Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

I attended a motivational talk on achieving great things in life.  The presenter cited a study done by Johns Hopkins University that reported that following heart surgery, 90% of patients returned to their unhealthy life habits.  Could this really be the case?  I would expect some would revert to their old ways, but an overwhelming majority?  This not only frightens me but confuses me.

It’s bad enough receiving an illness diagnosis and going through treatment.  Having the tools to prevent further problems you would think would be a gift and not a burden.  Are we so entrenched in our negative behaviors that we can’t change even if it’s going to save our lives?  Could it be that once we dodge a bullet we resurface with a new sense of invincibility?

What is our responsibility to reclaiming our health?  If we’re not going to change behaviors to promote health why go through the treatment in the first place?  We’re an addictive society so maybe we’re talking about facing our addictions to food, stress and overwhelm.

This is what I’m thinking.  I believe we’re given instructions on how to change our lives but we’re so overwhelmed by the diagnosis and the treatment that reverting back to old habits is comforting.  As they say, “the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know”.  Most of us aren’t prepared for what in the beginning seems like a huge learning curve and that stress makes us abandon the plan.  We want to believe we can do it alone but at the first moment of uncertainty we abandon the plan.  So what’s the solution?

You need to find someone or a group of someones who will support you in your lifestyle changes.  We’re more likely when starting something new to be more accountable to others than to ourselves.  It’s important that whatever changes you want to initiate, that you make public to friends and family.  We are more inclined to keep our promises when they are public then when held privately in our heads.  Since healthcare professionals are so overwhelmed with managed care and increased patient loads, until there is a problem the doctor will most likely not be the support person.  Go see a therapist, hire a coach, go to support groups.  If you want to improve your physical health hire a personal trainer, begin taking yoga classes and study with one teacher for continuity and familiarity.  If you want to change your eating habits visit a Registered Dietitian (RD), take a cooking class that emphasizes healthy cooking.  When change includes fun we are more likely to stick with the plan.

No matter what choice you make you should be your best friend and ally, not your worst enemy.  Don’t be a statistic.  If you’ve been given years to life, now is the time to add life to years.  How do you maintain your lifestyle changes that help to promote health on your journey to wellness?