know what really matters to ME. And this knowledge needs to be what drives my health and my healthcare. I am the most important person when it comes to making choices that influence my health and well-being. I am the leader of my team, and my medical team professionals are some of the invited players.”
Examples of the types of services Veterans can access and use to support this area include (but are not limited to):
- What REALLY matters to you in your life?
- What do you want your health for?
- What is your vision of your best possible health?
Mindfulness is being fully aware, or paying attention. Sometimes, we go through our daily lives on autopilot. We are not fully aware of the present. We often dwell on the past and plan events in the future. We do not spend much time really paying attention and noticing what is happening right now; without judging or trying to fix it. Your body and mind send you signals constantly. If your attention is elsewhere, you don’t notice. Then, the signals that began as whispers become loud warnings. For example, when you miss the whispers of an early discomfort or a sad feeling, you miss the opportunity to make a change before it grows into real pain or depression. Being mindful, or aware, allows you to make conscious proactive choices about every aspect of your health. Mindfulness connects you to each component of your well-being, and to your whole self.
The Eight Areas of Self-Care
Self-care is often the most important factor in living a healthy life, which in turn allows you to live your life fully, in the ways that matter to you. Self-care includes all the choices you make on a daily basis that affect your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In fact, how you take care of yourself will have a greater impact on your health and well-being than the medical care you receive. Evidence shows that each of these eight areas of self-care contributes a great deal to your overall health and well-being. They can also affect your chances for developing diseases as well as the seriousness of that disease. Consider your values, lifestyle, habits, and motivations in each area. Taking stock of where you are now and where you want to be in each of these areas is the first step in living a healthier life.
- Moving the Body “Energy & Flexibility” –> Exercise/movement gives you energy and strength. Movement can make you more flexible. Exercise/movement is also good for your mind. Regular exercise/movement can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. Examples of exercise and movement include walking, gardening, dancing, or lifting weights. It’s important to find what works for you. Moving the body can include: yoga or tai chi. It can also include increasing your activity by parking further away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Surroundings “Physical & Emotional” –> Your environment can affect your health. This includes considering where you live and who you live with. Is your home peaceful or chaotic? Do you live in a safe or unsafe environment? What aspects of your environment can you influence and change and what aspects do you not have control of? So, safety may be a challenge for you, or it could be other things in your environment like clutter, noise, bad smells, poor lighting, or water quality. Again, you may be able to change some of these problems, and not able to change others. It starts with paying attention to the influences of your environment on your life and health. Improve what you can. It’s good to have a safe, comfortable, and healthy space.
- Personal Development “Personal Life & Work Life” –> No matter where you are in life, your personal and work life are very important. How do you spend your time and energy during the day? Do things give you energy or make your tired? Do you spend time doing what matters most to you? How do you feel about your finances and how they’re affecting your life? Maybe you’ve thought of how you might like to volunteer to support others during the pandemic? These factors affect not only your happiness, but also your health. Self-care might include taking a course that you’ve always wanted to take. Perhaps volunteering? Maybe you have an interest in learning a different language, taking a painting course, or learning to play an instrument?
- Food and Drink “Nourishing & Fueling” –> What you eat and drink can nourish your body and mind and have a tremendous effect on your health and well-being. Choose healthy eating habits that fit your lifestyle. Certain supplements can support your health goals. Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Keep your body and mind properly fueled. What we take into our bodies… What our diet consists of or doesn’t include… How mindful are we of how foods impact our health, our mood, our energy?
- Recharge “Sleep & Refresh” –> Sleep is very important for your body and mind. Rest can give you peace. Relaxation can lower stress. Activities you enjoy can help you feel recharged. A good balance between activity and rest improves your health and wellbeing. How do we use our time to unwind? Do we engage in relaxing hobbies? Do we get sufficient sleep each night?
- Family, Friends, and Coworkers “Relationships” –> Feeling alone can sometimes make you get sick or keep you sick. Positive social relationships are healthy. A healthy intimate relationship with a life partner can be a source of strength. It’s good to talk to people who care about you and listen to you. Who is our support system? Is it our family? Do we have people in our lives who are supportive?
- Spirit and Soul “Growing & Connecting” –> A sense of meaning and purpose in life is important to many people. When things are hard, where do your turn for strength and comfort? Some people turn to spiritual or religious faith. Some people find comfort in nature. Some connect with art, music, or prefer quiet time alone. Some want to help others. You may express this as a guide to living fully. Connection to ourselves and the world around us. What feeds us spiritually? How are we connected to others? With nature? Music?
- Power of the Mind “Relaxing & Healing” –> Your mind can affect your body. Sometimes when you think about stressful things, your heart rate and blood pressure go up. You can use the power of your mind to lower blood pressure or control pain. Learn to use the connection between your body, brain, and mind. Warriors and athletes use the power of the mind to visualize a successful mission or event. Mind-body practices tap into the power of the mind to heal and cope, and can help us advance what we want most in life. How we think, and how we see the world.
Prevention and treatment of illness or disease and traditional and complementary medicine are part of professional care. Preventive care includes things like immunizations and cancer screening. Common treatments include checkups, medicines, supplements, physical therapy, surgery, and counseling. Complementary medicine includes approaches like acupuncture and mind-body therapies. It is important to stay current with your personal care plan for health and well-being.
The outer ring represents your community. For some, their community is close by and for others it is far way. Your community is more than the places where you live, work, and worship. It includes all the people and groups you connect with; who rely on you and upon whom you rely.