How to make time for wellness, no matter the obstacles

The goal of wellness is considered desirable for many. Wellness — pursuing the goal of emotional and physical health — however, is often elusive.

“For a lot of people, the simple fact is, ‘other things’ get in the way,” says Claire Marshall, MS, RD, LDN, a senior health coach for UPMC Health Plan. “Barriers arise for everyone and can be difficult to overcome because people don’t set realistic goals for themselves.”

Smart Business spoke with Marshall about how busy people, such as business leaders, can still find the time to make a commitment to wellness that works for them.

Why is change so difficult?

Everyone has barriers to making changes in their lives that could impact their health and wellness.

We have all heard the excuses and many are legitimate. ‘I’m too busy.’ ‘I get started, but I can’t keep going.’ ‘It’s boring.’ ‘I get discouraged.’ Those things can certainly be true, and if you don’t ask yourself how important it is to change your lifestyle and incorporate wellness into your life, you won’t be able to overcome them.

The question you have to ask yourself is: ‘Why do I want to do this?’

Understand first that making any kind of permanent change is not easy. A positive attitude is required as is a change in perspective. You also need planning, support and reinforcement. Change doesn’t just happen; it occurs in stages and requires thought. Change is really a systematic process of problem-solving and goal setting.

How important are goals to achieving change?

Goals are important, but they must be realistic and attainable. They need to be SMART goals:

  • S is for specific. A specific goal can detail exactly what you will do, when you will do it, where it will happen and whom it will involve.
  • M stands for measurable goals. Goals that include a specific number help you to know whether or not you have met them.
  • A is for appropriate. An appropriate goal is one that fits your long-term plan for wellness.
  • R is for realistic. Realistic goals are ones that you feel confident you have the necessary skills and resources to achieve.
  • T is for timely. If you set a deadline as well as an exact starting date, you clearly define exactly when you plan to accomplish your goal.

How are realistic barriers overcome?

Fears you might have about failing can be alleviated by increased confidence. Confidence can come from educating yourself about what you have to do, learning and practicing new skills and getting encouragement from your friends, family and co-workers.

If you make people aware of your goals, you can develop a cheering section of sorts. You can rely on these people who know what you’re trying to accomplish and who can give you advice, hold you accountable or just provide a needed pat on the back.

Another common obstacle is lack of time. When setting a goal, you need to assess how much time you will allow for obtaining your goal and how much time each day or each week you can devote to working on it. Again, being realistic about how much time you can devote to this each day is essential to success.

Are rewards important?

If you can measure where you are when you start, you can track your progress. Give yourself short-term goals and reward yourself for reaching them. Rewarding yourself is important for each small step you take in changing behavior and pursuing lasting change. This is especially true at the beginning.

Build in encouragement by seeking out the members of your cheering section. Sometimes you just need someone to listen to your struggles or to help create a routine that forces you to be accountable.

Remember, there are lots of opportunities for support out there — be it friends, family, co-workers, health coaches or work site wellness programs.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan