Spring is in the air and the world seems full of new growth and opportunity. I always love "spring cleaning" during this time of year ... it's a great time to brush out the dead clutter and make way for the new.
I find this a great time to update my health plan, a document I use year-round to intentionally shape my daily health practices. I like looking at what's in my plan, and clearing away things that haven't been working for me, to create space and make way for the new growth God has for me as I move into a new spiritual season as well as a new weather season.
Taking the time to work through a personal health plan is important because:
1. The Bible tells us that diligence in planning creates abundance (Proverbs 21:5). And don't we all want health in abundance? I (Christa) know I do! Making plans and lifestyle choices that create abundant health allow me to keep up with what God wants for my life. I can't chase Him if I don't have enough healthy energy for the task.
2. Writing out plans and goals is scientifically proven to wire your brain for success. I love it when medical science confirms God's creative and intelligent design for our bodies, don't you?
3. Having a health plan document makes talking to your doctors easy, should a health crisis arise. I'm praying as I type this that no read of mine lands in the middle of a health crisis at any time, but realistically, God has different plans. Having a printed health plan with you allows for a deeper conversation with your doctor in the event of an illness. Several sections of the plan allow for discussion of daily habits, supplements, stress levels - all of which can help your doctor arrive at a quick and correct diagnosis, which is crucial in any health crisis.
Writing a personal health plan takes some time, but it's not complicated. A journal with blank pages and a pen will work to get you started, or you can keep it in a document on your computer, or even a note on your phone. Whatever works best for you is more than fine. The effort really is more important than the form.
As you start writing, try starting with the seven sections I use:
Section 1: My health vision for the future
I think BIG here, friends. Five years ago, after my "likely stroke" at the age of 30, I started thinking about (and praying for) the day I'd be back to total health. It's been a journey, and still is, but I'm so deeply grateful for the progress I've made. Technically, I shouldn't have recovered like this, and definitely shouldn't be able to keep up with the demands of full-time graduate studies! By I'm doing it! And it didn't happen just because I changed my lifestyle. God came in and honored my efforts. I had to take the first steps. I dreamed my dreams, and made my plans, but He directed my steps (Proverbs 16:9). My prayer is that you'll realize in this process that no dream is too big for our God who created the heavens and the Earth, who parted the Red Sea, who brought His son back to life from death. That same God's got you, knows all your dreams and wants to provide you with health in abundance.
Section 2: Heart check - where am I now?
In section 1, I dream about the future, in section 2, I assess the present. I ask myself a few questions: why am I not already in my future? what habits/activities/overcommitments are holding me back? what events/circumstances caused me to get off track? I call this a "heart check" because, in this section, I take a look at where my heart and priorities are, in relation to where I know they need to be. I'm brutally honest in this section (thank the Lord nobody'll read it but me!) and it always ends up being the best part of the writing exercise - it's where I identify habits and lifestyle choices that need to change. I pay close attention, in this section, to my relationship with God. Am I honoring Him with my time? Am I spending the first part of my day in the Word? Am I connecting with the community where He's placed me at the moment? All these questions are important as they impact and affect my total mind and body wellness level.
Section 3: My nutrition plan
The first time I wrote out my personal health plan, I tracked everything I ate for five days and kept a very thorough food diary. I highly recommend doing the same thing your first time around. Write down every bite you take, when you take it and how you felt before and after. The first time I did, I realized that I'm a very emotional eater and I often eat when I get stressed out! I had no idea I was in this place until I completed the food diary! Now, after using this system for a few years, I only track a day or two and make tweaks as necessary.
Section 4: My physical fitness plan
In this section, I stop to think about how my workouts are going and how I feel about my physical body. I stop to think about my various muscle groups and sensitive spots that have bothered me in the past. Example: I threw my back out six years ago, so I pay special attention to core work that keeps my back in shape. If I have a new goal in mind, I add that to this section and list out how my workouts will need to change with this new goal in mind.
Section 5: My supplements
Supplement reviews are critically important! As our bodies change from year to year, we need to adjust doses, add in new supplements, or take a few away. In the past year and a half, my dosages and supplements have changed four times. In this section of my health plan, I list out all my supplements, their dosages, the reasons I take them and the date of my last physician review. My personal preference is to review my supplements with my functional medicine doctor, who has extensive training in the use of supplements. Some supplements can be toxic when taken in incorrect doses (vitamin D, for one) and others just aren't effective if you don't take the right dose and/or type (vitamin C). I don't update my entire document very often (every few months or twice a year), but I always take a minute to keep this section updated whenever anything changes.
Section 6: Recurring symptoms
In this section, I keep a running list of recurring symptoms I'm concerned about - related to my autoimmune disease or just in general. Because I have a lifeguarding history (eight glorious high school and college years in the sun), I keep track of any suspicious moles in this section as well. You can definitely make it your own - and record whatever symptoms, pains, or unusual bodily functions to talk over with your doctor, if they become a concern. This section is definitely helpful if you see a specialist on an annual basis to monitor a health condition and/or if you're working to identify possible stress-related symptoms, aches or pains.
Section 7: New daily schedule
Whew - last section! We made it :) In this last section, I take everything I've written and learned, and come up with a new daily schedule. This isn't a legalistic exercise - not every day is going to look exactly like I write it down - but it does give me an idea of what my daily structure will look like going forward. I list all my daily habits, plan out when I'm going to put them into practice and list out what a typical day will look like. I test out my new schedule for a week and make adjustments as necessary until I have a new schedule that allows me to live the healthy life God has for me.
From start to finish, the writing process takes me about a week. However, I usually write in small sections or chunks of time, and I like to spend a lot of time in prayer and reflection as I write. That process isn't "right" necessarily, it just works for me. Find the writing rhythm that works best for you - and go for it! Getting it done is so much more important than doing it in any particular way.
I'm praying for you as you start this health planning journey - that God will meet you right where you are and continue to draw you closer to him throughout the planning process!
"The Science of Goals" http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2014/12/science-goals/
"Why You Should Be Writing Down Your Goals" http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2014/04/08/why-you-should-be-writing-down-your-goals/
"Diet Supplement Dangers Kept Quiet by FDA" http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/study-warns-of-diet-supplement-dangers-kept-quiet-by-f-d-a/?_r=0
"What is Functional Medicine?" https://www.functionalmedicine.org/about/whatisfm/