September: Sustaining Change
With any behavior change, the key to sustaining the change over time is to make it a way of life. Creating well-being, in work and life, requires a lifelong dedication to the long-term goals of health and wellness. Often, this can feel daunting. The momentum for focus on living a mindful and intentional life ebbs and flows depending upon fluctuating life events. For many, emphasis on well-being does not happen until a person is aware they are unwell—the discomfort of being out of balance propelling an individual into action. However, lack of wellness or illness does not necessarily need to be the catalyst for action. A combination of intentional living, self-awareness, and commitment to well-being can not only support the process of behavior change but sustain the change over time.
There are several key steps to making and sustaining change:
Intention. Change cannot happen without a conscious desire to live differently. Being clear about short- and long-term goals directs your attention towards behaviors that support the achievement of these goals.
Mindfulness. Maintaining a stance of mindfulness can provide valuable information about how a person is doing—right now. It can bring awareness to signs and symptoms that may periodically arise. This information can provide the insight and clarity needed to make informed choices and guide action towards balance and realignment.
Communication. The path to achieving goals for health and wellness relies on effective communication. Clear, constructive and assertive communication is needed to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Making requests and setting limits can increase feelings of satisfaction and control.
Collaboration. Wellness does not happen in a vacuum. In order to create wellness in any environment, collaboration and support from others is essential. It can facilitate the development of new practices, creative ideas and enhance problem-solving.
Practice. Although it can feel risky to deviate from the status quo, practicing new behaviors is key to developing skills. Practice helps to adjust and refine behaviors to discover ways to meet the unique needs of an individual or system. The best kind of practice includes taking small, manageable steps that can add up to significant change.
The Colorado Medical Society and its Expert Panel on Physician Wellness have taken on the goal of improving physician wellness and reducing burnout in 2014. A crucial partner in the effort are the experts at the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, who will develop a toolkit over the next year specifically tailored to physicians to address the eight dimensions of wellness with a focus on stress and burnout. BHWP experts will provide monthly web posts and encourage CMS members to provide feedback to shape the development of the toolkit. Above is the eighth and final entry in the series. Log in and post your comments on this month’s feature in the space below. And go to www.cms.org/resources/category/physician-wellness to view others in the series.