Back-to-school is looking very different in the midst of our global pandemic. Some students are getting temperature checks at the door; some teachers have an entirely Zoom-based classroom.
As we all grapple with this state of limbo and uncertainty, -- students, parents, teachers, everyone alive in the world right now -- it’s a good time to lean into another part of fall: the take care season. The season of pumpkins, (low carb) Pumpkin Spice Lattes, cozy sweaters, and crispy golden leaves.
With fall comes not only the start of a new school year but also the start of a season based on relaxation, well-being, and taking care. It’s the perfect moment in time to get into -- or back to -- learning about your personal health.
Continuing Education for Health
When it comes to personal health, we are our best teachers, our best students, and our best advocates. We are in a new season of healthcare, one where we can (and should) become active participants in our health. With so much personal data now readily available to us, we can actively use it to advance our potential.
The few minutes spent inside the clinician’s office should be used appropriately: for the healthcare provider to recognize data patterns and make personalized assessments based on those patterns. But that’s a very quick few minutes to determine the much bigger, broader picture of life beyond that office; the millions of minutes spent outside the clinic living our lives and creating all those data points and patterns.
What do we do in those minutes?
We learn. We educate ourselves. We ask questions, we dig deep, and we put in the work to be our best selves.
We learn the basics of our unique biology, our relationships to our specific lifestyles and environments, and the tools and pathways available in the world today, both basic and complex: those that we can implement on our own and those that need a doctor’s prescription.
You can think of it as a sort of continuing education, but one that’s of utmost importance and on a hyper-personalized level. You create the classroom, the study materials, the questions, and the outcome.
When we engage in this hyper-personalized level of self-care, we health ourselves: with our own self-regulating and education tools, we can discover simple, yet meaningful tactics that inspire positive and sustained health change.
When we experience a setback -- such as a life-changing condition like diabetes -- we are handed the golden opportunity of a major comeback. In order to have a successful comeback, we must put in the work to make the change. And often, if not for the obstacle placed before us, we would never put in the work to begin. Sometimes, the setback can be the impetus we needed all along to transform into our healthiest self.
The work that we must put in is educating ourselves. It’s learning all that we can about the setback and coming up with our own tactics to overcome. This isn’t a quick and easy fix; rather, it’s a lifelong journey to reclaim, secure, and sustain our health.
How to Be Your Own Best Health Expert
Getting on the road to learning about you and your specific health needs is the first step. Beginning to brainstorm, to examine, to wonder, to explore, to reflect, and to adapt all lead to lifelong learnings. Tuning into your body each day, cluing into any biological signals, and really taking note of cause and effect throughout your day are part of this investigative process.
Along with those learnings may come unexpected hardship. But that’s all part of the journey! We can learn from that hangover-like feeling the day after eating pizza; that over-treated 48 mg/dL; that icky slump that comes everyday at 3pm. When we choose to examine our patterns, choices, and changes, we can change the hardship into a golden nugget of experiential knowledge.
It can be difficult to start the growth process because it means facing where we are. And feeling like a failure when you look at where you are, or how much farther it feels like you have to go, can actually feel terribly demotivating.
So what can you do?
- Focus on manageable, but detailed changes that will get you to your goal (don’t focus on lowering your A1C by 2%, focus on lowering your carb intake by 50g each day!).
- Assess your progress regularly so you stay mindful of how well you’re doing. Seeing change in a desired direction is motivating.
- Celebrate the small wins. Having a long-term goal of losing 100lbs makes sense, but is a large number that probably feels discouraging at the start. Instead, pick intermediate, smaller goals, like 10lb increments, or introducing healthier meals each week. Throw yourself a mini-party each time you hit your sub-goal. Instead of focusing on all the work left to do, focus on your successes and how far you’ve come!
Continuing education for your health is a lifelong journey, a continuum. There is no such thing as arriving at perfect health and staying there forever. It’s about showing up again and trying again, every single day.
In this back-to-school season, take the time to take care of you and get back to learning for your best health.