The Personal Health Journey

By August 13, 2017August 20th, 2017Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient

The metaphor, Personal Health Journey, works for me. We’re heading somewhere for health whether on purpose or not. We’re never actually there. It’s continual – until it isn’t. Sometimes we have a map, sometimes we don’t. Map or not, we’re still heading somewhere:  work, the grocery store, our in-laws, the beach. There’s always decisions to make on a journey: stop for gas, rest, sight see, go left, go right? Same with the health journey.

The journey is different if we’re well, acutely ill, chronically ill or dying. Our aspirations are different.  When we’re well we either don’t think about our health or we want to stay well. When we’re acutely ill (now we’re a patient), we want to get over it. When we’re chronically ill we want to live the best life possible. When we’re dying we want to live as long as possible or live as best as possible OR both. The journey is different, too. For the well it’s Inertia or Select Personal Health Goals-> Act and Track->Deal with symptoms when they arise. For the acutely ill it’s Symptom->Diagnosis->Treatment->Recovery->Back to Well or on to Chronically Ill (thanks to John Mitchell at Applied Marketing Science).  For the chronically ill it’s Disbelief->Grief->Get help (care and treatment)->Recalibrate->Maintain->Give back->Relapse (and back again).

The decisions in our health journeys can be made for us by others, with others, or by us. Usually all three – there are too many decisions to make them all alone. It’s like remodeling-who knew there were so many decisions to make?

Life has so much noise, more when you’re unwell. The decisions in the health journey can be easier when we know what’s important to us – our preferences, our values, our personal health goals.  They filter out the noise.

The journey exists in a context that impacts everything: biology and genetics, our physical environment, our personal behavior, our community and social circumstances, our access to medical care and other help, and luck.

Below I’ve put together aspirations, goals, and the journeys:

Well-> Aspiration: Stay well-> Set Personal Health Goals (see more at

  • Smile
  • Have the best relationships possible
  • Sit Less, Move more
  • Slow Down, Meditate
  • Do what makes you happy
  • Eat food, not too much, mostly plants
  • Drink water
  • Quit smoking
  • Get more sleep
  • Don’t rush the brush
  • Live within your means
  • Do some of what you love
  • Take out the garbage, do the laundry, clean the place
  • Track your health data, use checklists
  • Tell someone if you’re sad, stressed, or have symptoms

Journey: Inertia or Select personal health goals> Act and track->Deal with symptoms when they arise

Acutely ill -> Aspiration: Get over it->Set Personal Health Goals

  • Same as Well PLUS
  • Do what you commit to
  • Take meds
  • Manage pain
  • Adapt to change in function
  • Get more rest

Journey: Symptom->Diagnosis->Treatment->Recovery->Back to Well or on to Chronically Ill

Chronically ill ->Aspiration: Live the best life possible->Set Personal Health Goals

  • Same as for the Well and Acutely Ill PLUS
  • Get help, build a team
  • Enlist a care partner and the community
  • Become an expert in your conditions
  • Get help figuring out the costs
  • Join a support group
  • Prioritize what really matters
  • Give yourself a break
  • Pay as much attention to your team’s health as you can

Journey: Disbelief->Grief->Get help (care and treatment)->Recalibrate->Maintain->Give back->Relapse (and back again)

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