Balance. That's the word I chose for 2016. I want my life to be balanced. This is especially important for me as I live with chronic pain and illness. My plan was to get enough rest and not overdo things with work, especially around my book launch in February. I also wanted to have fun, not just once in a while, but daily. This included plenty of time for with friends, and taking my dog, Molly, out for adventures.
If I were to get a report card, I’d give myself an F for balance so far. Ok, that might be a bit extreme. Let’s say a D. I've been working like a madwoman (relatively speaking), and even though I enjoy it, I’ve been skipping out on rest, relaxation, meditation, friend time and Molly time. I've been aware all long that I’ve been choosing work over balance, but for some reason I've kept ploughing ahead anyway. Until two weeks ago that is, when my body rebelled and presented me with a flare-up of symptoms.
The flare-up hit, and I thought, “I can get over this easily.” So I kept working hard and set the intention that the flare would pass. And it didn’t. So this week I finally accepted that my body needs my attention and that it needs rest. I cancelled all of my non-essential plans until further notice. This experience has been a much smaller-scale version of my huge health crash six years ago. A warning sign.
Why don’t I learn? Why do I do well for a while, and then go back to my old habits, pushing myself and ignoring my body?
Because change is a process.
Understanding the process of change can really help when you are working to transform yourself, or a part of your life. This process has been well researched and studied, in fact, psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente developed a model to help people make change. Part of this model includes an explanation of the “Stages of Change,” the process which we all go through when we want to create change in our lives, whether it’s creating an ongoing gym routine or overcoming addiction. The following is a very simplified version of the Stages of Change:
Pre-contemplation – You have a problem, but you are unaware of it. Ignorance is bliss.
Contemplation – You are aware of your problem, and you intend to change it in the next six months or so.
Preparation – You start to make a plan for how you are going to change. You are planning to act within one month.
Action – You implement your plan and start practicing the new behaviour. This stage can last about three to six months.
Maintenance – You are continuing your commitment to sustaining new behaviour.
Relapse/Recycle – You resume old behaviours. Oops. Back to contemplation, or maybe preparation.
Termination – Usually occurs if your change was an isolated issue to solve, rather than ongoing behaviour. If it relates to ongoing behaviour, it means you have completely solidified your new behaviours, with no chance of relapse.
Although we may want to move straight through the stages, we often end up moving back and forth between two (ex: preparation and action), or we relapse and then go back to the start. Each time you go through the cycle you learn from each relapse and (hopefully) grow stronger so that the next relapse is shorter and less devastating.
I’ve been thinking of how the Stages of Change apply to my struggle to gain balance in my life. I vacillate between contemplation, preparation and action. I’m not always willing to take action to change my behaviour (to work less and rest more). Somehow, in my mind, when I feel good physically the benefits to making the change aren’t always stronger than the costs. But the more I relapse and have flare-ups, the more I can see the importance of maintaining balance. Now is the time commit to better looking after myself and to taking action!
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