On Your Mark, Get Set...Are you ready to change?
Submitted by: bbell 12/28/2010 2:06:55 PM
On Your Mark, Get Set...
Are you ready for change?
Over the years you will be given advice about living your best with Parkinson’s disease, improving your general health or steps to take for positive change in life. Self- help education raises our awareness of new possibilities and gives us important tools or strategies to help us take the first steps toward positive change. With education, awareness and support we can move from learning about the personal benefits of a certain change, to thinking that this is something we can or want to do for our positive wellbeing, to exploring the pros and cons, difficulties or ease of making a change , to finally taking the first steps to change.
But education is not enough. Just knowing something is good for you does not make it happen. We all know and experience this every year as we make New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more or curb out bad habits.
We have to commit to and be willing to do the hard work that comes with change if it is truly to happen. How this occurs is a growing field of research. This research, adapted from work on drug and alcohol abuse, tells us that we are all at different stages or levels of readiness to change. The question researchers ask is “what can we learn from people who have been successful in the challenge to change (in this case quit smoking or alcohol dependency) and how can we help others do the same.” The question we ask is, “what can I learn about myself and my readiness to make positive changes to live well with Parkinson’s and how can I use this information for success!”
According to the American Academy of Family Practice (AAFP), “The Stages of Change model shows that, for most persons, a change in behavior occurs gradually, with the patient moving from being uninterested, unaware or unwilling to make a change (precontemplation), to considering a change (contemplation), to deciding and preparing to make a change. Genuine, determined action is then taken and, over time, attempts to maintain the new behavior occur. Relapses are almost inevitable and become part of the process of working toward life-long change”.
It is helpful to understand that we all go through stages of change. Some of us are just beginning in this process and will take time to get there. Others are ready to make the final leap. Understanding where you are and how you feel about change is an important first step. This information is equally helpful to family and carepartners as they may be at a different stage then you. This may create tension or misunderstandings in the relationship if one person is pushing for change and the other is not ready. The stages of change are listed below. The Readiness for Change Questionnaire can be used to explore your own readiness for change. It was modified from the AAFP and adapted to the needs and common goals of many with Parkinson’s.
The five stages of change are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
- Precontemplation. In this stage you are not ready for change, may not know you have a problem or that you can do something about it. Your focus may be more on what other people (or medicines) can do for you and have not considered what you can do to make positive change. If you are reading this page, or visit this website you are probably not at this stage since you are interested in learning more about your health and wellbeing-the first step for change. For example, you may feel weak or tired at the end of the day but have not yet considered this is a problem that you can do anything about.
- Contemplation. In this stage you know you have a problem or know that there are steps to take to live healthier or safer. You have given it some thought but are not yet serious about doing something. For example, you know that exercise, weight loss or diet can improve stamina and energy levels. You may even have made an appointment to talk to your doctor about these symptoms hoping a simple medicine change will do the trick. But you are not ready to look at these other areas of your life that can help build the strength and stamina needed to improve these problems.
- Preparation. In this stage you are ready to take action. You know that you can change your diet or exercise routine and would like to learn more on how to do this. Perhaps this may be going to a support group to learn how others have tackled the problem of weakness or fatigue. Maybe it includes a visit to a physical therapist, nutritionist or exercise trainer to get the knowledge you need to get started.
- Action. In this stage you are taking the first steps. If exercise is your goal, you now know how exercise can help, have sought advice on how to get started and are putting an exercise program into action.
- Maintenance. In this stage you are doing what you can to keep up the momentum. It is only natural to fall behind at times. If your exercise program needs a ‘jump start’ you go back to the contemplation, preparation and action stages. Rather than give up you re-arm yourself with information about the benefits exercise will have for you and your symptoms, re-visit a trainer, therapist or your doctor for advice to get started again and bring out the exercise log or other tools that helped you get stared in the first place.
What stage are you in? Use the Readiness for Change Questionnaire to explore your readiness for change and explore ways to advance through the stages.
Author: Monique Giroux, MD