I remember leaving the hospital after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I was driving through the parking garage and my head was spinning with all the what ifs and worst case scenarios, along with a thousand questions and a million emotions.
I felt completely defeated.
And I also was completely determined that I was not going to let this diagnosis take over my life.
But how in the world was I going to make that happen?
The doctor just told me that MS is incurable and that diet doesn’t matter.
He outright said, “eat whatever you want, it won’t make a difference.”
Now I was a nutrition coach at the time, so I knew that wasn’t true.
But were all the diet and lifestyle changes that I have been studying for the last 20 years really going to be strong enough to stand against the incurable MS?
I didn’t know, but I wanted to give it my best shot.
Perfection is a Myth
The problem was because I saw MS as this massive incurable beast, I kept telling myself that I had to do ALL the diet and lifestyle changes and I had to do them ALL not just one day but EVERYDAY.
I mean if I keep doing the same thing I’ve done leading up to this point, I’ll continue to get the same results, right?
I mean that is the definition of insanity, isn’t it?
Doing the same thing and expecting a different result?
But yet, I also couldn’t wrap my head around how I could fit all the recommendations in.
There were a lot!
Of course, I did the really helpful thing by telling myself that that just meant that I didn’t want it enough.
If I wanted it enough, I would make it happen.
But that wasn’t true.
I wanted nothing more than to stabilize this disease so it didn’t rob me of a single moment or memory in this life.
I just didn’t see how it was attainable.
Well it turns out when our brain doesn’t see our goal as something that is possible, it has a much harder time helping us to achieve that goal.
The bottom line is I was aiming for perfection… the unattainable… and my brain knew it.
It knew that goal of doing everything perfect, every single day wasn’t possible so it didn’t even try to get there.
I had to set a realistic goal so that I could believe that it was possible and get my brain onboard with making it happen.
You have to believe that your goal is possible.
Believing in Your Goal
Let me ask you, right now, can you visually see yourself living the lifestyle you want?
Too often we paint this picture of perfection in our minds and we don’t believe that we can actually get there, so as much as we say we want to change our diet and do all the things, there’s an internal resistance because the picture you painted is not realistic.
So what I started to do was not just see the disillusioned day of perfection far off in my future, I started to see how I could make today better.
Even if that was simply eating one more serving of vegetables today or getting to bed 15 minutes earlier.
I started to see the steps I could take today to feel better tomorrow.
But as small as they were, I needed a way to keep them from getting lost in the busyness of my day.
That’s where my wellness tracker came in.
It was a place where I could capture the smaller changes that were realistic and in time would create momentum and lead to more sustainable results.
Seeing the Changes Real Time
If I didn’t capture them in some way, it would be too easy to look at my day as a whole and tell myself the lie that I didn’t do enough… that I wasn’t going to get results because I wasn’t making enough changes.
My wellness tracker became the proof that I was making changes.
It also helped me to see where I was getting the most traction with the changes that I was making.
It helped me to not only be more consistent with my supplements but it also helped me to see the connection between taking my supplements and improving elimination and my overall gut health.
My wellness tracker helped me to see the connection between the changes I was making on a day to day basis and improvements in my health.
It helped me to close that big gap from where I was today to where I wanted to be.
I started to see it as a daily practice… And not some fantasy moment of perfection in the future.
I started to see the steps – no matter how small – as getting me closer to my goal.
I started to see that every decision mattered.
I didn’t need perfection to get results.
It helped me to take my focus off the idea of perfection and helped me to focus on my daily progress.
My friend, always remember, that which you focus on gets bigger.
Focus on the Daily Wins
If you painted this picture of perfection for yourself and you’re constantly beating yourself up because you’re not any closer to perfection than you were the day you were diagnosed with MS, it’s time to let go of this lie.
Give yourself permission to drop this idea of perfection so you can start to see the progress that you’re making each and every day.
When you use a wellness tracker, it enables you to see the smaller daily successes so you can celebrate them, and not get swallowed up in the overwhelm of trying to make every day perfect.
And a wellness tracker can also help you get out of the slumps that we all inevitably fall into when life starts veering off course.
It can help you to see that sooner so you can start to make the smaller changes to get back on track.
I try to see my wellness tracker not as a daily report card where I’m aiming for straight As everyday.
I view it more as my dashboard to gauge where I’m going.
Are my daily habits moving me closer to better health? Yes, great keep going! No, okay, which step can you start taking that will bring you back on course. We’re looking for little shifts. Little shifts that when made consistently, get results.
I shared in the previous post what I track on my wellness tracker which is:
- Unique Symptoms
And I shared why I chose a wellness tracker over a symptom tracker, so if you haven’t yet read it, go check it out.
But I want to share with you now, what a typical day looks like for me going through my tracker.
And if you want to follow along, you can download a free copy of my tracker at alenebrennan.com/tracker.
I date each page so I have a timeline with the changes that I’m making.
My Big Goal
The first section on the page is about My Big Goal. Some people would refer to this as your BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – or maybe even your “why.”
I choose goals that are meaningful to me but will take consistency on my part to make them happen. For example, becoming a mom at 42 years old or launching an online course for people newly diagnosed with MS and autoimmune disease.
Choose what works best for you – it can be as big or as small as you want it to be – I just encourage you to pick something that feels like a stretch for you but also feels possible to achieve.
So every single day I write down this ONE goal. I can be working towards other things in my life – but this is my one big goal that I’m focusing on right now.
I share this stat all the time, but it’s because I think it’s so important for us to know…
When you focus on 1 goal at a time, you’re 85% like to be successful.
When you focus on 2 goals at a time, your success drops to 35%.
When you focus on 3 goals at a time, your success plummets to 10%.
Pick one goal…
Write it down. Because people who write down their goals are 20% more successful In accomplishing them than those who did not.
Talk about stacking the odds in your favor – one goal makes you 85% likely to be successful. Writing it down makes you 20% more likely to be successful.
And here’s the icing on the cake – on the tracker you’re also identifying one action step that you can take today to get you closer to that goal.
Because when you set actionable tasks for your goals you’re more likely to be successful as well!
So at the top of my wellness tracker, I write my one big goal and one action step that I will take today.
Let’s say your goal is to dance at your daughter’s wedding.
You want to be on the dance floor enjoying the celebration with your family.
But right now you’re dealing with a lot of fatigue and some mobility issues.
So your action step today, may be to call the physical therapy office to schedule your first appointment.
Or it may mean finding a good smoothie recipe because smoothies are the easiest way to get your greens in and you just feel better when you’re eating more greens.
Which by the way, if this is your action step check out my 5 Day Smoothie Challenge!
But my point is to have one goal and one clear action step towards that goal each day.
Just below the goal is space to write your affirmation.
Your thoughts and words are powerful in creating your experience in life. I focus an entire module on mindset because it’s a critical step to a wellness plan.
In this section here you, write a personal statement about the person you are becoming or a belief that you are affirming. Now there are a lot of recommendations out there about affirmations.
I personally am not of the belief of just repeating a phrase that isn’t true. I can say that I love eating kale until I’m blue in the face, but the reality is I don’t love kale. I’ll eat it but I don’t love it.
Just like the goal setting it can’t be something that doesn’t make sense to your brain otherwise it will resist it.
So, this is my personal belief: it’s finding something that acknowledges your reality while affirming the positive changes you want to experience.
Some examples could be…
Each day, I am doing my best and that is enough.
I listen to my body and honor its needs.
Rest is healing.
I decide when to rest and when to rally.
I celebrate the small victories and find joy in everyday moments.
I am more than my diagnosis. My perspective is valuable.
Every day brings new opportunities for healing and happiness, and I am open to them.
I focus on what I can control and find peace in letting go of what I can’t.
I am surrounded by love and support, and I allow myself to lean on them when needed.
These are just some examples to spark some inspiration for you, but find one that resonates best with you.
You can write a new statement each day or repeat the same one each day.
The next section tracks food.
They’re simple checkboxes for
- Leafy greens
- Deeply Colored
- Sulfur rich
If you want to track your meals, there’s a notes section right below it where you can write in your meals.
For me, just tracking my veggies is what’s most important for me to have perspective on.
Am I getting in my veggies? Quick check boxes. Same with supplements and water.
Done and done.
The next section focuses on the lifestyle habits that move the needle for me and my clients.
For this section I have icons that represent different lifestyle habits.
The first is a hand weight for movement.
How did you move your body today? Whether it’s stretching, walking, or strength exercises, write as little or as much detail as you want.
I like to write down the activity and the length of time I did it. So for example, I would write, walk 30 minutes or pilates 20 minutes or yoga 10 minutes.
The next icon is a smiley face for self care.
Self-care is vital but we often don’t prioritize it because it feels too self indulgent.
We need to start looking at it as part of our healing plan. This can be anything from practicing breath work or taking a nap to going for a hike so simply pausing to dance to your favorite song.
It’s about what makes you feel good and cared for.
One of my favorite forms of self care is using my favorite skincare products. It’s something that I can do at home, takes only a few minutes but feels nurturing.
I also love diffusing my favorite essential oils and using them topically. I try to create a spa-like environment in my home.
So jot down your self care for the day.
Next, there’s an icon of two hands holding a heart – this is to represent connection.
Who did you connect with today?
Maintaining social connections is crucial for emotional well-being. And yet the catch 22 is that fatigue can prevent you from making plans.
Or you may be dealing with brain fog and feeling self conscious that you can’t remember things that you talked about the last time you spoke with your friend or you’re simply struggling to keep up in conversations.
So you decline the invites, but then you worry that the invites might stop coming in if you don’t say yes to one soon.
So many people in this community here are in the same boat. But you need to find ways to feel a sense of connection.
Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher risks for health problems such as heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline.
This could be through a call, a text, a note, or any form of communication.
How can you connect with someone today?
Next up… elimination! What fun would it be if we didn’t track poop?
We love to talk about – and celebrate – poop!
Are you going daily?
Are you pooping pebbles or are you pooping snakes?
We’re amongst friends here, we can call it what it is… living with Multiple Sclerosis can make you constipated!
It could be:
- Lack of hydration,
- Poor gut health,
- Lack of physical movement
- Magnesium deficiency
- Side effect of medications
- Or just one of the many joys of living with MS
The bottom line is you want to pay attention to your poop.
Because if you’re dropping pebbles or not going daily, then you want to put some attention around that.
If you’re constipated that means that your poop is just hanging out in your colon and when it doesn’t leave the body – you know what happens… your body starts to reabsorb the toxins it was trying to release in the poop.
So you want to keep your poop movin!
I actually include the Bristol Stool Chart with your wellness tracker so you have a visual tool that categorizes poop into seven types, from hard lumps to liquid consistency.
Then you just circle the number on your tracker.
Again in the busyness of our day we may be inclined to not really pay much attention to it, but when you rate it daily, you’re starting to have an awareness of a big indicator of gut health.
Last but not least – sleep.
What time did you get to bed last night and what time did you wake up today?
A lot happens when you sleep…
- You store memories,
- You heal
- Your BRAIN Detoxes!!!
If you’re not prioritizing sleep, you’re missing out on a big part of your body’s ability to heal.
That starts with an awareness of your sleep habits.
My tracker helped me to notice how much screen time affects my sleep.
So I guess my point is that having everything down on one sheet of paper can help you to connect the dots a lot easier.
Notes + Moments of Gratitude
Then at the bottom of the page, I have a section for notes, which as I mentioned you can write your food for the day, something specific about your unique symptoms, or you can use it as a short journal section, or the top three things you want to get done that day… anything that’s meaningful to you.
And right next to notes is a section to write your favorite moment of the day.
This is something that I love doing every day.
I ask myself and I ask my family – what was your favorite of the day?
It starts training the brain to look for things that are already in your life that you have to be grateful for.
Sometimes my favorite moment is going outside for a walk, or listening to my husband or daughter laugh, sometimes, it’s a good meal or reading a book. Again, it’s whatever is meaningful to you!
What to do with the Information
So, now what do you do with the information that you’re tracking?
As I said, you can start to make connections between your habits and how you’re feeling.
For example you may notice that when between
- Slacking on your leafy greens and having low energy – that’s a big connection for me and my clients!
- Or forgetting to take your supplements – specifically magnesium and being constipated. That’s another one for me!
- Poor sleep and the unique symptom that you’re tracking
And for those favorite moments, they’re great to look back upon whenever you need a little pick-me-up! You can flip back through the pages.
Now you can fill this out at the beginning or end of your day, or divide it between the two.
The key is to make it work for you!
Take Action Now!
I hope you found this conversation helpful and remember, if you want a free copy of my tracker, download it at alenebrennan.com/tracker.