Friday, January 13, 2017

Jump-Start or Re-Energize Your Health and Well-Being for 2017: 8 steps to getting your wellness program on track and feeling your best

Dr. Joel’s Health and Wellness Catalyst Blog for January – Happy New Year!

January is a great time to start fresh and make progress toward having an ongoing program of well-being for the year and feel your best.  Hopefully you had a wonderful Holiday and New Year that enables you to move forward with a sense of gratitude and purpose; or you can put a challenging year behind you and start fresh with renewed focus to make progress with accomplishing your plans and goals.

Here are 8 steps that can help you get started and on track – you can start with 1 step or take on 2-3 steps and build from there.  If you need assistance you can contact one of your practitioners that you work with (for example, a good nutritionist, counselor or primary care doctor) or start with someone new who can be helpful, such as a health coach, who can help you to put all this together and support you in many ways on your journey to sustained well-being:

1.     Know where you are beginning – check in with how you are feeling, get some blood work done, weigh yourself, and/or see your doctor to get your blood pressure taken or have any other assessments done that you may be concerned about and want to control better or address.  Having this clarity can help you to take specific actions that make the most sense.

2.     Set 1-4 goals that you are most motivated to accomplish – they should be important goals to you and be reasonable or attainable goals (3 month goals are usually best).  From the coaching framework that I find very effective, you would then make more modest goals, for example 2 week goals, that would help you to achieve your longer term goals – if you achieve the goals that would be great, but if not, be positive and see what you can learn about your challenges so that you can overcome them and do better with them over the long term.

3.     With any specific concerns/problems, get good information and/or ask for help – for example, if you are not sure what an excellent exercise program would be for you, or if you have some aches/pains or chronic pain that create doubt about what is best to do without injuring yourself see a good physical therapist, osteopathic doctor or a good chiropractor who can work with you to manage your issues.

4.     Try a modified elimination diet or a really healthy diet for 1-4 weeks - we often forget how good we really feel when we are eating more healthfully or eating a clean diet (and doing some exercise, as well as finding some time to relax and practice relaxation techniques).  One such approach is to avoid or minimize sugar, refined flour products, dairy, wheat, alcohol and caffeine (or cut the caffeine intake in half).  These foods tend to cause the most problems (especially in combination) and could be minimized by including them once or twice per week – be sure to have other good food options to take their place.

5.     Get some support from family, friends, neighbors and/or work colleagues - this would be different from your work with practitioners, and could include taking a brisk walk with someone or meeting them at the gym to workout together or at the same time; or it could mean having lunch with a co-worker to share what is working and get support around more challenging issues; or it could be getting support from a family member or spouse to help with cooking/cleanup or getting time by having them watch a child while you exercise or have some time for yourself.

6.     Stay focused and organized – Logging food and/or exercise and/or tracking your progress can be an important part of your ongoing program.  Another could be keeping all of your health information and program records in a notebook, journal or file.  This way you have all of your information together and have a place to go when you need focus and need to do it more quickly.  It can also be helpful to journal several times per week to describe the good, the bad and the ugly – sometimes it is just helpful to get it out on paper but it can also be used to problem solve and/or get clear about what works best for you (even better is to talk about these with a practitioner or a friend).

7.     Try a new stress management technique and/or commit to staying  positive about yourself and your efforts – there are many approaches that you can select from or work with, and many people who present approaches that can be helpful - the important thing to remember is to see what resonates with you and what you are most interested in trying.  Some examples include breathing exercises, a yoga or tai chi class, meditation or guided imagery, and many others.  Consider also self-compassion or loving kindness meditations, or the book, Positivity, by Barbara Frederickson.

8.     Develop an excellent group of practitioners to work with – make sure that you like and trust them, and that they really do listen and try to help.  Sometimes it is the combination of practitioners that works best such as a solid primary care doctor and others who add other important parts.  Also, if you know what you need to do but have a hard time staying engaged, consider getting a good health coach who can help in many ways (helping you clarify your approaches, problem-solving/brainstorming, generally supporting you, and sharing experiences about approaches that have been helpful for different people with similar circumstances).

So good luck!  I have listed a number of approaches that can be helpful but the most important take home message is that you partner with your practitioner(s) to develop the individualized and effective program that is right for you.  And be persistent because there are answers and approaches out there that fit together like pieces of a puzzle and will work to have you feeling your best.

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