Where Do I Begin?

Nov 26, 2021

Hello everyone!
Today, what I want to do today is talk to you about a very important question, and the question that often we think about when we're talking about our health is, where do I begin?

Where do I begin to think about my health? How do I approach this, and what does it all mean? How do I gather this information so that I can put it into a meaningful context?

Today, I want to walk through a step-by-step process that you can apply to help you think about your health journey. The question is, where do I begin?

To answer that question, I think we need to look back for a brief time and really ask ourselves, what was I doing in the past?

What have I experienced in the past that has been impactful for my health?

What things have I experienced over the course of my life, going back to my childhood, that influenced my current health?

In order to do that, one of the things I want you to do is begin to think back to your childhood.

Now, this is not very easy to do: it requires some time and thought, and so you might want to just be in a quiet place, reflect carefully, have a piece of paper and a pen or pencil handy, or at your computer, sit down and begin to think about what my health was like as a child. Was it easy? Was it hard? Were there any specific health challenges that I remember going through?

Were there any hospitalizations that I had, even as a baby. Maybe your parents told you, you were hospitalized as a baby, or you had a health condition as a baby.

Go ahead and write these events down on your list because that may become important later for us to think about.

Also, were there any emergencies? Did I have any surgeries, even as a child or a teenager or adolescent young adult.

Going back and making a list of these, and even if you can remember or you were told the age when you had those experiences, write down that age, because that can be very important for us later as we think through future activities that will take you to your best health. 

Next, I would like you to think: what do I remember most about my home environment growing up? Did it seem healthy? What were the conditions like where I lived? Do I remember it as clean or not so clean? Do I remember the air as being clean or not so clean? In fact, you could ask yourself, was I allowed to play outside? Was it safe to play outside? So, take a couple minutes now and write down your recollection of your home environment, and what it was like growing up.

Next, think about your family. If you had brothers or sisters growing up, did they seem healthy or not so healthy, and write down any health events or emergencies or hospitalizations that you remember that involved your brothers and sisters.

Next, think about your parents. Think about their health, and were they healthy, when you remember growing up, or were they not so healthy? Did they have challenges that they went through? Any special health events you remember? Any emergencies that they experienced, any hospitalizations, any accidents that you remember your parents being involved with?

Remember as much as you can and write it all down.  And, know that it is OK if you don't remember everything at once. You can always go back and fill in blanks or gaps in information.

All of these events, situations and people can have an influence later in our health. So, go ahead and write down any of those that you can remember.

Next, recall growing up, then ask yourself, what were the healthiest activities that I remember participating in? Think back carefully to those things such as working outside or running outside, playing in a school or neighborhood playground, were you playing in neighborhood informal sports games? Were you playing in organized sports of any type? Write those down, because those can be very important as guides for our future health.

Now, what I'd like you to do is also, if you're currently young or middle-aged, say 20 to 49 years of age, ask yourself, how has my health really been since my teenage years?

For example, you could ask yourself, have I gained a little weight or if I gained a lot of weight? Now, you can also think back to your weight as an 18-year-old. If you can remember that weight, go ahead and write it down, write it down, and we'll come back to that number later, because we want to use that for your guide going forward in terms of your own health journey.

Now, one of the things I wanted you to do is think about your physical activity level now and when you were a teenager. Think back to when you were a teenager and even a young adult, and ask yourself, what is my activity level now compared with what I was doing in my younger years, my teenage years or my young adult years? Am I more active or less active, and how much and how did it change? Write down that change if you can basically quantify it.

What I want you to do next is ask yourself, what has changed? What in my life has changed that may have related to changes in activity? For example, am I working a lot now, and how many hours a week am I working? How many hours do I dedicate to my job each week? Write down that number and we'll come back to that later. That's an important quantity that we want to know about, and you can even write down an average number of hours if you think it varies from week to week.

Then, I'd like you to think about other activities that may have changed in your life, or other commitments or responsibilities. For example, am I raising a family with a spouse, or do I have one or more children that I'm taking care of or am I responsible for? That's important to also consider when we think about our health journey going forward.

Now, also think about loved ones or other family members that you're caring for. It could be an elderly parent, it could be a special needs child, or it could be someone else in your life, even a neighbor that you have some responsibility for that you're taking care of because that all has an impact on our health.

And there's no doubt in my mind that a number of life changes really can be the root for many changes in our health that we experience later in life. So, we're going to come back to that concept in a future podcast. But I wanted you to think about that because we know that past events, past experiences, and even current events can really have an impact on our current health.

Now, one of the things I wanted you to think about, if you're an older adult, say 50 years and older, think back to your younger years. How has my health changed? This may sound like a very simple question to ask, but it takes time to sit down and answer that question, because you must think back maybe one or more decades, right?

And so, think about these next important questions:

What health challenges have I experienced?

Did I develop a new illness?

Was I diagnosed with an acute illness from which I've recovered now, or was I diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes or hypertension that I'm now being treated for?

Also think, am I taking medications now that I was not taking in my younger years? That's going to be very important because we want to use that to also quantify changes in our life, changes in our health.

Also, if you can think of any life-threatening illnesses you have experienced, write those down, or if you're experiencing one right now, go ahead and write it down. That will be part of your list going forward. Also, if you had any surgeries, write those down because those can be important guides to your past health, and for all of these things, if you can remember when they started, if it's an acute episode and it's finished now, go ahead and just write down the estimated year or month when you experienced that.

If it's a chronic illness that you have, write down when you were first told that you have that. When were you first diagnosed with this illness? And that can be very important as a guide going forward as well.

One of the final exercises that I ask you to do is write down all the health events that you can remember since young adulthood. Try to be as complete as possible and write down the age or approximate age that you experienced each of these illnesses or conditions. This is going to be part of our health journey, be it by first understanding where we've been, and to understand where we're going to go, we need to know where we have been and where we are now.

Now, when you have this list, what I'd like you to do is also make a list, include on the paper or your computer, your current health conditions, challenges and problems. For now, write down anything and everything you can think of—being more inclusive at this step is OK. Later, if needed, we can narrow down that list.

Now, here comes the next very important step.

What I want you to do for each of these conditions is write down a number from one to 10 next to each health condition. A ten is going to mean that you think it's just your opinion, that you think that that problem or that challenge is very important to deal with. In contrast, a one means or will mean that you think that problem is much less important to deal with.

A five will mean that it's somewhere in the middle, and you can rank your health conditions or challenges from one to 10. Give each one a number though, and it can be any number from one to 10. It’s OK to have some health challenges that you think are ranked with a “one” or some that are ranked a "ten".

Next, when you have that list and you've written down all the conditions, you've written down your ranking number from one to 10 next to each condition, what I want you to do next is rewrite this list. You're going to rewrite the list, and you're going to put those conditions, those health challenges that you gave a one at the top of your list, and those that you gave a lower number after that. So those that you ranked as a 10 would be at the end of your list now.

So now you've got a ranked health conditions list from one to 10, and you could have any number of health conditions. You could have 20, 30, 40, 50. It doesn't matter. Think of anything you want, anything you can remember, anything you're experiencing now, and put that into your list with a health ranking.

Now, what I want you to do, is go back to your list and think honestly, just reflect in a calm moment and revisit the list and say to yourself, have I really left anything off? Did I forget anything or are there some things I'm just ignoring because I don't want to deal with them, and I didn't put it on the list to begin with. That's okay. Don't worry about that. Just go ahead now and add those conditions to your lists.

So as we go forward step-by-step, we may think of things that we forgot, and that's completely okay. We'll just add them to your list as we go forward. What we want to do at the end is be able to reflect on this list, and what you're really now beginning to understand is the key items that are going to be related to your health going forward that you can start to develop a plan for, and this is really where your health journey begins.

It starts first with you recalling the past, making the list, identifying your health challenges and writing them down. Just this act alone will begin to reframe your thinking about what is going on in your life and what is going on with your health. One of the things you'll quickly realize is that you may have been working on some of these for some time, yet they're still a one or a two. That's okay. We will go through this step by step, and you will be able to find new ways to deal with these health challenges that you're experiencing.

One of the things I wanted to do is make it clear that this is not a one-week exercise. Developing our health journey, figuring out where we're going to start, is going to be an ongoing activity in our lives. We begin the journey, but we can modify the journey as we go forward. It is going to be a lifelong process.

From here to the very end, one of the things I want you to focus on, is realize that this journey that we're starting now is going to be for the rest of your life. It's not going to finish in one week or one day or even one month. It's going to take several months, but together I can guarantee you that you're going to make progress and you're going to see improvements by going through the step by step.

One of the things I want you to do is just think back to what we just talked about. We're on this journey. We have begun to think back to our earlier years, our younger years as a child, even a baby, into our teen years, into school, into high school. What was our health like then? We're going to write down those challenges. We're going to think about what we experienced. It could be a short-term event, it could be a long-term event, maybe something we're still working on or dealing with. That's okay.

 In fact, we're going to need support to do it from people all around us, including our family, our co-workers, and those health experts around us that we gather going forward. So, your health journey begins now. It begins today. Let's start this today, and we'll move forward together to find the best pathway forward for you. So have a great day, and we'll talk again soon.

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