I hear about self care everywhere I look these days. And it’s a good thing; we all need to take better care of ourselves. There’s always so much information coming at us, and busyness is an epidemic. We don’t make a lot of time to actually slow down and take care of ourselves. So I really support the recent push for self care. However, it’s so important to remember that investing in your healthcare is also self care. It’s not just about taking a bath or drinking plenty of water (though those are important too!). We need to take care of our physical and mental selves while also prioritizing our emotional selves. Here are all the things you have access to (and why they are important) if you have health insurance and take advantage of it.

P.S. If you don’t have health insurance, make sure to enroll at HealthCare.gov before December 15!

Annual Physicals

Preventative medicine is so, so important for long term health. I think our country is just now catching onto the idea that we should be able to keep ourselves healthy before we get seriously ill. This is why preventative care, including annual physicals, are now fully covered under the Affordable Care Act.

You should go to the doctor at least once a year to get all of your blood work and other tests done. This can show if there are any potentially serious problems that you might be able to manage, treat, or prevent. It can also give you the peace of mind that everything is fine and you don’t have to worry about your health.

Women’s Health

Every woman should go to the gynecologist every year. Some experts say that women only need a pap smear every three years, but since an annual exam is covered by insurance, why not go every year? These exams can catch sexually-transmitted infections, pre-cancerous cells, cancer, and other issues. This visit also includes a breast exam, which can find any potentially dangerous lumps.

In the past 30 years, the number of cervical cancer cases and corresponding rates of death have decreased by more than 50 percent, which the CDC and American Cancer Society attribute to many women getting regular pap tests, which can find cervical pre-cancer before it turns into cancer. This pre-cancerous stage, and early stages of cervical cancer often don’t show up with any symptoms. That is why it’s important to catch it early before it progresses.

Yes, going to they gynecologist is the worst. In fact, it can be downright traumatizing for some people. I wish there was a better way for us to make sure we’re healthy. However, I always breathe a sigh of relief after my annual gynecological exam. So going every January is a way to calm my anxiety and confirm that I’m in good health. I hope you do the same.

Mental Health Services

I’ve said this previously: mental health is just as important as physical health. There are so many people who still can’t afford to go to therapy or a psychiatrist. Many people with mental illness are completely failed by our systems or lack thereof. It’s a stain on our society that I hope someday soon will be remedied. Until then, we need to rely on the insurance plans that are offered to us.

If you suffer from mental illness, utilize your health insurance for things like therapy, psychiatry, medication, acupuncture, and anything else that helps you get better. These services often come with a co-pay, and sometimes your insurance company will reimburse you even if you have to pay out of pocket for a therapist who doesn’t take insurance.

Access to Medication

If you’ve ever had to rely on something like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicine, you know how important it is to have access to your medication. It’s unacceptable that so many people in our society can’t afford the medications that they need (or want). So whether its birth control, acne medication, antidepressants, or blood pressure medication, make sure you’re getting what you need to maintain your health and lifestyle.

When you’re choosing a healthcare plan, look at their prescription coverage. How much are the co-pays? Do they not cover brand name medications? Is there anything that you need that they don’t cover? These are important questions to ask so that you don’t end up not having access to your medication.

Sick Visits

How many people do you know who never go to the doctor, even when they’re sick? Are you one of those people? Knock it off! Sometimes we can weather that cold, but other times you might actually need an antibiotic or some other kind of medical support. With insurance, you shouldn’t have to suffer because you’re afraid that you can’t afford to go to the doctor when you’re ill or hurt. Find out how much your co-pay is for a sick visit, and get yourself to the doctor (and get a flu shot!)

How do you leverage your health insurance to practice self care? Share in the comments!

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