Sunday, November 13, 2016

Just Three Steps: How to Live a Balanced Life While Living with ALS (Part 2)

Maybe your life was humming along just fine "Before ALS” - -  I know mine was. And sure, perhaps the way we reacted to Life’s many stressors might not have been all that perfect ...but we got by.

But let’s be honest. Living with ALS; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and dealing with the accumulating challenges and changes plus, trying to keep up with family schedules and other obligations can wear a person down! Seems our old reliable coping styles are in need of assistance!

That's where the ALS Wellness Life Dimensions model comes in. It's a simple daily method that has been of tremendous help to me these past six years I've been living with ALS.

First, some truths:

1.) Recent research* shows that adopting resilient behaviors and attitudes will improve your well-being, health, comfort and happiness. 2.) You alone control your mental and emotional states. 3.) And our bridge to crossover from the land of dry research and statistics into real-world applications and quality of life is by way of the ALS Life Dimensions Model.

Let’s get started!

Physical – Emotional – Intellectual – Social - Spiritual

These five dimensions are essential for living a balanced, happy life. But, they can slowly diminish when for example, we restrict our daily activities, reduce our circle of friends, have more of our health decisions made without our input and begin losing our sense of value as a person.

We can however keep our Life Dimensions balanced and full through behaviors that include: taking responsibility for our emotional feelings, challenging our illness and accepting problems without resigning into them, relying on supportive relationships and controlling the controllable aspects of our life.

In general, the five different dimensions are inter-connected and even though we may at times need to focus more on one over another, together they hold equal status in our overall well-being. As soon as we become aware of an over-emphasis on one dimension, we check-in with the remaining dimensions and explore ways to make adjustments or increases in each. A change in one dimension will have an effect on several other dimensions.

For instance, losing the ability to walk or drive a car may affect social activities and self-esteem. Using an electric wheel-chair or arranging for shared transportation can be solutions that allow for continued social activities and improved self-esteem.

How do keep our Life Dimensions in balance or correct them if we sense they’ve shifted? By following a simple three-step process:


The diagram below show entire process: We begin on the left - - Life Dimensions in balance. If, we experience a change (or loss) we then begin the three-step process of ASSESS-RE FRAME-BALANCE with the goal of bringing our Life Dimensions back into balance again. 

>>> Step 1 - ASSESS the situation.

Ask yourself what has changed (lost). Try to be as specific as possible.

Then, ask yourself how you feel about the identified change or loss. Your goal is to be in a state of mind where you accept the change/loss. 

If you can't quite accept it yet (feelings of anger, denial, sadness, etc.) then read Part 4 Lifelines (post coming soon) for a list of techniques that I've used to process and accept change.

>>>Step 2 – RE FRAME the change (or loss) into a challenge.

This requires a mental shift or reappraisal of your situation from a different perspective from where you are now. (Read this post to learn how)

For example, with a loss of the ability to walk make a list with two columns: named "A" and "B." Under "A" list all the places and locations you need access to (example: across the house, in the grocery store) Then, Under "B" identify what could be used to get you from A-to-B. Such as, to move across the house: a walker. In the grocery store: a store provided electric cart, and so on.  As you brainstorm enlist the help of others for ideas, possible solutions and how to bring solutions into reality.

>>>Step 3 – BALANCE your Life Dimensions.

Review the Life Dimensions definitions. As you read through each one take time to reflect how your life matches the statement  If something is not in agreement, apply the ASSESS-RE FRAME-BALANCE process once again.

Physical Life Dimension
• Our body’s physical health, its level of function, and the physical changes
   brought on by disease progression. 
• Our proactive use of medical equipment, appliances and medication.
• Our intake of quality nutrition, practice of regular therapeutic exercise,
   quality sleep and regular daily physical activity. 

Emotional Life Dimension
• Our ability to cope with change and accept the disease we live with. 
• Our contentment and happiness. 
• Our ability to express stress appropriately and effectively.
• We are coping day by day and living in the present moment.

Intellectual Life Dimension
• Our creativity, curiosity and pursuit of learning experiences.
• We share our intellect and mental gifts with others.
• We pursue personal interests while keeping a world-view. 

Social Life Dimension
• Our interpersonal (family, caregivers, friends) relationships remain strong.
• We remain connected with our community.
• We use appropriate methods of communication to continue
   to engage with others.

Spiritual Life Dimension
• We have meaning and purpose for our life.
• We continue to participate in service to others.
• Our actions are consistent with our beliefs and values.
• We are content with our spiritual beliefs.

Are you ready to begin? It's really not that difficult once you get used to the process and this method can quickly become your new healthy daily habit. I find that whenever I notice I'm beginning to feel ‘down’ or stressed, I check–in with my feelings and mentally visualize the five dimensions. Then I'm able to assess the cause and can figure out what I need to do for re-balance. Overall the process helps me feel more in control and more relaxed throughout my day.

I look forward to your feedback and comments - - as well as your success stories!


* References:
Soundy A. and Condon N. (2015) Patients experiences of Maintaining Mental Well-being and Hope within Motor Neuron
Disease: a Thematic Synthesis” Front Psychol. 6:606.dol:10.3389/fpsycg. 2015.00606 4

Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger

"This disease wanted to monopolize my attention, but as much as possible, I would focus on my life instead."
Winifred Gallagher Rapt, author
Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

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