Don't Wait to Thrive:
The Urgency of Addressing Your Health Now
With the holidays coming up we understand that this time of year is a tricky one. Everyone is busy and it can sometimes leave you feeling like your head is spinning. It’s easy to justify to yourself and others why you can’t keep up with certain things or why you should just wait until the New Year to start. This can pertain to forming new habits or addressing lingering health issues/injuries. Well, we want to talk to you about why you shouldn’t wait to address things when it comes to your health.
We get hard wired for responses to different stimuli. Once we have formed this circuitry in our brains it can be very easy to go into autopilot, never even recognizing that certain triggers lead to certain behaviors. Now this can be a good thing and a bad thing. When we are aware of our triggers and responses it can give us power. When we are unaware, that’s when we can be acting in ways that are making things worse and we may not even realize it until we have a major problem on our hands. Also, the negative effects of these automatic responses can cause a never ending chain reaction of unwanted outcomes. We have talked a lot about how chronic pain changes your nervous system over time. You have the initial injury, which at first only caused pain with certain activities, then over time you become more sensitive to other types of stimuli. Have you ever noticed your back pain flares up more during stressful times? Or maybe the cold weather makes your knee feel worse? During the holidays we can add in increased travel, disrupted sleep schedules, dietary changes and weight gain, and the list goes on. This can cause what was a mild, annoying pain or a small health issue to evolve into a much bigger animal.
This isn’t meant to cause more fear or stress, simply to encourage you to consider the big picture when you are making decisions surrounding your health and quality of life. We often get so worried about making sure everyone else is taken care of that we forget to take care of ourselves. Especially during this time of year! We can also get so caught up in the festivities that we distract ourselves from the damage we are causing. Then, January rolls around, the dust settles, and we notice how much worse we feel. This is your sign to change that up this year!
If you want to truly set yourself up to make lifestyle changes that are going to improve your health and resolve your pain, you shouldn’t wait for some arbitrary new year. Start forming better habits now, seek help with health issues and ongoing pain. James Clear has a great book, “Atomic Habits”, which discusses the science behind forming habits. He describes habit forming as occurring in 4 stages:
- Cue- some stimulus that will cause you to initiate a behavior
- Craving- the motivation to act based on an expected outcome. This outcome is typically a change in internal state that is desired at the moment.
- Response- this is the habit you are about to perform. Can be in the form of thoughts or actions.
- Reward- the outcome you are trying to achieve at the moment. When rewards are more short term pleasure related they don’t usually help us with the big picture, quality of life things such as mental and physical health. (ex. Smoking gives you a sense of stress relief in the short term, but will deteriorate your health and add to stress over time).
The habit loop always occurs in these stages, therefore if you are trying to change then you must disrupt your current loops or figure out what you need to do to create a new one. If you are trying to make health changes it is a good time to seek out an evaluation and have someone help you with this process. The sooner the better! This doesn’t have to be some major overhaul, but setting yourself up for success before January will go a long way.
At Clash we work with patients all the time on taking a hard look at their habits, figuring out which habits are helpful and which ones are harmful. Then, we problem solve together in order to first address the habits that are the most disruptive to their health goals. This is done by meeting people where they are at. We help them figure out what will be manageable based on their current life circumstances and how to sustain it. Accountability also goes a long way when it comes to change. Having someone to check in with you and keep you on track versus encouraging you to brush it off until things become more “convenient.” Life unfortunately doesn’t work that way. Think about how empowered you will be if you can start the new year off already feeling better! We are here to help!