Your Health

Tips on changing behavior during challenging times

In many cases, these challenging times – COVID-19 pandemic, economic strife and racial unrest – can be impacted by our behaviors, especially with regard to education, collaboration and action. There are also other health, medical, social and financial changes and shifts we all may need to con-sider making over the next several months and years, which will take time and effort.

Following are tips on behavior change, based on my certifications in this area, that may help you continue to survive and thrive during these challenging times and beyond.

• Understand how long it takes to make a lasting behavior change. As I mentioned in my February column, according to B.J. Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, it takes approximately 66 days to make a behavior change. For most of us in the Bay Area, we’re nearly three months into the quarantine, so hopefully many behavior changes we’ve had to make are starting to stick.
• Accept reality and our new normal. While times are tough and the current situation can be difficult to bear sometimes, having an acceptance of this reality and our new normal can go a long way in making behavior changes. The more we try to resist and fight it, the harder it will be. Therefore, letting go and releasing what was and embracing what is can be really helpful. It also will keep us more focused on making the changes we need to make in our lives and in society.
• Make changes for the present and future. Right now, shelter-in-place orders are still going on in many parts of the country, while they are being lifted in others. Many businesses, out-door recreational facilities, outdoor social gatherings and protests are being permitted with recommendations to wear face masks where appropriate, practice social distancing and take all sanitary and safety precautions.

To plan for the future, many households and businesses have been cutting spending, in-vesting and saving during these hard economic times.

To prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for being under lockdown for many more weeks or months, being in the midst of continued racial injustices and violence occurring in most major cities and needing to protect our jobs or businesses or potentially look for new ones, we may need to make behavior changes to take care of our health and well-being. Such changes could involve education, awareness, honest dialogue, charitable giving, support of important causes, exercise, nutrition, sleep, productivity, a positive mindset, stress management, and more.

• Continue to positively reinforce the changes. With any of the changes previously mentioned or even additional changes we may need to make, it’s critical to understand why they may be so important to each of us, take action to make the changes and then positively reinforce them every day so we’ll be motivated to keep making them again and again. This is where a lot of the effort comes in to stay motivated and determine how to encourage ourselves and others to keep going with these changes, especially right now.
• Make the changes habitual and a part of daily life. If we continue to make changes, practice them daily and positively reinforce them for 66 days or more, it’s possible to make these changes a habitual part of our daily life, which could help save lives and protect our families, friends, people in our communities, businesses and ourselves. And even as we look ahead to the future, society will be different for a while and possibly forever.

We all may need to be flexible and ready for whatever changes lie ahead. Knowing we’re taking the time to reflect, plan ahead and take the appropriate actions to make behavior changes now could be so helpful for us and those around us in the future.

Reena Vokoun is founder and CEO of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit, a health, well-ness and fitness lifestyle company. She is currently livestreaming fitness and dance classes on Zoom 9-10 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. For a class schedule and more information, visit passionfit.com.

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