HSE Living Well – Mike’s Story
Hi, my name is Mike and I am the Living Well Coordinator for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare. Living Well is a free HSE group Self-management programme for adults with long-term health conditions. These conditions can be treated and managed but usually not cured so learning how to self-manage them is important for the person with the condition. I did the Living Well programme in January of this year. As I have high blood pressure and asthma, I was an ideal candidate for the programme. I learnt so much from it.
A few years ago, my life went off the rails. I had a great job that ended due to the economic downturn. My eldest daughter died unexpectedly, my marriage ended and both my parents died. This all happened within 3 years. I would have been lost without the support of my siblings and my closest friends.
I ended up in two jobs that caused me serious stress. I reverted to type and restarted comfort eating which in turn led to weight gain, which made everything worse. After gaining weight I found that running, which was always a great de-stressor was becoming more and more difficult. The big problem was that I knew this but kept doing it.
How the Living Well programme helped
This pattern continued until I took up a new job in 2020. I started to enjoy work again and my stress levels reduced. In January 2021, I started the role as Living Well Coordinator. Doing the Living Well programme gave me a better understanding of what it means to self-manage a long-term health condition. I met people in the same boat as me and I had fun. The programme consists of 6 x 2.5hr online workshops, which run over 6 weeks. At least one of the trained leaders delivering the programme has a long-term health condition themselves so they understand what life with such a condition is like. I have since trained as a leader and have just finished delivering my third programme.
A key part of Living Well is setting goals that you want to achieve. Each week you learn how to reach these goals by making an action plan. You also get support from the group to problem solve. Before I did Living Well, I had a good understanding of action planning, problem solving and decision-making techniques but I did not link them to helping me to manage my chronic conditions. After doing the programme, it became very clear to me that if I wanted to change my life and move to being an active manager of my chronic conditions that I needed to use the skills I had learnt in the workshops.
I have been to my doctor and have taken steps to address my weight. We cover Healthy Eating on Living Well and now I am working on my eating habits and moving towards a healthier diet. As the gyms reopened, I have been back doing exercises that improve my mobility – another area covered on the Programme. Next up is improving my fitness level, which in turn should help me lose weight. The combination of each positive change will help me to manage my chronic health conditions in an active way.
The Living Well programme gives people the skills to identify where they want to make changes. It also gives them the confidence and tools to be able to make and maintain those changes. This is the only life I will have and now it is time to focus on how I can best improve my health before I have some serious problems. As Martin Luther King (Junior) once said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
For more information on the HSE Living Well programme go to www.hse.ie/livingwell