Mind Your Mind: Regular health check-ups and practices are important

Twice a year, I make sure I am up to date when it comes to health-related check-ups. Regular visits to the doctor, dentist, optometrist, etc. are a good idea, even if you’re perfectly healthy. Check-ups aren’t only for people who are sick, because regular visits are often about preventing diseases or medical conditions, and keeping track of your health over months or years. Often, I get lazy and think, “Oh, I should get my vision checked,” or, “Oh, I need to go to the dentist soon,” but quickly enough, I forget to make an appointment, or prioritize other things. I’ve been trying to make an effort though, and now I aim to get regular check-ups in a timely manner.

When I visit a general physician, or a family doctor, I request blood panel tests. I do that because a lot of symptoms can be explained by the results from a typical routine blood test. It’s an opportunity to check if I am getting enough vitamins. A blood test is a metabolic panel that can verify your complete blood count and thyroid level. It looks at your glucose, calcium, electrolyte levels and so on. It can also measure the levels of fat in your blood and your cholesterol levels.

Since blood tests help detect many conditions. It’s also helpful if you’re struggling with psychiatric symptoms as it can rule out physical conditions to help you and your doctor to get to the root of the problem, whether they be mental or otherwise. I do believe that maintaining good physical health is an asset when it comes to dealing with mental health concerns. Usually, it’s common for people to go visit a family doctor at least once a year, or more, depending on the circumstances. It’s an opportunity to ask questions, review your family’s medical history, do screening tests, and discuss options. Not everyone likes to go to the doctor’s but I do like the idea of connecting with someone because then I know I have someone to turn to if issues arise. For students who are sexually active, birth control check-ups and STD testing are important.

At UBC, if you do not have a family doctor in the city where you live, or back home, you can visit Student Health Services, located at the hospital on campus. There are family doctors who work there, and they are knowledgeable because they work mostly with students. Also, you can choose to see the same physician if you require multiple visits.

Although regular visits to the doctors are important, I also think that other health related check-ups are equally important. For instance, I go for a dental clean and polish at least twice a year. Making sure your teeth and gums are healthy and brushing your teeth at least twice a day can make a difference, even if it seems like a small issue in the first place. For those who wear glasses, going to the optometrist at least once a year is ideal. If you struggle with your sleep, eating habits, skin conditions or sore muscles, it might be worth it to ask for a referral to a sleep clinic, dietitian, dermatologist or registered massage therapist. Even getting frequent haircuts, waxing and other related services can boost your mood (whenever I get a haircut, I feel so freshen up!).

For mental health concerns, getting a referral to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist is an option to consider.

When I struggled with my mental health, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all, and it’s only afterwards that I realized how important it is to keep up with all aspects of my health. Since I’m a planner and hate making appointments, I will usually pick two weeks in advance when I’m not too busy, and schedule a bunch of appointments during that time-frame. That way, I don’t have to worry about keeping track. I also personally visit the same professionals every time, because I like the fact that they know my history, have my information on file, and over time, we build trust (and it’s also nice when they remember my name!).

Insurance can be a tricky thing, and I understand that not everyone can afford all these health care services that are not covered by the government. So, it’s worth mentioning that there are low-cost options out there, even though it might be difficult to find them. Community centres often offer workshops related to nutrition, and Vancouver City College has a salon and spa run by students who are under the direct supervision of qualified instructors — I only have good things to say about them! Moreover, Langara student clinic offers registered massage therapy at a reduced rate for student ($20 for an hour!) and certain counseling clinics also have low cost options.

In short, in my experience, I have found that maintaining good hygiene and daily grooming routines, as well as health related practices really helps both my mental and physical health.

The authors of this column are not mental health professionals. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In case of an emergency, call 911.

If you have feedback or want to see something covered in a future Mind Your Mind, email d.levesque@ubyssey.ca