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Healthy You

Following Doctors Orders: How to Stay Motivated

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 4:11 PM

By Isabelle Banin

You walk out of your doctor’s office with a solid plan to reduce your cholesterol and a renewed zest for getting healthy. By the next morning, your best-laid plan goes awry.

In our minds, we know our doctors prescribe us diets, exercise plans and medication to help us get better. In real life, it’s dreadfully difficult for the vast majority of us to change our daily routines­—even if our health is at stake. In fact, around 50% of patients with chronic conditions struggle to stick to their treatment plan.

Even small missteps, like doing one less set of physical therapy exercises, can have consequences–your worst symptoms may return and delay your back-to-normal date.

If following every aspect of our treatment plans is really so important, why do we struggle so much?

The answer isn’t simple.

Maybe you have a long, complex treatment plan that feels overwhelming, or feelings of depression and isolation have made you lose hope of improving your condition.

Many people without any specific reason for not following their treatment plan still struggle. They may simply think if they feel better one day, their medication and diet isn’t important. Others are stressed by their busy schedules, and the 30-minute walk they had planned slips from their mind. As you probably already know, taking even a small break from a routine can make it more difficult to get back into it.

No matter whether you are recovering from a sprained ankle or learning how to manage your anxiety, carefully following your treatment plan will improve your long-term health. Here are some tips from Asheesh Bedi, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive Sports Medicine and Joint Preservation Program at NorthShore, to get you started:

  • Schedule this work no different than other “have to” tasks. We pay our bills and show up to work on-time. Make your own health no less a priority.
  • As soon as possible, discuss potential barriers that could make following your treatment plan more difficult. Whether you have concerns about scheduling, cost or remembering your plan, your doctor can help you find a solution. Most of these interventions are low to no cost, and the biggest expense is your time. But, remember, the time investment now may bring years more of high-quality life later.
  • If you have any questions at all about your treatment plan, make sure to write them down in one place so that you can ask your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Keep a journal of how your condition is progressing. Include specific information about when are able to best stick to your treatment plans, and what areas are a struggle. This information will help you and your doctor evaluate whether your plan needs to be changed. It is also impossible to know the value of your effort without tracking progress – weight loss, strength gained and improved labs are all easily assessed parameters.
  • If you have a complex pill regime, try a pill organizer. If you have never used one before, ask your doctor about how to set one up. If any pills are physically difficult to swallow, make sure to tell your doctor. They may be able to prescribe you an alternative.