Each of us will have a different personal health journey. Here are some suggestions for goal-setting.
Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

Guest post by Danny from the blog Health Hats

The metaphor, Personal Health Journey, works for me. We’re heading somewhere for health whether on purpose or not. We’re never actually there. It’s continual– until it isn’t.

Sometimes we have a map, sometimes we don’t. Map or not, we’re still heading somewhere: work, the grocery store, our in-laws, the beach. There’s always decisions to make on a journey: stop for gas, rest, sightsee, go left, go right? Same with the health journey.

The personal health journey

The journey is different if we’re well, acutely ill, chronically ill or dying. Our aspirations are different.

When we’re well we either don’t think about our health or we want to stay well. When we’re acutely ill (now we’re a patient), we want to get over it. When we’re chronically ill we want to live the best life possible. When we’re dying we want to live as long as possible or live as best as possible OR both.

The journey Is different for each, too.

For the well it’s ‘Inertia‘ or ‘Select Personal Health Goals-> Act and Track->Deal with symptoms when they arise‘.

For the acutely ill it’s ‘Symptom->Diagnosis->Treatment->Recovery->Back to Well or on to Chronically Ill‘.

For the chronically ill it’s ‘Disbelief->Grief->Get help (care and treatment)->Recalibrate->Maintain->Give back->Relapse (and back again)‘.

Making decisions

The decisions in our health journeys can be made for us by others, with others, or by us. Usually all three– there are too many decisions to make them all alone. It’s like remodeling; who knew there were so many decisions to make?

Life has so much noise, more when you’re unwell. The decisions in the health journey can be easier when we know what’s important to us– our preferences, our values, our personal health goals. They filter out the noise.

The journey exists in a context that impacts everything: biology and genetics, our physical environment, our personal behavior, our community and social circumstances, our access to medical care and other help, and luck.

Below I’ve put together aspirations, goals, and the journeys:

1. Well
Aspiration: Stay well-> Set Personal Health Goals (see more at www.carecards.me)

  • Smile
  • Have the best relationships possible
  • Sit Less, Move more
  • Slow Down, Meditate
  • Do what makes you happy
  • Eat food, not too much, mostly plants
  • Drink water
  • Quit smoking
  • Get more sleep
  • Don’t rush the brush
  • Live within your means
  • Do some of what you love
  • Take out the garbage, do the laundry, clean the place
  • Track your health data, use checklists
  • Tell someone if you’re sad, stressed, or have symptoms

Journey: Inertia or Select personal health goals–> Act and track->Deal with symptoms when they arise

2. Acutely ill
Aspiration: Get over it->Set Personal Health Goals

  • Same as Well PLUS:
    • Do what you commit to
    • Take meds
    • Manage pain
    • Adapt to change in function
    • Get more rest

Journey: Symptom->Diagnosis->Treatment->Recovery->Back to Well or on to Chronically Ill

3. Chronically ill
Aspiration: Live the best life possible->Set Personal Health Goals

  • Same as for the Well and Acutely Ill PLUS:
    • Get help, build a team
    • Enlist a care partner and the community
    • Become an expert in your conditions
    • Get help figuring out the costs
    • Join a support group
    • Prioritize what really matters
    • Give yourself a break
    • Pay as much attention to your team’s health as you can

Journey: Disbelief->Grief->Get help (care and treatment)->Recalibrate->Maintain->Give back->Relapse (and back again)

About the author:
Danny, an action catalyst empowering people traveling together toward best health, wears many hats in healthcare: patient with Multiple Sclerosis, care partner for several family members’ end-of-life journeys, a nurse for 40 years, an informaticist and a QI leader. Danny focuses on learning what works for people – patient-centered research, communication at transitions of care, health planning and informed decision-making, and technology supporting solutions created by and for people. He reviews PCORI research funding applications and serves as co-chair of PCORI’s Communication and Dissemination Advisory Panel. Danny is active in the Society for Participatory Medicine as Newsletter Editor. Danny blogs weekly at Health Hats and was recently published in BMJ.

Follow Danny: YouTube // Blog

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