In August, my article prodded you to take an active role in your health. This month, I want to tell you not to beat yourself up for not doing it fast enough, faithfully enough or correctly enough. We are all a work in progress. None of us has reached perfection; we’re all working on something.
When we set out to change long-time habits it’s usually not done overnight. You’ve heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, good health habits aren’t built in a day.
When you’re ready to quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating sweets, stop drinking sodas or start an exercise program, you need a plan. Evaluate your personality. Will you do best by gradually weaning yourself or are you a cold-turkey sort of person?
I’m a cold-turkey person. Some people, however, have more success by weaning – gradually reducing a pack a day down to zero a day over a month or so. Examine yourself and decide what works best for you. If one approach doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Just tackle it with another approach. Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It is not a failure; it is a learning experience.
Pick your quit day (or start day) and make a plan. Some people find it helpful to talk about it, put signs up about it, advertise it – this helps you stick to it because it’s in your spirit, in your psyche. If you don’t want to advertise it to others, advertise it to yourself. Remember – the strongest drug is between your ears and it is powerful. Tap into it!
Let’s say you want to quit smoking, what will you do to help ensure success? Start by cleaning and deodorizing your car and home. The first step may be to stop smoking in select places. Perhaps first put the house and car off limits, then the porch or yard, then the neighborhood.
Make it inconvenient to smoke – that way you will almost welcome your quit day. Wrap your pack with several layers of wrapping paper and rubber bands which have to be undone each time you want that cigarette and need to be re-wrapped when you’re done. Make yourself work for that cigarette. Have a craving? Go take a shower – it’s hard to smoke there, and by the time you’re done with the shower, the cravings will have passed.
Take advantage of supportive services. There are homeopathic complexes to address tobacco and food cravings. Consider other homeopathics or a massage to help with stress. Enlist a friend as an exercise partner to keep you from talking yourself out of that daily workout. Use music to rev you up for exercise or to calm you down from stress.
Have a lapse-prevention plan. I’ve known folks who have quit smoking for months, sometimes years, and have backslid. If it happens to you don’t beat yourself up, just dust yourself off and tackle it again. But give yourself a fighting chance by having a plan should the occasion arise. A divorce, loss of job, death of a loved one or a new stress at work or at home can all trigger a return to your comfort drug – whether it is food, drink, shopping, gambling or tobacco.
What will you do if and when that urge comes on you? You must have the plan in place before you need it. In the heat of the moment is not the time to try and figure it out.
Above all, be patient with and kind to yourself. You are a work in progress.
Marge Roberts, RN, MSHP, DAHom
President/CEO, Newton Laboratories, Inc.