Four Ways to Be Your Own Health Advocate

Going to the doctor can be overwhelming and frustrating at times- you might feel that you’re not being heard, or worry you’ll be seen as annoying for asking questions. Sometimes you leave more confused than before.

Let’s say you go to the doctor because you’ve been having symptoms for months or even years: feelings of panic, fear or danger, sleep problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, thinking about a problem over and over again without being able to stop (known as rumination). You are done with it and want to find a solution.

Talking to some healthcare providers can be just a quick chat, as we all know. We share our symptoms, and they give a diagnosis that almost feels like a death sentence: “You have anxiety.”

They blame all the symptoms on anxiety, and the solution they give you is in pill form to tame those symptoms.

Voila! All problems fixed right?

A pill will only take you so far. It will just mask all your symptoms. It’s a temporary relief with an enormous cascade of side effects (which you are better off not reading, otherwise you might reconsider taking it) and it’s not addressing the real, deeper problem: Why are you having anxiety in the first place?

Why are you having these symptoms? What is affecting your sleep? Are you nourishing your body with good nutrition and plenty of water? How are your stress levels? Are you active? How is your self-esteem? Your home environment? Your financial situation? Your relationships?

Do you get where I’m going?

You know YOU, better than anyone else. You know what is going on in your life.

While it alleviates some symptoms, medication doesn’t solve your life problems.

It’s like quieting down your body’s alarm system when it’s yelling at you STOP and LISTEN.

Later on, you start to have symptoms like low blood pressure, decreased sex drive/libido, nausea, lack of coordination, depression, mood swings, memory loss, difficulty thinking. You return to the doctor, another pill is prescribed on top of the previous one, and the cycle continues unless we find the root cause.

You know where to start making some changes in your life.

Finding the deeper cause of the problem requires detective work, time, and patience. It’s not easy, we are constantly on the go and looking for the “quick fix” so we can keep going. We blindly trust our healthcare practitioner without questioning anything, even when they don’t listen to us. YOU are the expert on your body – you know it better than anyone else.

One in five women say they’ve felt that a health care provider has ignored or dismissed their symptoms. Advocating for yourself in these situations can get you the care you’re looking for and, most importantly, the care you deserve.

Here are four foundational ways to advocate for your well-being:

1. Learn how to tune in to what your body is telling you

Your body speaks to you every day…Are you listening? It’ll tell you if something is wrong. This means paying attention to what your body is showing or feeling, such as being tired all the time or experiencing headaches after using a certain product or eating a certain food. You’re the expert on your body: If something feels off, it probably is.

2. Play an active role during your appointment

Bring notes and take notes during your appointment. When dealing with symptoms on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget or overlook things when it comes time to tell your provider. Try keeping a journal and include what symptoms you’re experiencing, when, and how often they occur, and how they affect your life. You can also keep track of what you are eating; this may be especially helpful if you’re dealing with digestive issues.

During your appointment, considering taking notes on what’s discussed. Some of what you talk about may be confusing and overwhelming, and notes can help you keep track of it all. These may be especially helpful when seeking a second opinion or doing your own research.

3. Do your own research

Formal diagnoses can be made only by medical professionals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your own research. We live in a world where options are endless, and information is plentiful; there’s no shortage of resources to learn from. It’s just a matter of finding quality information!

4. Find an appropriate support system

During times of stress, leaning on your friends and family can seem like second nature but they might not have the experience or ability to give you actionable advice. Health Coaches create safe spaces to explore your health concerns, provide a support system that emphasizes self-advocation, and give you considerations for how to proceed on your health journey.

The Bottom Line

Whatever your health goals are, you deserve to achieve them. Feeling unheard and misunderstood at the doctor’s office isn’t necessary. Remember, you know yourself best: trust your intuition to lead you to what you need to live a healthier, happier life.