Recently I was asked to read a book called The 12 Week Year by Brian T. Moran, and it has changed my life. The book is not about changing your life if you live with a disease; it's generally about life management and sales. Nonetheless, I still found many of the tips and challenges it presented useful in managing my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The premise is pretty simple. You create goals for yourself that you would like to reach in a 12-week period. These goals aren’t as large as those that might take a year to accomplish -- but that is the point; they are reachable goals. At the end of every 12 weeks, you are allowed to take a break and reflect on what you just accomplished, adjustments you might need to make, or what you’d like to do next.
I sat down and thought about areas of my life that could be improved with this tactic with my Crohn’s disease. What areas could I make better? What areas could I make easier? Can my quality of life improve that much? Without doubt, the answer is -- yes.
It’s not easy, and it will take time to implement. Generally it takes two to three "12-week year" cycles in order for your mind and body to grow accustomed to habits and rituals. But if your life could be better in three months, then six months, and then nine months, wouldn’t you want to give it a try?
Below are three areas in which you can improve your quality of life with IBD 12 weeks at a time. If there are other areas of your life that you’d like to improve, make a plan and tackle those, too.
There are a lot of research articles, diets, and more out there about how nutrition can impact Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Diet and nutrition are not a cure for IBD -- but for some patients, the right diet can help manage their IBD a little better.
As patients, it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves. Do some research on various diets and nutrition from trusted resources. (Note: Tree bark and aloe juice don’t cure IBD.) Begin to try some of them out. Keep a food/pain journal and figure out what works for you. You’ll figure out which clean foods give you energy and make you feel good. You’ll also find what foods don’t agree with you and make you feel sick.
Once you’ve done that, create your own diet that you’ve found works with your IBD. Then implement it into your 12-week year.
Being physically active is not easy with IBD. In fact, it can be extremely difficult at times. After a flare or a surgery, the last thing many of us are thinking about is how to get active. But have you ever gone on a walk, jog, to the gym, or done another activity and felt better for a little while afterward?
This is because physical activity balances your body out and allows it to function in a more normal way. Humans weren’t meant to sit on the couch all day, watching TV -- or to sit for hours in front of a monitor at work, for that matter. We were meant to get out, be active, hunt for our own food, and be healthy. While it is true that humans have evolved from this method of obtaining food, with smaller teeth, jaws and faces, experts can agree that healthy diets and movement are still important to healthy body function.
So take some time and create an activity plan that you can stick to for the first 12-week period. Make it easy, and this way you know you’ll reach your goals. After that, begin to bump up the activity a little more. You might be surprised about what you can do with your IBD and also how much better you feel.
Mental health is an extremely important part of our lives. When you throw in a chronic disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, it becomes an even larger part of our lives. It’s easy to let IBD win, get you down, and keep you from living the life you’ve wanted.
This is why we need to focus energy on our mental health. There are many things that you can do in the comfort of your own home to help with this crucial area of our lives. Yoga, breathing techniques, meditation, and many more mental exercises can be done right at home.
If needed and you have the ability, you can also speak with a professional to open up and get some weight off your shoulders by sharing what is really bothering you. This can make a huge difference and lead to changes in other areas of your life as well.
Create a list of things that you know you can do for your mental health, and add them to your 12-week plan.
So what do you think? Are you already thinking about what kind of changes you can make in three months? Let us know in the comments section below what you’ll be working on, what goals you’ll set, and how you think your life will change, 12 weeks at a time.
Brian Greenberg is founder of the Intense Intestines Foundation. He primarily works as an advocate to help patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ostomies. You can reach Brian on Twitter at @BrianIIF or email at Brian@IntenseIntestines.org. If you would like to connect with the IIF more please visit www.Facebook.com/IntenseIntestines, or www.Twitter.com/NtenseNtestines. And you can join Brian in the conversation about all things IBD on the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.