Changing Behavior and Managing Stress
CHANGING BEHAVIOR AND MANAGING STRESS: AN OVERLOOKED FACTOR
Chronic stress imposes huge costs on us as individuals, as well as on the institutions of the society and culture which we inhabit. But how are we to address these monumental challenges in a way that both makes sense for us as individuals and can be effectively applied within the context of contemporary society?
Any health improvement program, either simple or complex, involves behavioral change. Whether we are taking a prescription drug, changing our diet, or getting more exercise, the fundamental similarity is that we are being asked to change our behavior. We are essentially being asked to apply newly learned information and/or newly acquired tools to our betterment. But is it really that easy?
Perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of the change process in a health context has been offered by Professors James O. Prochaska, Ph.D. & Carlo C. DiClemente, Ph.D. Called the “Transtheoretical Model,” it was derived in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a way to explain the process which we undergo when we confront any change in our behavior. Prochaska and DiClemente identified five discrete thought process phases we pass through on our way to change.
The first, precontemplation, is essentially maintenance of the status quo. As applied to dealing with chronic stress, it is the stage where people either don’t recognize there is a problem with stress, believe that their current level of stress is manageable and not harmful, believe that their coping mechanisms are adequate to deal with their current level of stress, or simply have given up, believing that their situation does not lend itself to a solution.
The second phase, contemplation, includes those of us who are thinking about change, but may be somewhat ambivalent about it. These are usually the people who are constantly seeking more information about a problem, but nothing ever seems enough. In business management terms, they are seeking what’s called “perfect information,” a guarantee that whatever solution they choose is absolutely the right one. Preparation is the third phase of the change process. During this time, a firm decision has been made, and plans have been formulated (“I’m going to call that naturopath and make an appointment tomorrow!”).
The fourth phase of change is action. This is where we actually put the plan into effect and begin making overt changes in our behavior. At this point, resolving the problem becomes the main focus of our attention and effort.
When we now put our program in motion, the likelihood of success starts to increase. As our habit patterns begin to change, they become progressively more strongly reinforced, and we then can move into a maintenance phase of change, where the process becomes progressively easier to handle.
Where are you on the scale of change? Do you need to move forward with change but feel “stuck?” We have the training and tools to help you overcome the obstacles in the change process and design a health improvement program that allows you to feel and be successful. Call us today!
Peter M. McCarthy, ND
Peter M. McCarthy, ND is a nationally board certified traditional naturopath, and a wellness consultant with Martins Compounding and Wellness Centers in Austin, TX. He is the author of Adrenaline Nation: Chronic Stress is Ruining Our Health and Bankrupting Our Economy – Discover What YOU Can Do About It NOW! Trained in both functional blood work analysis and saliva hormone analysis, he is a former member of the Advisory Committee of the American Naturopathic Certification Board. He is available for individual wellness consultations by appointment at Dripping Springs Pharmacy, 100 Commons Road, Suite 1, Dripping Springs, TX, Monday through Friday from 12 pm til 6 pm.