Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creating and Encouraging Healthy Goals

In nursing school it is hard enough to get your coursework done, work at your job, and fulfill your family duties; adding a personal health goal on top of it may seem nearly impossible. Although as nurses we know what we should be doing to be healthy, oftentimes we are just as unhealthy as the patients we take care of. This makes setting a health goal a very important aspect of caring for ourselves and may provide some insight on how to educate our patients on doing the same.

When setting a health-related goal, it is important to pick one that is realistic and attainable. Ideally you should have been contemplating making this change for some time and are now stepping into the “action” phase of committing to this goal. Or, perhaps you have relapsed in some area and are trying to start back on the right path. Some obvious suggestions for health goals include: smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise, stress management, and meditation and/or spiritual maintenance.

After recently giving birth to my son, I chose a health goal of running five times a week. The primary purpose of this was not only to help lose some weight, but also to have some alone time, feel the fresh air, and start to increase my mileage again. Another added bonus is that it helps to de-stress my life, give me an extra energy boost, and improve my sleep at night. I chose to use a half-marathon training guide on my phone as a way of measuring my success and keeping me somewhat accountable. I have also been journaling my success so far and keeping notes of what barriers, motivators, and accomplishments have affected my success.

What I have realized in journaling my experiences, thus far, is that there are a lot of barriers—either perceived or real—that greatly affect my success. This is important for me to realize because it helps me to understand why so many patients that I care for as a nurse seem to relapse over and over again. As a health care provider it is important to help your patient identify some of their own barriers to success, and to motivate the patient to overcome and succeed in his or her health goals.

What health goals have you created? What helps you to stay on track with them? What have you learned from your own health-related pursuits that has helped you care for your patients?