It's that time of year when everything gets a little bit "cray-cray". Schedules get disrupted, healthy eating can go by the wayside, fitness programs are put on hold to make way for end of year celebrations and plans for summer holidays. In general practice, I get the very clear message that wellness programs will just have to wait until the new year. Over decades of medical practice, I have heard just about every excuse not to have healthy habits. "Too busy", "too stressed", "not enough time", "I never liked exercise"...I've heard them all. Every day I see people who basically know what to do to be well, but who neglect the basics such as nutrition, life management, checkups, mental health or exercise. The result is that you wind up feeling pretty ordinary, certainly not the healthiest, most vibrant version of yourself. Maybe you are having trouble with your sleep, carrying a few extra kilos, lacking energy. Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed or unhappy. These are some of the signs that it is time to make some changes. If this sounds like you, one of the reasons for writing ULTIMATE WELLNESS: the 3 step plan was to help people like you to get back on track. We start with an audit of your current wellness and your health habits. This is how you become aware of your current state of wellness and identify the areas that need attention. I then help you to work out what needs to be changed and how to get started, then how to sustain your new healthy lifestyle. The "boots and all" approach will suit you if you all of the conditions are right. You might go for this style if the implications of you not making substantial and permanent changes are serious or potentially life-threatening. This might be the case if you have been diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer, or diabetes or you have had a heart attack. In these situations, the stakes are high and the risks of not making immediate and substantial changes are obvious. If a total life renovation feels like too much to cope with all at once, you can take it one step at a time. This can be the situation, for example, at this time of year. Start by setting your priorities. You can decide for yourself the most important priority, or discuss it with your doctor or other health advisor. You can set less ambitious initial goals for the next order issues. Once you feel you have that top priority issue under control, you can then incrementally adjust the other priorities. I have some advice for you at this time of the year. There are more than the average numbers of parties and celebrations over the next few months.
- Pace yourself.
- Prepare yourself with information
- Make a plan for eating well
- Exercise as many days in the week as you can manage
- Try to get sleep
- Count your drinks and make sure you keep several days a week alcohol free.
At any time of year, if you can't be close to "ideal", decide on some positive changes and make a plan to work towards a healthier you. If you are expecting instant results, or at least within days or a few weeks, then you might be disappointed that you are not feeling better yet. What if you don't feel better instantly? It can be difficult when you have made hard changes and you don't feel instantly better. Or you actually feel initially worse. I do sometimes see this with smokers, at least for a while. Some people who quit smoking really miss the camaraderie of the smoko, some suffer withdrawal effects and others miss the pleasure surge they used to get from nicotine... the short-term reinforcement of an unhealthy habit. Some people give up the high fat, high sugar foods they love, to find the weight doesn't immediately shift or they miss their sugar "fix". In these cases, in order to get past the early difficulties, you will need to be very convinced that you are making an effective long-term investment in your health. It's like buying shares in a company and then having to wait years to see if you are going to see a return on your investment. You might have to make a leap of faith to believe that the short-term discomfort will be worth the eventual wellness. Think about the reasons you decided to make the change in the first place. Was it because you have been diagnosed with a disease? Your children are worried about you? Your relationship is in trouble? You feel tired, stressed or miserable most of the time? Remind yourself of the reasons you wanted to make changes in the first place. If the "boots and all" approach is too much for you initially, pick the most important and achievable intervention. Stick with the plan. Impatience can be a problem. Don't give up because you want to feel different more quickly. Consider the timeframes. If your unhealthy habits have gone on for a long time, then the timeframe to feel a difference might also be longer. Try to surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your goals. You might find these people in your extended family or broader friendship group. You might have to join groups like a gym, walking club, tennis group, walking group or take lessons. It is also in your interest to recruit the people around you to 'audit and reboot' their lifestyle too. That way you can reinforce each other's resolve. Whatever your obstacles to ultimate wellness, there is a strategy to help you overcome them.