State Senate: Make February about taking care of you

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — If taking time for yourself often feels like an impossible task, now you have a reason to be a little more selfish.

A  Senate resolution promoting healthy lifestyle choices was adopted at the end of January. Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the resolution recognizes February 2017 as Self Care Month.

The resolution’s sponsors include Sens. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; John Proos, R-St. Joseph; and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

According to the resolution, self-care is a lifelong commitment to good hygiene practices, monitoring changes in health, knowing when to consult a healthcare practitioner and preventing infection and illness.

While there are many types of self-care, the resolution highlights knowing when it is appropriate to self-treat physical health conditions with over-the-counter medications.

Schuitmaker said Perrigo, an over-the-counter pharmaceutical company in Allegan, asked her to propose Self Care Month.

Resolutions express the sentiment of the Legislature but are not binding.

According to the resolution, every dollar spent on over-the-counter medications saves the United States health care system $6 to $7 each year, totaling $102 billion in annual savings. It also states that promoting and practicing self-care should help to ease the burden on health care practitioners and eliminate unnecessary medical examinations.

“Patients use over-the-counter medications all the time, and physicians advise patients to use them all the time,” said Colin Ford, senior director of state and federal government relations for the Michigan State Medical Society. The organization does not take positions on non-binding resolutions, he said.

In addition to promoting over-the-counter medications, the resolution encourages health care practitioners, policymakers and regulators to communicate the benefits of self-care with their communities.

The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency is one organization already promoting physical wellness through various community resources, according to Maureen Petzko, the agency’s director of operations.

The agency provides nutritional education for pregnant women, communicable disease education, children’s safety promotion and community outreach at health fairs and events, among other services. Each resource promotes healthy living practices within the community.

Though Self Care Month largely focuses on self-medicating and promoting physical health, Schuitmaker said, “anyone can take (the resolution) any way they choose.”

Llena Chavis, a clinical social worker and therapist based in Holland, said it is also important to consider mental health when practicing self-care, as a path toward holistic wellness.

“One of the things that I always tell my clients is that when things are hard and your mental health feels compromised, it is your time to be selfish,” Chavis said. “This basically means focusing more time on self-care.”

She said common mental health self-care practices include sleep, exercise, reading, meditating and unplugging from social media. It is about finding something you enjoy that feels emotionally healthy, but isn’t obligatory. As a mother of four, Chavis said self-care is especially important for parents.

“It takes a toll on people — the more you give and give and give,” she said, adding that self-care is one way to better time management and coping strategies.

Frank Mumford, president of the Kalamazoo National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), agrees that self-care might be an effective solution for maintaining mental health. The organization serves Kalamazoo, Allegan, St. Joseph, Cass and Van Buren counties.

Mumford said he hopes the organization’s plans to create a mental health program at Western Michigan University will increase awareness in the greater Kalamazoo area and possibly focus on promoting self-care strategies for students.

Ultimately, local authorities agree that self-care should become a daily practice for everyone — however it may be practiced.

“It is so important to do these things preemptively, so we don’t end up in a place where we hit the wall and have to go to get help,” Chavis said.

For more information on mental health care, you can visit NAMI’s website at http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-HelpLine.