Going to the doctor can be overwhelming, especially if you feel unwell. You might be confused about what they’re saying, feel like you’re not being heard, or worried you’ll be seen as pushy or annoying by asking a lot of questions. This can also make it harder to set and stick to health goals – if you’re feeling unheard and unwell, you might feel less motivated to seek help when trying to improve your health.
Women (particularly women of color) are more likely to experience this feeling. One in five women say they’ve felt that a health care provider has ignored or dismissed their symptoms. But it can happen to anyone, no matter how you identify. Advocating for yourself in these situations can get you the care you’re looking for and, most importantly, the care you deserve.
These five things are foundational to advocate for your well-being, in a doctor’s office or any other setting where your health is paramount.
Five Ways to Advocate for Your Health
1. Learn how to tune in to what your body is telling you.
Your body speaks to you every day – learn to listen. This strategy isn’t just helpful when it comes to hunger cues; your body will tell you if something is wrong. This means paying attention to what your body is showing or feeling at any given time, such as feeling bloated after eating or experiencing a skin reaction after using a certain product. Your doctor may have gone through years of medical school, but that doesn’t mean they know you. If something feels off, wrong, or different, it probably is.
2. Bring notes and take notes during your appointment.
Although you’re dealing with symptoms on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to forget or overlook things when relaying your experience. Try keeping a symptoms journal; include what symptoms you’re experiencing, how often they occur, when they began, and how they affect you. You can also keep track of what you’re eating; this may be especially helpful if you’re dealing with diagnosed or suspected digestive issues.
During your appointment, be an active listener and consider 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. Find an appropriate support system.
During times of stress (especially those involving your health), leaning on your friends and family can seem like second nature. And while they may mean well, they might not have the experience or ability to give you actionable advice that will give you the results you need. Health Coaches can positively impact their clients’ health in a variety of ways, one of which is helping them determine when a client should see a doctor for a specific concern. Health Coaches also create safe spaces for their clients to explore their health concerns. Sometimes all a client wants is to feel heard and validated, so Health Coaches can be a great support system during stressful times.
4. If you have the means, take a course to learn more about preventive health.
In some cases, it’s up to you to figure out what’s wrong. Formal diagnoses can be made only by medical professionals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your own research on your symptoms. We live in a world where options are endless and information is plentiful; there’s no shortage of tips, hacks, and products promising to optimize our health and happiness. It’s just a matter of finding quality information!
IIN’s Whole-Person Health course is a holistic study of health, covering how to care for your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can act as a springboard for your education in health and wellness, to get you prepared to learn more about the body as a whole – and ready to address them with your doctor or Health Coach.
5. Believe that you’re worthy of a healthy body.
Self-image issues are intensely common in all walks of life. It can be difficult to overcome these issues, particularly in a world with social media influencers who promote misleading and sometimes outright false claims that one workout, diet, pill, or routine is responsible for how they look. These issues can also be complicated by professionals who may dismiss your symptoms and concerns.
Your body has been with you your whole life, through highs and lows, through good times and bad. Whether you’re at the beginning of your health journey or hitting milestones left and right, you’re worthy of the goal you’re seeking: a healthier body and life.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your health goals are, you deserve them. Feeling unheard and misunderstood at the doctor’s office is frustrating, but this doesn’t mean you don’t deserve what you’re seeking – whether it’s relief from a symptom, a diagnosis, or just nonjudgmental advice. Ultimately, you know yourself best; trust your intuition to lead you to what you need in order to live a healthier, happier life.