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Monday, March 31, 2014

What is the Behavior Change Method for breaking old habits?

This is an active system for staying motivated while making permanent behavior change. There are 5 basic steps.

1) Increase your motivation before starting:

  • write down specific reasons for change.
  • talk with friends or others (a wellness buddy) who have made the change.
  • use milestones in your life as targets for change (a birthday, a new job, an upcoming event)
  • make a contract with yourself, or a concerned friend, spouse.
2) Keep records:
  • keep a record of your old habit for one week (or weeks) before trying to change and write down triggers, or events around the habit. (ie smoke after every meal, eat ice cream every night before bed, light up a cigarette when lonely, drink alcohol after argument with spouse, and so on).
3) Set specific objectives:
  • break down general goals into small specific objectives (ie for a goal to loose weight break it into something like "I will walk one hour a day everyday for a week", or I will not eat ice cream at night for this upcoming week, and so on)
  • find a health coach or wellness buddy to discuss your goals and get help in breaking them down into small achievable tasks so the behavior change is not so overwhelming.
  • set a time every week to review your successes of the week and to set new objectives for the next week.
4) Take action:
  • get away from or remove triggers from your environment until new habit is solid.
  • substitute a competing behavior for the habit you are trying to change (ie. brush your teeth after a meal instead of smoking, or drink a glass of water when craving ice cream, and so on. Refer to step 2 for your list of triggers and use this to plan.
  • break behavior chains; a habit is a series of various behaviors strung together. If you interrupt any one of the smaller behaviors in the behavior chain the chance of changing the overall habit is much better. 
  • reward yourself; (ie develop a reward system such as for every cigarette pack not bought but that money towards a vacation, and so on)
  • plan small steps; break down an overwhelming goal into small steps (ie start by walking around the block everyday and work towards joining a running group)
  • use imagery; (ie rehearse how you might refuse a cigarette when a friend offers you one, or imagine how you will look after you loose the first 10 pounds)
  • get help from others; (ie join a group, tell your friends and ask for encouragement, find a coach or change counselor, and so on)
5) Maintain new behavior:
  • keep track of your change (ie weigh yourself once a week, keep an exercise log in your journal, find an accountability buddy, ask friends for feedback, and so on) 
  • if you "fall off the wagon" catch it sooner than later and go back to Step 1 above; this is why frequent feedback is so useful.
  • focus on your new outcome rather than your failure. focus on what worked or went well for you and build on that.
  • remember a slip is much better than a total relapse.
  • investigate your slip for new learning's which you can use towards your new objective.

Many people struggle with breaking old habits and sometimes troublesome habits can make the difference between life and death. Contact Birgit Schinke for help for your particular situation. She is available in person, by email, or via Skype.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What are some good reasons to stay stressed?

1) Stress helps you seem important because anyone working that hard must be doing something very crucial.

2) Staying busy and stressed helps you avoid intimacy because you don't have much time to bond with anyone and you probably aren't much fun to be around anyways.

3) Staying stressed helps you avoid responsibilities because you can't possibly can't take on anything else; let someone else take on all the smaller details of everyday life.

4) Stress gives you a chemical rush; adrenaline is a high, plus it's addictive.

5) Stress helps you avoid success because it can keep your performance level low; this way you'll never have to fear not being successful.

6) Stress lets you keep your authoritarian management style because you can get away with it when in a crisis mode.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What is health literacy?

Health literacy are the skills needed to access, understand, and use information for taking care of health.

Low health literacy affects from 50-60% of  the North American population and therefore raises health costs and reduces the  health outcomes in our society.  

People with low levels make more mistakes with their medication or treatments because they are less able to follow treatment instructions.  They also lack the skills needed to negotiate the health care system which can be complex and overwhelming, especially if one is seriously ill. They are also more likely to be hospitalized than people with good health literacy skills.

Some reasons for low health literacy skills are:

  • low literacy rates in general
  • English as a Second Language issues for New Immigrants and/or refugees.
  • lack of trust in the medical establishment due to past bad experiences or structural inequities in the medical system.
  • feeling intimidated because of the hierarchical nature of the medical system.
  • being anxious and thereby avoidant of anything to do with a complex medical diagnosis
  • complicated medical language used in medical written material.
Here are some suggestions to improve health literacy:
  • prepare self for any medical appointment by coming with a list of questions ready to ask.
  • write down and carry with you a list of any medication and/or vitamins you are taking.
  • write down a list of allergies you may have, as well as a list of diseases and/or surgeries you may have had.
  • do not be afraid to ask questions.
  • bring a friend,  health coach or relative into appointments with you.
  • repeat back what you heard so the health care provider can clarify if necessary.
  • keep a journal of your visits so you don't have to rely on memory, especially if you're dealing with a chronic disease.

More information can be found at the Health Literacy Council of Canada or Birgit Schinke Health Coach and Educator is available by email, if you need some help with such issues. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What is Health Literacy?

Health Literacy are the skills needed to access, understand and use health information. The majority (50-60%) of North Americans have low levels of health literacy. This means that they:

1) make more mistakes with taking their medications or treatments
2) are less able to follow treatment instructions.
3) lack the skills needed to negotiate their health care services.
4) are more likely to be hospitalized than people with good health literacy skills.

In other words, if you have low health literacy your health may be at risk. In a review (funded by the US Agency for Health Care Research and Quality) of over 96 published studies, researchers concluded that low health literacy is linked with many types of poorer health outcomes as well as poorer use of services.

Among older people this also translated to higher mortality rates.

Here's what you can do for yourself or a loved one if  low health literacy levels is an issue:

1) be prepared for every appointment you have with your health care practitioner (get someone to help you make a list of written questions, so you don't go off track during your appointment, which can be very rushed.)
2) keep a list of all meds and/or vitamins you are taking.
3) keep a list of allergies and/or illnesses you've had.
4) ask questions.
5) repeat back  what you've heard, so the health care practitioner can clarify if necessary.
6) keep a journal of every visit you have, especially if you have a chronic disease.
7) bring someone you trust (family member, health coach, friend) to appointments with you.
8) ask your pharmacist to explain the medication you've been prescribed and show him/her your other meds in case they don't mix well.

To find out more about cancer or health coaching visit Birgit Schinke's web site. She is a registered clinical counselor and health coach practising online or face to face in Vancouver, BC

Friday, March 21, 2014

What is energy management?

Energy management, simply put, refers to how one manages their energy, not only their time. This can look like

1) Pursue what you love. Passion is energy; it's much easier to stay motivated over something you are passionate about.

2) Do the most difficult work in the mornings when you are well rested and have the most energy. This flips our instinct which is to move towards pleasure away from pain. Studies have found that people are most effective when they delay gratification. 

3) Practice or work intensely. Work hard for 90 minutes, then take a break. The greatest performers only practice for 4.5 hours a day. In other words, short and hard shows better results than long and dragging.

4) Take frequent breaks so to give your brain the capacity to integrate the new learnings or practices.

5) Turn your practices into rituals (same time, same sequence, etc) so that they become automatic and you don't have to waste energy thinking about doing them.  

 See Birgit Schinke's practice in which she uses Motivational Interviewing to help those who wish to change behaviours or improve performancs.

What are the best ways to stay stressed out?

Here are some tips on how to stay stressed!

1) Never exercise.

2) Eat anything you want.

3) Gain weight.

4) Take plenty of stimulants like coffee, sugar, nicotine, and soda.

5) Avoid "woo-woo" practices like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, etc.

6) Get rid of your social support system.

7) Personalize all criticism.

8) Throw out your sense of humour.

9) Be "macho".

10) Become a workaholic.

11) Discard good time management skills.

12) Procrastinate.

13) Worry about the things you can't control.

14) Become a perfectionist or set impossibly high standards.