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Making a Lasting Change, Shift Work and Sleep Issues, and Ideas for Bite-Sized New Year’s Resolutions.

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As the new year rolls around, it is a natural time to reflect on events of the past year and determine what changes you would like to make for the upcoming year. Perhaps you are thinking it is time to lose that extra twenty pounds, quit the cigarettes for good, start a consistent workout program to help manage your high blood pressure, or learn to manage your temper better.Whatever changes make the most sense to you, it is important to understand what it takes to make a successful change. Here are the facts on change. One in twenty people succeeds in their first attempt at making a change. The other nineteen succeed after several attempts. For the majority of us this means that we need to view long-term change as a process that is not as straightforward as we would want it to be, but one that can be very successful if we follow a controllable and proven course.

The Stages of Change

Visualize a spiral staircase with five landings. At each landing, or stage, there are specific tasks which need to be completed before moving to the next stage. Each stage is of equal importance. Rushing through or skipping a stage usually results in setbacks. This scientific approach to self-change is the result of research conducted by three psychologists, John Norcross, Carlo DiClemente, and James Prochaska. Their model of change has been the dominant model of behavior change for the last thirty years.

The stages of change are as follows:

Stage 1: Precontemplation. You are unaware that your behavior is a problem and do not in- tend to make any changes in the future.
Stage 2: Contemplation. You begin to recognize that your behavior is problematic and start to consider the pros and cons of continuing the behavior.
Stage 3: Preparation. You intend to take action soon and begin taking small steps toward change.
Stage 4: Action. You have made specific changes in your lifestyle and can see positive results.
Stage 5: Maintenance. You continue with the positive changes using solutions that prevent relapse.

For each stage, there are strategies that will help you move toward the next stage. Following are some strategies to consider using with examples of how they can be applied.

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation

Consciousness-raising. Examples are creating a list of pros and cons of changing and thinking of ways to overcome the cons, or listing road- blocks that keep you from changing.
Social liberation. Find social support for living with your potential change. Examples might be to look for non-smoking areas in public spaces and buildings, look for healthy-choice menu items, go to a park with a walking path rather than a movie theater.

Stage 2: Contemplation

Emotional arousal. An example is visualizing what you may look and feel like in ten years if your behavior does not change.
Re-evaluation. Consider the negative effects of your behavior and the rewards of a healthier lifestyle. What would be better about your life? Many behaviors be- come habitual and unconscious. Think before you act, considering why you are doing it.

Stage 3: Preparation

Make an action plan. Make it specific and break it down into small steps.
Commitment. Commit to your plan. Use willpower. Yes, willpower. It sends an internal message that we believe we can produce the changes we want. It is fundamentally necessary to successful change. There are no miracles.

Stage 4: Action

Rewards. Reinforce your positive changes. For example, take the money you would normally spend on cigarettes and create a reward jar. Take yourself out to dinner.
Use Countering. Substitute healthy responses for old unhealthy ones. The best substitute for any problem behavior is exercise. For instance, consider walking twenty minutes a day to relax instead of sitting at the computer playing games for an hour.
Restructure your environment. Remove items that invite you to return to old habits. Get rid of junk food. Plan your evening so you aren’t so likely to sit in front of the TV. Take a different route home from work to avoid driving by your old favorite bar.
Engage helping relationships. These are very helpful all along the walk of change, but especially in this stage as you can be held accountable, get feedback and gain emotional support to keep on track.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Keep it positive. Avoid focusing on failures and guilt. Use lapses as opportunities to learn how to correct for future success. Any effort in the right direction is worthwhile.
Don’t give up. Don’t let down your guard. Long-lasting change can take many months. And it doesn’t happen overnight.Remember: there are no miracles, but the research is in—you CAN make positive, long-lasting changes.

You are much more likely to be successful if your attempts are built on self-motivation and rooted in positive thinking.For guidance and support with making changes in your life, you may access your EAP services by calling PAS at (800) 356-0845. There are a variety of services available to help you make and sustain the changes you want to make in your life.

Shift Work and Sleep Issues

Humans are wired to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. Light is a cue for our bodies to be awake and active, while the dark cues your body to rest. When you work at night and sleep during the day, your body’s internal clock needs to reset itself to sleep during the day. There are more than 15 million Americans, or 20% of the workforce, who are shift workers.

Shift work can be difficult for people who work non-traditional hours. You may be one of these individuals if your work hours fall outside the typical 9-5d business day. This can be especially difficult if you work overnight shifts or work rotating shifts. Most workers complain of problems with sleep disturbance and general fatigue. Here are a few techniques you can use if you experience sleep issues due to shift work.

Control Light, Sound, and Temperature

The room that you are sleeping in should be dark. If possible use blackout drapes or wear a sleep eye mask.
Put a towel over bright digital devices, such as a clock or a DVD player.
Wear sunglasses when you drive home in the daylight hours after working nights. This can counter some of the effect of light so your body will be more ready to sleep when you get home.
Wear earplugs to block sounds.
Use a white noise machine if there is distracting sound in the house or neighborhood that you can’t avoid.
Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level. It is difficult to get the sleep you need when a room is too hot or too cold.

Take Care of Yourself and Get Support from Friends and Family

Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, before bedtime. The effects of caffeine can linger 8 hours after consumption, which makes falling asleep after work difficult. Avoid alcohol as well. While you may fall asleep quickly, you will also wake up quickly, as soon as the alcohol levels in your blood begin to drop.
Caffeine consumptions can also lead to dehydration. Dehydration can contribute to feelings of fatigue. Keep a water bottle at your workstation and drink regularly throughout your shift.
Eat a healthy diet. Some individuals who work night shifts gain weight because they eat high calorie, high fat meals and snacks. To avoid this trap, try to bring a healthy range of snacks and meals to work.
Get plenty of exercise. Exercise increases your sense of well being and your ability to relax. Try not to exercise heavily within an hour of retiring.
Ask family members and friends not to wake you when you are sleeping, except in an emergency. If possible, turn off your phone when you are sleeping.
Setting a routine is the most important tip. Allow yourself 7-8 hours sleep, and then set your wake-up time. If you stick to your routine, you will eventually see improvements in your sleep and feel more awake and alert during your shift.

To speak with a professional consultant to help structure your routine and develop a wellness plan, contact PAS at (800) 356-0845.

Bite-Sized NewYear’s Resolutions

Sometimes we stay stuck in old patterns because we bite off more than we can chew. Try a new approach. Make changes in bite- sized pieces. Here are some ideas:
Dental hygiene: increase flossing by 3 times a week.
Dieting: eat just one of anything at one time. Eat just one handful of chips.
Exercise: take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Safety: when you get in your vehicle, buckle up, turn on the ignition, then take a deep breath before you back out of your driveway.
Gratitude: name one thing you can be grateful for in your day before you go to sleep.
Positive attitude: when you find yourself in a stinky situation, identify one thing you can do to make it better.
Kindness: do one small positive thing each day at work that isn’t in your job description.

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Information on discipline, sleep issues, reinforcement strategies, potty training and temper tantrums
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PASWord Express © 2011 is published by Personal Assistance Services, 9735 Landmark Parkway, Suite 17, St. Louis, MO, 63127 -9968 (800) 356-0845. Material may not be reproduced without written permission.