Putting your health first: six questions to ask yourself

Health Coach and Nurse at Bupa UK
20 December 2016

In my role as a Health Coach and Nurse, I speak to lots of people of all ages about their health. Sometimes, people want information about a test they are having; sometimes they’ve been recently diagnosed with a health condition and aren’t sure what to do next. I’ve found that talking through particular questions can really help people feel more empowered, informed, and proactive about taking the next step towards managing their health.

A doctor talking to a patient

Below are some key questions to think about when you’re confronted with a health problem. I hope you’ll find that taking a few minutes to think through these questions will give you more knowledge about yourself, and a sense of control.

1. How do you want to learn?

You know yourself better than anyone – how do you prefer to learn? Thinking about this can help you get the information you need in a way that works for you. For example, you might want to read information or watch videos. You might want to look at information just from health professionals, while others might like to go on patient and community forums too. Alternatively, you might want to learn with other people, face to face. Think about what works for you so you can get to the right information in the right way for you.

2. What’s your relationship like with your GP?

Some people see the same GP for years, while others don’t mind seeing a different doctor (if, for example, their regular doctor isn’t available). Whoever you see, it’s important that you feel able to communicate well with them and have a two-way relationship. Having a good relationship with your doctor can lead to a range of benefits such as feeling more involved, confident, comfortable and informed. We have some tips about how to prepare and get the most from your GP appointment.

3. How do you feel in your body?

This might seem like an odd question, but that may be because it’s not something you’re used to doing – checking in with yourself. A busy life, work and other commitments often mean putting how you really feel to the back of your mind and at the bottom of your priorities.

Take a few minutes to name the sensations you’re feeling. Are you in pain? If so, how mild or severe do you feel it is? Where do you feel a pain, ache or sensation? Is it constant or does it come and go? Or do you feel well and in good health? Or perhaps it’s not a physical sensation, but a feeling or emotion?

Taking a little time to register these things can help you understand your body and feelings much more. You’ll probably then find that you’re able to talk about them more easily when and if you need to.

4. What has your doctor told you?

Have you had any information about the tests, medicine or condition you may have? Your doctor is usually the first port of call and may have given you some information to read. Another source is the patient information leaflet in your medicine packet, or there is a variety of health information on the internet (though make sure you’re looking at a credible and reliable website).

Have all of your questions been answered? Has the information you have read or seen triggered feelings that you’d like to address or work through? Write them down and talk to your doctor about them at your next appointment. You might also want to talk to your close family members, particularly about worries or feelings.

Lots of people might feel that the ‘doctor knows best’, or people may want to be more involved but aren’t sure how. Rest assured, your doctor will want to work with you – jointly – to manage your health in a way that is effective and meets your individual needs. No question is out of bounds; don’t feel afraid or nervous about expressing your thoughts and opinions.

5. What is the most important thing to you?

Everyone is different and has different preferences, needs and values. What’s important to one person might not be to another. This can be things like your social circumstances, your job, lifestyle, and previous health experiences – to name just a few. You have a lot of expertise here that can help your doctor suggest the best treatment for you.

How you feel can make all the difference when it comes to deciding whether to take a medicine or to have a test or treatment. It’s important to think about and be at peace with the things that are most important to you. Your instincts, along with information and support from conversations with your doctor, can help guide your decisions about your health and your priorities.

6. Where would you like to go from here?

Hopefully working through these questions will go some way towards helping you figure out where you want to go from here. Whether you’re looking at the short or long term, where would you like to be and what do you need in order to get there? Take your time to get the information you need, and talk to others who can offer you support and advice. Ultimately, you’ll be able to come to a decision with your doctor that you are comfortable with.

Remember, making choices about your health is your decision, but it’s not one you have to make alone. There are lots of sources and places of support out there to help you. Your doctor, pharmacist, family, friends and reputable information online can all help you be more informed, knowledgeable and proactive about your health.

Putting your health first

We know that being healthy means different things to different people at different stages of their life. We’re here to support you in making informed decisions about treatment that suits your individual needs. You can learn more here.

Sam Chapman
Health Coach and Nurse at Bupa UK

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