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Searching for the silver bullet; how self-care is just like medication

in search of the self-care silver bullet
Sarah at yourrxforselfcare

Hi, my name is Sarah,

I’m a pharmacist + self-care adventurer.

I am a full-time mom, spouse, and healthcare professional with a tendency to get stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

My vision is to empower overextended people to practice self-care and unlock their potential for peace (myself included).

Searching for the silver bullet; how self-care is just like medication

As part of an English project in my senior year of high school, I gave an impassioned lecture on alternative therapies to replace medications, and, with very little know-how, essentially shunned traditional medicine.

I didn’t know how I would do it, but I had big [naïve] plans to find a magic “silver bullet” to save the world from the “evils” of unnecessary pharmaceuticals. 

Earlier that year, when my best friend’s mom suggested I look into a career in pharmacy, I scoffed, and brushed her off (sorry, Mama T).

Launch ahead 7 years, somewhat ironically, and contrary to my position as an adolescent know-it-all, I became a licensed pharmacist (again, sorry, Mama T, you were totally RIGHT about me). 

After spending years of schooling (and a few years after that in residency) to learn how drugs work and how to use them safely, I’ve literally made it my job to be a “medication expert” — all in pursuit of helping the world use medications properly, if at all. 

So what’s a silver bullet, you ask? 

It’s the immediate and simplest solution to a complicated issue. The silver bullet is an instant, effortless problem solver in any domain, without any drawbacks or unfortunate ripple effects. 

The concept has been around for ages, but it’s taken on a variety of meanings over the years, spanning everything from modes of transport, to fantastical self-defense tactics to methods for measuring temperature. 

As a pharmacist, you might think that for me, the silver bullet is medication related, and that’s partially the case.

silver bullet medication
What if we had a silver bullet medication?

It’s true, over the years I’ve had a handful of patients looking for a magic fix to solve their medical issues: the ideal drug to solve their medical problem without negative effects or drawbacks. 

A big part of my job is helping people navigate and mitigate the downsides of their therapy, but solving medication related problems is not the only silver bullet I’m in pursuit of.

That’s nice and all, but what does this “silver bullet” have to do with self-care?

In medicine and in life, we really have yet to discover such a miraculous thing as a silver bullet. 

Everything seems to come with a downside, a side effect, a stumbling block, but we must do the best we can with what we have, and try to make the most of it. 

I’m such a believer that a positive mindset helps soften the blow of most downsides, BUT, I can’t help but feel tempted by this idea of the silver bullet. 

Just like my patients who wish for a single, side effect free pill to cure their ailments, I can’t help but sometimes wish for a silver bullet for my stress, anxiety, and generally ever-present feeling that I’m just not good enough (thank you, imposter syndrome).

can we find the silver bullet for my imposter syndrome?
can we find the silver bullet for my imposter syndrome?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make ONE change and be instantly rid of a problem?

These days, as I spend a ridiculous amount of time nearly mindlessly scrolling internet feeds, I’m a little surprised and a lot frustrated by this concept that self-care will magically fix all my issues. 

I know innately that it’s going to take more than a bath bomb and a face mask to really get to the heart of why I’m struggling, so what can I do about it?

So, I still don’t understand how you can say self-care is similar to medications…

At work, I consider myself a “minimalist pharmacist.” I’m a believer in keeping things SIMPLE for patients, with as few medications as possible to help them achieve their goals. So how do I support that? 

What I mean is, when it’s safe and appropriate, I’d ideally like to see people taking or using the least amount of products necessary to promote their health and well-being, and this is as true for medications as it is for self-care. 

Let me explain. 

In my practice of “pharmacy minimalism” I consider it my responsibility to ensure that my patients are only taking what they absolutely need to be taking. As such, when I’m able, I perform a deep review of history and medications to assess the patient’s “whole picture” and try to uncover if there is any room for improvement, or “medication optimization” as we call it in the pharmacy realm.

Each medication is assessed on its own, and as a part of the whole for the following;

  • Safety
    • Is it generally safe for the patient to take this?
    • Are they experiencing side effects?
    • Are there follow-up labs we need to get in order to monitor for potential issues?
  • Effectiveness
    • How well is the medication working for the person?
    • Do we have evidence that it will help us (or is helping us) achieve the goal?
  • Adherence
    • Essentially a fancy way of saying, can the patient take the medication as intended? Is something getting in the way of taking the medication safely or as prescribed?
  • Cost 
    • Is it affordable and accessible? Is cost a barrier to taking the medication properly and safely?

Without the miracle of the silver bullet in our arsenal, I’m sure you can imagine that answering these questions can become quite complex and multifaceted, particularly as more medications are needed to support patients with complex medical issues. 

There’s a bit more to it than I’ve alluded to here, but in doing this type of medication review, my goal is to uncover any imbalance and support patients to the best of my ability. 

It’s almost never simple, quick, or black and white, but if I see any possible room for improvement in the medication regimen, that’s when I speak with the prescriber and start advocating. 

By far, my favorite kind of intervention is in SIMPLIFYING things for patients. Whether it’s reducing the number of pills they need to take, helping them create a system for their meds, or even something as straightforward as explaining the purpose of a medication, actions like this can make all the difference in managing the day-to-day. 

One of my colleagues loves to say, “keep it simple, stupid.”

All of this can be applied to self-care, too. In lieu of the silver bullet solution, we at least need our self-care to be safe, effective, doable, cost effective, and as simple and straightforward as possible…otherwise, we risk upsetting the balance and possibly causing more harm than good in our pursuit of peace and relaxation (or lack thereof).  

How to optimize your self-care like a pharmacist optimizes medications

Sadly, we don’t have a silver bullet to solve our self-care “problems” but we do have a couple things we can keep in mind to help us along the way. 

We need to scrutinize and optimize our self-care like a pharmacist optimizes medications for their patients. 

In other words, what I’m really getting at here is we need to SIMPLIFY our ideas of self-care. If we can distill it down to the same questions and domains I consider in my pharmacy practice 

Take it from this….
…to this.

If you’re like me, the pressure to “fix” the problem of stress in 2020 is becoming increasingly harder to bear. So next time we’re feeling that pressure, let’s consider self-care and ask: when it comes to my self-care…

  • Does it work? 
    • Does it actually help me recharge and refresh, even in a tiny way?
  • Is this generally considered safe for me?
    • Are there downsides to this form of self-care? Moderation is key, and you know best if you’re toeing the line of unhealthy. 
  • Does it fit in the budget?
    • Both the time-bound one and the monetary one.
  • Is this something I can actually do? Not everyday, not consistently, not picture-perfect for instagram, but right now, can I get this done for myself?
    • Naturally a daily, consistent practice is AMAZING, and GO YOU if you have achieved that, but I know for me, it’s not so reliable. 

BOTTOM LINE: If it’s safe, effective, affordable and DOABLE, then it’s reasonable to add to your self-care practice. Ideally, it would be simple, too. Most of all though, it has to be something that works for you, and no doctor, pharmacist or influencer can really tell you otherwise. 

Oh, and one more thing….something I’ve learned in my practice is to only suggest one change at a time, and the same can be said for our self-care. We can’t be trying to “fix” all this overnight, but we can start with one nice act of self-love. 

So on the one hand, this [insert self-care product of choice] may not be a silver bullet that’s going to magically fix all my problems…and on the other, what’s the harm in giving it a try?

I’m curious to know what you thought of this post. Write to me and let me know your thoughts on this one.

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