Haims: Procrastination isn’t harmless
Procrastination is a funny thing. Everyone procrastinates. It can be good and bad. It may be good when it allows time to reflect on what’s important, be creative, or even cool down after a conflict. However, it can also be bad. For example, procrastination may lead to negative feelings, anxiety, poor performance, and reduced well-being.
Procrastination can be paralyzing, and ultimately, the fear of the deadline may cause avoidance altogether. When we put off small signs of health concerns or going to the doctor, it is possible that an ailment that could have been treated had we addressed it soon may become a serious illness.
Cause and effect
When it comes to one’s health, the reasons to procrastinate are plentiful. Smokers may rationalize that if they stop by a certain time of life, they may avoid cancer and other health risks. People who frequently consume fast foods may rationalize that the high calories, salt, and preservatives, don’t really affect them. After all, people can’t see the effects of increased blood pressure or coronary disease. Perhaps, herein lies the predicament — if we can’t visualize cause and effect, comprehend the consequence, or be held accountable, we may make a rationalization for what suits us best.
Perhaps when you visit your doctor for a routine check-up, you should have the doctor perform a nuclear perfusion study, ultrasound, or CT scan. These tests show visual images of abnormal blood flow and hardening and narrowing of arteries. Maybe by seeing the severity of damage we have done to ourselves, we could comprehend the magnitude of health risk and therefore make a personal decision if what we saw concerns us. Maybe, then we might care enough to stop procrastinating.
One of the things I’ve noticed about people and their views on their health as they age is this: Denial is the facilitator of procrastination. Take for example someone you know and love who you’ve noticed has balance issues. Have you ever mentioned to them that perhaps they should talk to a professional about it?
Odds are, they may respond by telling you that, “it’s just fine, it’s been this way for a while.” Or possibly, they tell you they can deal with it, “it’ll get better” or, “it’s just part of aging.” Unfortunately, such justifications often stem from denial and the fear of a formal diagnosis.
How to help
Helping our loved ones and assisting in managing such situations can be difficult. However, there are strategies that we can use to help ensure they get the care they need.
- Don’t take their resistance personally — sometimes, family members are too close to the situation.
- Consider having your loved one talk to a friend who may have experienced a similar concern and addressed it. Sometimes, friends who are a bit more removed from the situation can make more headway.
- Try to compromise — urge them to go just this one time, just to see if there is a simple and easy remedy. Explain that not all health concerns necessitate huge interventions.
We all procrastinate at some time or another — work, life, or paying bills, they all give us a reason. When it comes to your health, procrastination can have severe consequences.
Over the years, I have had many clients (and family members) who were not particularly interested in some of the preventive measures their family and medical providers had recommended. Some would use a line I often say, “We’re all gonna die of something.” True enough. However, to ignore small signs of potential greater issues is just plain neglect.
Here are some of the most common health concerns I see that can often be easily addressed and therefore reduce the odds of greater concerns:
Sleep: Poor sleep can raise your blood pressure, increase chances of diabetes, hinder your body from repairing itself, and weaken your immunity.
Melanoma: Look for anything new, changing or unusual. Look for growths that are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle, the two halves don’t match. Be aware of any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin.
Teeth loss: Many studies are finding that the same bacteria that cause gum disease also promote heart disease. When bacterial infections get in the bloodstream, there is an increased risk to heart valves.
Speak openly with your health care team, take part in your treatment choices, and promote your own safety by being involved and proactive with your care.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County and advocates for our elderly. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.