What do you see as the top health challenge facing WNC?
I think the top health challenge is addressing the impact of mental health on physical health and vice versa. Sometimes we don’t realize the impact each has on the other. A person with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes has twice the incidence rate of depression, and when you’re depressed, it can be really difficult to have the energy to exercise or eat well or even take your medication. That has a corresponding effect on your overall health and wellness.
What’s the best thing you’ve done for your own health lately?
Every few years I try to learn a new sport. Just under two years ago I took up mixed martial arts. I train with a great group of folks and have a lot of opportunities to laugh at myself. Learning something new that requires different kinds of physical activity has been a lot of fun.
Is there something new you plan to do to boost your health in 2019?
The most important thing for me is treating wellness activities like an appointment. I work for a wellness CEO who travels extensively, and she told me, “You are the only one who can set your schedule.”
I was sitting in my car lamenting how on earth I would make time to take care of myself, and when I got done with my litany of excuses, I realized I had to make some choices about what I was going to say yes and no to while juggling all of the real-life responsibilities I had. Deciding I had choices, making those appointments and knowing that small steps add up was life-changing.
If you could give one piece of advice on how to have a happier, healthier new year, what would it be?
It really is practicing what health care providers preach and finding a balance physically, spiritually and emotionally. For me, that means taking time to rest, eating well, doing things I enjoy and, most importantly, offering others and myself some grace. We are all perfectly imperfect.
Rhonda Cox is chief population health officer at Vaya Health, a public managed care organization that coordinates mental health, substance use and intellectual/developmental disability services in Western North Carolina.