They say that it’s healthy to have a routine. It keeps us balanced and focused, and can help us to stay on top of the various tasks we have in life.
But what happens when your routine is what’s making you unhealthy?
How many times have you hoped to make a change to your lifestyle habits, but felt overwhelmed or unsure of where to begin? Routines become entrenched in our day-to-day lives, which means making rewarding changes that you can actually stick to long-term can feel like an impossible feat.
Worst of all, when your lifestyle routine is causing and exacerbating chronic pain, the whole situation can be insurmountable.
Chronic Pain – More Common than You Think
An estimated 1 in 5 Canadians struggle with chronic pain, with senior women being the group most likely to be affected. It is often an off-shoot of other conditions, and can be difficult to manage in combination with other treatments. It is not uncommon for patients to be confronted with doctors who dismiss or diminish their conditions.
Studies have shown that programs that help patients with chronic pain to manage stress and develop a healthy lifestyle are an effective way to improve their symptoms and overall quality of life.
That’s good news as far as addressing the problem is concerned—but it doesn’t change the difficulty of implementing those sorts of radical changes in one’s own life.
When Quality of Life Gets you Down
Dana was in her 50s, and had been experiencing joint pain for a while, but it seemed to be getting worse. “I was having trouble with simple physical tasks like lifting” said Dana. “My job includes some lifting, so suddenly my job felt like it was in jeopardy.” The pain was also disrupting her sleep, which was only adding to her stress. “Day-to-day life felt like an exhausting struggle,” she said.
She tried consulting with a dietitian and a kinesiologist, but found those meetings dissatisfying, and she had little confidence in her endocrinologist. “I just didn’t know where to turn to,” said Dana, “and I was running out of energy to find a solution.”
Dana went online to find more information. “I’ll be honest,” she said, “I was hoping for a miracle remedy. I just wanted the pain to stop so I could get on with my regular life.” As luck would have it, she started with the web portal for her health insurance provider, and found their add-on Health Coaching and Support program. On a whim, Dana decided to give it a try.
The Effect of a Good Coach
While it was Dana’s joint pain that had prompted her to seek help, the health information specialist of the program noticed that she also had other factors that could be affecting her situation, including obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. In consultation with Dana, the nurse developed a plan that involved consultation with other professionals who could work with Dana on every necessary aspect of her health.
Dana participated in the program for seven months, during which she received about ten hours of support from a variety of health care professionals. The nurse was Dana’s main coach, helping her coordinate her needs during the coaching sessions, and acting as a bridge with the other professionals consulted during the process to make sure that Dana’s goals and needs were always being kept front of mind.
“They never judged me,” said Dana. “Even when I couldn’t quite meet my goals, they would help me adjust to my progress for the best results.” They also helped her learn how to do her own research, in order to help her make better choices.
Slow and Steady Work; Clear Progress
With the positive reinforcement from the program, Dana found herself more informed about her own health and more motivated to pursue lifestyle-improvement goals—which allowed her to continually improve her health situation in turn.
After seven months, Dana can see the rewards of her work playing out. Dana now finds that her health problems have less of an impact on her work, and she is able to focus on her livelihood without constant frustration. “I’m sleeping better, and I have more energy,” she says.
Best of all? Her joint pain has significantly diminished.
“I thought I couldn’t change my routine,” said Dana, “until I realized that it wasn’t a routine I was in: it was a rut.”
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