YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY
How you relate to your body’s condition and how willing you are to embrace the possibility of improving your wellbeing will eventually have a great deal to do with the quality and richness of your life.
Modern medicine often encourages us to view our health as a set of fragmented measurements, such as our blood pressure or cholesterol levels. They are important of course but they are really just a tiny part of you. To pursue true wellness I believe that you need to look in the opposite direction, embracing all of your connections and relationships, including those with other people, the seasons, your wider community and so on. You are after all so much more than your medical history.
In this chapter, I encourage you to write yourself an annual health plan, much like you would write a business plan. It gives you a simple and practical overview of how you perceive your overall wellbeing and reminds you that good health means far more than trying to fit yourself within a standard set of measurements. Using an annual planner of some sort is also is a great way of giving yourself the practical structure you need to keep going and to ground your longer term vision. It gives you a continuous reminder of your own best standards.
WHY WRITE A HEALTH PLAN?
It has been suggested that almost everything we do begins with a well thought out plan and committing your good intentions to paper is an excellent way of setting goals that are realistic and appropriate for you and most important of all, measurable.
Writing out a health plan also helps you bring the ideas and intentions that may have been floating around in the back of your mind, into the front of your mind so you can be aware of them and then take responsibility for achieving them. It can help to show you just how much you are tolerating or putting up with in relation to your health. Many of these tolerations can actually be changed with just a little bit of forethought and effort, and taking the time to write out your health plan is a great way of helping you spot the most productive places to place your effort.
Just like a business plan the purpose of a health plan is to help you identify what you will do and how you will do it. It will also help you to measure your progress and eventual success as well as giving you somewhere to record your most valuable resources and support structures. If you like, you could also include a section on how you plan to reward yourself too.
Let me share this simple step by step guide with you so that you can get started straight away.
ACTIVITY: PUTTING YOUR HEALTH PLAN TOGETHER
STEP 1: CHOOSE HOW YOU WILL RECORD YOUR NOTES
Choose some good quality paper or create a new word document on your computer. The idea here is to have a hard copy of your health plan so that you can that you can review it regularly.
STEP 2: CHOOSE A HEADING FOR YOUR DOCUMENT
Head your document ‘My Health Plan’ or ‘My Vision for Health’ and if you think that you will want to share this information with anyone else such as your doctor or coach, then you might also like to include some general information about yourself such as your age, height, weight, current medical conditions or medications.
Give yourself the time and space to write freely in this section to record what your ideal vision of health may be. Think about what your potential could be and ask yourself, “How healthy and vibrant am I willing to be?” Don’t censor your answers. Just allow yourself to think freely at this stage.
STEP 3: SET ANNUAL GOALS
Take some time to look back at what you have written about your ideal vision of health and consider how this vision could be translated into goals that are actually realistic and achievable for you within the next twelve months. If it would be helpful you could also consider sharing your plan with your doctor or other health care provider who can guide and encourage you along the way.
STEP 4: SET QUARTERLY GOALS
Use this section to refine your vision even further so that you can see clearly which goals you would be willing to commit to over the next three months. It’s useful at this stage to make sure your goals are ‘SMART’ and by this, I mean that they are; specific, measurable, action based, realistic and set in time.
This is also a good time to consider the seasonal challenges that lie ahead of you. With all the wonders of modern living, it can be very easy to ignore how your body naturally responds to each season. Whatever season is coming up for you next, consider what you could do to help yourself adapt to changes in climate, light levels, ease of getting around and so on. For example, perhaps you could eat more lightly in the summer, taking advantage of fresh local produce or even growing your own. Or in the winter maybe you could make an extra effort to take some exercise outdoors when the light levels are at their best. Whatever your seasonal variations are, consider how they might help or challenge your baseline level of health and how best you could respond to that.
STEP 5: PREPARE YOUR QUARTERLY ACTION PLAN FOR HEALTH
This is where you outline your strategies for success, and write down the specifics of how you are going to actually achieve some change, or deepen your wellness. What will you do and when exactly will you do it? For example, you might like to give yourself a wellness treatment such as a
For example, you might like to give yourself a wellness treatment to help you unwind more deeply than usual. Or perhaps choose an activity that will help strengthen your connection to other people in your community by volunteering, or joining a group activity of some sort. These activities need not be expensive or even have any cost at all but they should help you to broaden the depth and scope of your wellness.
STEP 6: YOUR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Consider what other resources if any you need to accomplish these goals? Perhaps the advice or support of your doctor would be of help. Perhaps you need more information from a book, or the internet, to help you make a decision, or understand your health more fully. This is also a good place to make a note of what you know already works well for you, as this information can be surprisingly easy to overlook if you are striving to find solutions. It may be that you can achieve all you need on your own but it’s always useful to consider building a support team around yourself for moments of uncertainty, or waning motivation.
STEP 7: SET YOUR KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
Last but not least you need to record how exactly you will measure your progress. This last step is very grounding. It helps you take responsibility for the changes you are seeking and holds you to account. It also gives you a good reason to celebrate as you first reach, and then reach beyond your chosen milestones.
Remember this is your own personal healthcare plan. You don’t need to show it to anyone or discuss it openly unless you want to. Keep it in a safe place so that you can refer to it often and update it regularly. Oh, and one last thing, you may also want to create a log of your successes, even the small ones, so that you can celebrate and honour your efforts. Go ahead and give it a go, you may well be surprised at what you can achieve.
Oh, and one last thing, you may also want to create a log of your successes, even the small ones, so that you can celebrate and honour your efforts. Go ahead and give it a go, you may well be surprised at what you can achieve.
Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of mapping out your wellness plan is that you get to take charge of your health and express your individuality rather than just being judged by a standard set of clinical measurements. It can also help you to focus on prevention of future poor health by encouraging you to flag up the things you need to be doing regularly to stay in top form.
At the end of the day though a plan is just a plan, which means that it also needs to be flexible to meet your changing needs. It’s a good idea to allow ample crossover between your shorter and longer term goals in case your priorities change.
GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR DOCTOR
I often hear stories about people feeling that they have not got the best value from their doctor’s visit and whilst it’s fair to say that some of the reasons for this may be beyond your control, there are also a number of steps that you can take to help your visit be as empowering and informative as possible.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
1. Take your health plan into your consultation with you and ask your doctor or healthcare practitioner to go over it with you. It need not take long but they may have some valuable contributions to make and it will give you a sense of teamwork and support that can be really precious. It also helps your care to become an ongoing process rather than something that just happens within appointment times.
2. Write down in advance of your visit the most important points that you want to get across. This could be your key symptoms or major concerns, or just some simple questions that you want to make sure that you remember to ask.
3. Ask for clarification if you are not sure what has been said to you. This is an amazingly common problem which can usually be resolved by simply asking your doctor to write down the names of any conditions, or drugs or treatments that may relate to your care. At least then you have the ability to conduct some research on your own so that you are as well informed as possible. Never leave an appointment without being clear about what has been said to you.
4. Ask what you can do to help bring yourself back to health. Engage yourself as fully as possible and keep asking the next question. Ask, “what else can I do to help myself?” Then add this information to your health plan to keep you focused.
ACTIVITY: A LETTER FROM THE FUTURE
To help you think about what your health might be like, or could be like a year from now, I’ve included this lovely exercise called ‘A letter from the future’. This is a very simple, yet also a very challenging exercise and if you take the time to do it you will find yourself becoming much clearer about the aspects of your health that are of most importance to you.
Begin by choosing a date some months ahead or even a full year from now and spend a moment imagining what level of health and wellbeing you have achieved by that time. Now write yourself a letter from that point in the future telling your present self about all the positive changes, developments and achievements in your life. Be spontaneous and creative and complete this exercise without judgement.
For example, you could start by saying something like:
Here I am one year ahead of you and I’ve got so many exciting things to tell you…. etc.
By writing a letter from your future self you are using the resources of your subconscious mind to help you tap into what’s really important. It will prove to you that the goals you have written on your health plan are really worth something.
“Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, but there are two problems:
people expect too much of it, and too little of themselves.”