I’ve been thinking a lot about patience lately. It’s one of those valuable commodities most of us could use more of. When it comes to improving their wellness, many people are looking for a quick fix – whether it be for pain reduction, healing injuries, weight loss, or increasing energy levels. Sometimes when we make changes in our health habits we feel the effects immediately – such as sleeping an extra hour at night. But in many cases it takes time to reap the benefits of improving our wellness. Many people, for example, start a vigorous fitness program after not exercising for months only to injure themselves and then give up. Others will overhaul their diet, eliminating sugar, caffeine and processed foods only to find they feel worse the first week. So instead of persisting, they go back to their unhealthy habits.
Often we initially feel better after making positive health changes, but then after a few weeks – or even months- we suddenly experience some of the negative physical and psychological symptoms that led us to clean up our act in the first place. Alternative health practitioners call this “a healing crisis “. According to this theory, when you alter your wellness lifestyle, improving your diet, exercising, perhaps eliminating alcohol or drugs, you feel better initially. But after a period of feeling better many people redevelop not only symptoms that led them to make these changes, but also symptoms from past illness and conditions- both physical and emotional . Supposedly the health crisis, however, differs from the original illness or condition by being short-lived. In other words you feel crummy for about 3 days but then feel much better afterwards.
I call the “health crisis” theory the “have faith” concept. Changing your lifestyle is a big commitment filled with many temptations for falling “off the wagon”. According to research it takes at least 5 weeks to establish a habit change, so if you quit at the first sign of difficulty or discomfort you’re sabotaging your potential for success. The health crisis theory also holds that your body waits until it is ready to handle it and that you may go through multiple health crises on the road to wellness.
I don’t recall having anything resembling a health crisis when I made some major health habit changes back in my 20s. It was really hard the first few weeks, but I only recall feeling better and better physically without any setbacks. Perhaps when you’re that young you’re not healing years of past illnesses and conditions. In more recent years when I’ve made health habit changes I have experienced some symptoms that might have been related to a health crisis such as aches and pains from past injuries, an itchy rash on my neck, fatigue and frequent urination. Whether or not I was experiencing a health crisis, the symptoms were intermittent and I did feel better after they passed.
Whether or not you experience a “health crisis” when you improve your wellness, the point is to be patient. Change takes time and faith. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself if given the right tools. One of those tools is time….