Life-changing Chronic Conditions Self-Management workshop

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, February 7 2017

This morning the children woke me up singing in the kitchen in their loudest voices. I was still very much asleep and screamed at them to stop. They brought me tea in bed, which pacified me. I hurried to dress and get my youngest out the door, but of course we were a few minutes late. Leaving the school, I realized I had my down coat on, my runners, my music and headphones and that was all I needed not to go home and back to bed. Instead, I raced out to Berry Point and thought, “I can get my walk in before work.” And I did. It was a gorgeous morning and I’m not a morning person at all.

But on this day, I walked like an Olympic speed walker, completed my 30 minutes and drove to work, knowing I’d come and write this column. Because things are changing in my life and I believe it’s due to a workshop I’m taking through the PHC (People for a Healthy Community) and the University of Victoria called Chronic Conditions Self-Management. I did a story on this a few weeks ago and decided to sign up. We are three weeks in and I have learned the value of something called an action plan. It is a plan you make for the week to challenge yourself to do something you want to do at least three times a week with a 70 per cent confidence level that you can complete it.

I have made two action plans since I started. The first was to eat healthy, every day, not binging on cookies and then giving up fruits and vegetables and protein to account for spent calories. This behaviour of dipping my hand into the cookie jar has been with me since I was a little girl.  It soothes bad moods, feelings, and helps me to cope with circumstances that are too hard to process. I decided I would eat healthy for one week and that meant no sugar, or at least very little.

My second action plan was to walk. The textbook which came with the course advised working up to 150 minutes of walking a week, among other activities, and that’s what I decided to do. I have a numb toe from too much Christmas party dancing, but I decided to walk anyway, knowing it was caused by a bruised nerve and that walking probably wouldn’t hurt it further.

Everything in me was against it as I’ve had chronic back pain for 10 years since having the children. But in the workshop we talked about how activity is so good for you and you should try, even walking around the house if it helps, and then work up to walking around the block. I used to run, and even did a marathon once, and usually set myself up for failure by constantly comparing what I’m doing now to what I used to do in the past and then giving up and going back to the cookie jar. 

But once a week I meet with a wonderful group of Gabriolans, also with chronic conditions, and we talk about how we manage to cope and now how we are managing to thrive. Led by two amazing people who also have chronic conditions and who keep us on topic, we all talk about our action plans and say if we accomplished what we set out to do, had to make substitutions, or had reasons we couldn’t fully complete the action plan.

Already I am feeling sad for the end of February when this workshop will be over, because I am walking every day, with my music blaring on my headphones and working up a good sweat. This morning, after my walk, I went to the Cottage Garden and found the snowdrops that I like to visit every year at this time. Through this workshop I am learning to take better care of myself. It’s about time.

I wanted to share my experience and encourage others to write an action plan. Talk about it with your family and, initially, don’t set an action that you don’t feel at least 70 per cent sure you can complete. It can be about anything. I’ve just found it best to help me get moving. I’m still stiff and sore sometimes, but I’m getting active and my body is rewarding me by lightening my mood. I still long for the cookie jar. That probably won’t go away any time soon, but I’m trying to break the habit and challenge myself to eat healthy and get moving. Next week, my action plan is to be in bed at 10:00 p.m. every night and be awake by 7:30 a.m. I’m 60 per cent confident I can pull it off at least three days a week.