In practice I see a large number of patients who are dealing with chronic health issues – issues that have been going on for months, years, even decades. I am always struck by their perseverance in pursuing better health. The path to better health does not follow a straight line. Often improvement is gradual, set backs occur, and commitment is challenged. Dealing with a chronic disease is not unlike learning to skate!
When observing a young child learning to skate, at first it seems like a lost cause. Just standing without any support is a small, albeit important, victory. Gradually the child (or adult in some cases) progresses to slow forward movement by shuffling of feet. In the process there are countless falls, and sometimes tears, but the new skater always manages to find his or her way back up and moving forward. With each waiver, each fall, the skater must re-commit to their path of learning. Through incremental change, sometimes barely noticeable, improvement occurs, and over time the once flailing, falling, skate-walker, becomes a fluid, flawless skater!
Individuals with chronic disease often follow a similar pattern. Yes, there are times when improvement is drastic and immediate, but more often improvement is gradual, new challenges must be met, and ongoing hard work needs to be done. Just like the new skater, an individual seeking treatment for chronic disease needs to constantly re-commit themselves to their treatment plan. And just like the new skater, the reward for the constant commitment, the falls and the flails, is completely worth it!
Here are three basic things that you can do to re-commit yourself, stay focused on your goals, and increase your success in improving your health.
Family, friends, workout buddies, health care providers, coaches, and co-workers are crucial in helping you stay on track. Pick a select number of people who you can confide in, and who you know are supportive of your journey to better health. Update them regularly, and plan for them to check in on your progress!
2. Set Small, Achievable Goals
You can’t train for a marathon in a day! Set realistic, achievable goals to act as progress markers in your journey to better health. These goals can be as simple as being able to walk one extra block, reducing your blood pressure by 5 points, or sleeping an extra 15 minutes per night. Set your goal, and check in with your goals regularly!
3. Forgive Yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself! If you slip up once or twice don’t throw your whole action plan out! Just like the new skater, re-commit after each fall!