A coach once gave me an analogy I never forgot - that life is a juggling act and while most of the balls will bounce, health can be made of glass; if that ball breaks, it might never go back together quite the same.
The key message? Health MUST be a priority in the juggling act we call life because of all the things we can recover from, a true health crisis can change our lives irrevocably and irreparably.
Take a Lesson from the Heart - Put Your Health First
Another good way to bring this message home, is to take a lesson from our own body processes - from the heart specifically. In our own bodies, the Heart actually pumps blood to itself first before it pumps blood anywhere else in the body. This is because the body knows that without proper nourishment of the Heart, everything else in the body will fail.
Our lives are the same - if we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of anything or anyone else in our lives. Its imperative to put your health first, to have an eye on preventative care and stress management in particular, so that you know you are doing everything within reason in this moment in time to take care of yourself. If you can do that, you are much more likely to continue leading the long and healthy life you want to live.
A Plan for Self Care that Works For YOU
If you don’t want to drop that glass ball, you’ve got to keep your eye on it, and the best way to do that is to have a plan for self care. I believe a successful self care plan needs to be simple and flexible because at different times in our lives (or even day by day) sticking to our plan can be more or less difficult. Your self care plan needs to assist and support your health, not stress you out, but you also have to be accountable to your goals to succeed in them. Having a plan can help you in all these areas.
Devising your plan can be a simple exercise in assess, plan, execute. Then revise and repeat whenever necessary.
STEP ONE - ASSESS
You might know this right off the top of your head, but if you don’t take 5-10 minutes to make a mental tally (or physical list, your choice) of the areas you feel you are successful with your self care and the areas you feel you could improve. It should be something simple like this:
It doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but I do recommend including these categories - diet, exercise, sleep and stress. You can include as much or as little detail in these areas as you want, and you can also include any other areas you like that directly affect your health, such as self care, family time, sport, etc.
If STRESS is in the “weak” list, meaning it is too high or uncontrolled, make another list like this:
Now you have a clear picture of your strongest and weakest areas. Your goal? Create a plan that will shift more into the “strong” column and the “stress reducing” columns of your lists.
STEP 2 - PLAN
You can be as simple or as complex as you want with your plan. The most important part is that you are devising a plan you can achieve. You can revise your plan as often as you want, so set goals you can reach in a reasonable period of time to ensure success and motivate you to keep making positive changes.
For example, if Sleep and Stress are the biggest items in the “weak” column, choose these two areas to focus on and pick one or two activities that will help you improve them. Better yet, choose one activity that can help with BOTH. For Sleep + Stress there are two primary activities that come to my mind - Exercise and Acupuncture. Exercise and Acupuncture can both drastically improve sleep and stress, and if you combine the two its a magic double whammy!
Schedule time for these activities as part of your plan - for example, decide that you are going to exercise 2x/week on specific regular days/times or book an acupuncture appointment once a week.
To complete your plan, choose a timeline for these activities during which you are going to focus on doing them and not worry about assessment or about what comes next. For this length of time, you are just going to walk the walk. You’ll look back and see what happened later. It could be 3 weeks or 3 months, but whatever it is set it, schedule a reminder when the time is up, and forget it.
Now its time to EXECUTE.
STEP 3 - EXECUTE
Okay, execute the plan! Some days or weeks it is going to work great, other days and weeks its going to be hard. That’s okay. Right now all you have to do is do the doing and accept that all you can do is all you can do and that’s just how it should be.
REVISE AND REPEAT
Once you reach the date you set to look back, take a moment to go back to step 1. Run your list again and see how you did. Did anything shift out of “weak” into “strong?” Are your plans working for you in your life or do they need to be revised? Do you just need to walk the walk a little longer on these goals or is it time to choose a new focus to get in line?
I know these are a lot of questions, but they will be intuitive as you look at your list and seek to shift more items into the strong column. It will only take you a few minutes, and it will help you keep that glass ball in play as long as you can bring yourself to focus on it.
You Don't Have to Go It Alone
At a minimum, I recommend doing this exercise quarterly with the change in seasons - it is a natural time to assess your health and your goals. If you reach your goals quickly or want faster change you could repeat it weekly or monthly even - its totally up to you.
If you look at this exercise and feel too daunted, then don’t do it alone - your friendly neighborhood Acupuncturist is an expert in preventative medicine (we have 3,000 years of clinical data behind us which supports living a healthy balanced life!)
In my practice, in addition to helping my patients reach their immediate health care and pain relief goals, I always have an eye on improving my patient’s health long term. As a holistic medicine tied to the seasons and body rhythms, in my mind there’s just no other way - Acupuncture can’t treat anything without treating a little bit of everything. If you’re looking to keep your eye on the ball, Chinese Medicine has a plan to help you.
If you have questions or want help devising your own plan, contact Rebecca via email anytime, or book online anytime! You can also post in the comments section and I’ll do my best to address your concerns.
Until next time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.