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The best person to look after your day-to-day health and wellbeing is… you.

That’s the thrust of Self Care Week 2017, which runs from November 13th to 19th and this year has the theme of “Embracing Self Care for Life”.

The week-long initiative recognises that more needs to be done to support people to better look after their own health. It seeks to empower people to self-care, which has been shown to have significant short-term and long-term health benefits, and is especially important now that people are living longer than ever before.

Enabling people to look after their own health, and that of other family members, also helps reduce pressure on mainstream health services. A large part of self-care revolves around successfully managing health conditions and taking proactive steps to prevent illness or poor levels of wellbeing, such as maintaining a healthy weight and making positive lifestyle choices.

Self Care week also embraces mental wellbeing, recognising it is just as important as the physical side of a person’s health. Again, there is a lot that can be done to enable people to better manage their own mental wellbeing. Organised by the Self Care Forum, the key messages of this year’s Self Care Week include:

  • Understanding how to be healthy for all your life
  • Enabling self care from cradle to grave
  • Understanding how to self care for the important people in your life
  • And making self care a lifelong habit.

Hilary Garratt, Director of Nursing in NHS England, explained the importance of self care, not least as we go into winter. She said: “When I visit front line services, I regularly see the challenges and pressures that staff face across the NHS.

“Nurses, GPs, Consultants and many other NHS professionals work hard throughout the year and I know it’s particularly challenging over winter. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness about the importance of self care and provide information and advice so people can manage their own health needs where possible.”

Dr Pete Smith, co-chairman of the Self Care Forum, added: “It’s about helping everyone take care of themselves, not just those living with long-term conditions. Self care is nothing less than actions to lead to a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.”

Pritti Mehta, NHS England’s lead for self care, said: “We are supporting 25,000 people to manage their conditions through the New Care Models programme, building their skills, knowledge and confidence to take greater control of their health and wellbeing through tailored health coaching or self-management education.

“Four in 10 people with long-term conditions don’t feel they have the ability to manage their own health and care. It’s crystal clear – we need to do more to support people to self care – by systematically implementing what works.”

One key message of Self Care Week is for people to make better use of their local pharmacists – the ‘health professional in the High Street’ – both to manage their long-term health conditions and seek advice over common ailments. Doing this has the added benefit of alleviating stress on GP surgeries and A&E Departments, especially at busy periods such as Christmas.

Other key messages being promoted this week include making sure you properly read instructions on medicines and heeding warnings about driving or operating machinery if taking certain medicines. The importance of using antibiotics only in cases where they are really necessary, in order to maintain their effectiveness, is also being stressed.

One message which features in Self Care Week every year is to remain as active as you can for as long as you can. No matter how much exercise you can manage, doing it regularly (preferably for at least 30 minutes per day) is proven to have significant and long-term benefits on both physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, you should always exercise within your own limits, starting slowly and building gradually, and, depending on your circumstances, you may need to seek medical advice before beginning a new exercise regime.

• You can find out more about self care by clicking here to visit the Self Care Forum website.

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