Did you ever notice that it takes a bit more time for trends to make their way from the east and west coasts to the Midwest? Why the time lag, given today’s technological advances? When it comes to preventive health and philosophies embracing lifetime wellness, what is the sticking point? I am referring to established, proven, and legitimate practices that will keep your body and mind functioning at peak performance. Currently, the West Coast is clamoring for health coaches. But, why? Californians and their neighbors are among the healthiest in our nation. Where is the value in it?
Let’s talk more about the coaching process. Why would anyone need such a person? As with all health professions, there is a body of research that supports coaching practices. There are techniques that foster a meaningful dialog, exercises that provide insights, and a process to set meaningful and realistic goals that lead to successful outcomes.
Are you sending yourself the right messages? Are you thinking deeply about the thing you want to change, why you want to change, and giving it meaning and priority in your life? From big vices to seemingly insignificant ones, we truly believe that we are in control. The point is, that we may not even perceive loss of control or have absolutely no idea why we smoke, drink, or eat too much. Furthermore, we may not value the health information that passes our eyes and ears each and every day- urging us to take on behaviors that will prolong life, and result in fewer disabilities as we age. We reason that won’t be the case with us, or heredity is in the driver’s seat, come what may.
I am smiling, because I know that if your brain can have that much power over you for something that causes you harm, then imagine what your brain can do for you when you agree to change for the better. As humans, we habituate, and rely on routines to control our thoughts, stress, etc. Think about all of the small motions in life that we take for granted, that we learned as infants and children. We no longer need to think about how to walk, talk, feed ourselves, etc. Once a developmental task is mastered, and becomes part of our circuitry, we can develop new connections in the brain, multi-task, and perform higher brain functions.
What about habits? Did you have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal as a child? Did you become so attached to your object that you carted it with you everywhere? Then, one day, a well-meaning parent tried to take it away from you. Perhaps, you protested quietly, or bellowed like a banshee. Any way around it, you formed a habit, and in your mind, you needed that object to survive. Powerful stuff! Likewise, in adulthood, habits and routines help to manage stress. I don’t mind the grind of a morning routine. It keeps my mind from having to really think much about it. I’d rather clutter my brain with more important things. Then, there are the not so good habits, and we all have them. Oh well.
It’s the habits that will shorten your life, keep you inactive, keep you from aging gracefully, and most importantly- steal your happiness, that concern me. I have witnessed devastating age-related and disease-related outcomes in my nursing career. As a nurse practitioner in family medicine, I diagnosed sick patients, and prescribed treatments and medications for years. What I learned was that once you provide quick relief of symptoms with a medication, it is an uphill battle to convince a patient to make lifestyle modifications. Those that were motivated to make changes were able to get off a blood pressure medication, prevent diabetes, and even reverse the course of deadly diseases. Very rewarding for patient and practitioner.
Attempting to meet the educational and coaching needs of every patient during brief office visits would be an example of an unrealistic goal. Choosing coaching as the focus of my practice supports my mission to provide individualized, and thoughtful care. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I can help patients master an understanding of their current health challenges, foster family wellness, and supplement their current medical plan of care. We are all unique, thus cookie-cutter approaches have inconsistent results. Not all medications and treatments provide the intended therapeutic effect for every patient, they provide optimal effects for a relatively small percentage of patients, and all have potential adverse effects.
What about fads? Are they failing us as well? Detox, low-fat, high protein, fasting, convenience foods, alternative sweeteners, shakes, juicing, potions, pills, quick weight-loss diets, fat-melting belts, “gut-busting” food fads, cellulite erasing creams, Shake Weight, Simple Fit Board, Kettlebell, expensive home gym equipment, high-impact aerobics, body building, Spin, Cy-Yo, and YogaFit, to name a few, infuse our lives daily. As near as I can tell, entrepreneurs are reaping financial rewards, while we are left to wonder why each new thing or process did not work for us. Here’s the take-away: on any given day, someone will succeed with any of these methods. But research tells us that we tend to repeat our mistakes as old, comforting habits die hard. One only need to look around to see the result – we gain more weight, have just one more cigarette, give up on difficult exercise regimens, and return to previous eating patterns. This needs to change! Everyone should be able to experience success. But, we all need to believe that we are worth the time and effort.
As for me, if I don’t give some thought to what makes me tick, I will make the wrong choice every time. I need to believe that I can meet my health goals, but also feel enlightened while on that journey. If I feel as though I have lost my free will or creativity, feel punished, or do not ultimately place value on the activity, I will quit. Human nature.
How, then, do we deal with the baggage of returning to old habits – habits that thus far have not served us well? What did you tell yourself? Did you forgive yourself, get stuck, wallow in your grief, or move forward? Are you completely stressed-out from our rapid-fad-infused society- too many choices, confusing health messages in the media, uncertain qualifications of those marketing their products and ideas? I’m exhausted just writing about it! Anything that steals your time and energy can leave you frustrated, and even hopeless.
So, what can this Nurse-Health Coach do for you? I can help you to discover what will work best for you, with attention to health conditions, physical limitations, preferences, level of motivation, and so much more. In addition, current research has been supporting the efficacy of care provided by nurse practitioners. An article published in 2015 by healio.com, reported that “patient outcomes were equivalent or better when seeing nurse practitioners in place of general practitioners within specialized ambulatory care settings, and alternative-role NPs were associated with longer consultation times, higher patient satisfaction and lower mean health services cost per consultation.” The article concluded with, “As the grim consequences of chronic disease and social inequities continue to be revealed, the need for evidence of the cost-effectiveness of nurse practitioners in alternative and complementary roles in ambulatory care has never been greater.”