Personal motivators help us to set our own priorities around our health and to maintain those behaviors that improve our health in the long term. The Mather Institute examined motivations that affect our health and how self-determined motivation drives our decision making around health (things like working toward goals and maintaining healthy, supportive relationships).
Supporting ourselves more fully. Self-determined motivators are not thrust upon us by social norms, rather they are centered around our personal interests and what we believe is aligned with our own values and our personal goals. And when our health choices are made using self-motivating factors that push us toward healthy attitudes and actions, those behaviors are more self-sustaining than when motivators are pushed on us from others (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
Developing new skills. Motivation is higher when we have a skill set that supports the activities we want to do. See if you have a gap you can fill for relationships, learning, and new experiences and challenges. Increase your motivation by doing things that you feel good about doing. Chose activities that you find fun as well as beneficial to your health. Focus on your reasons for taking up an activity – gear towards what you want to do rather than what you “should” do. Start small if that helps you get out of the starting gate on a new project or activity. And talk to your health care provider or other health professionals about any concerns, so you can set realistic goals.
Understanding how specific behaviors contribute to our overall health and well-being help improve our ability to maintain independence and may promote greater health in the long run. This was demonstrated in the report, where “On average, the ability to maintain one’s independence was the highest priority factor when making health and wellness decisions.”
Protecting our family members, animals, homes, and businesses is top of list for everyone in wildfire prone areas. This year, we have been experiencing some very poor air quality days due to fires that are far afield from us here in Southern Colorado. We can’t protect ourselves from all the effects of smoke, but we can learn more and take better care of ourselves.
People who are generally healthy may not feel much from smoke, but over a period of days the impact may range from sore throat to shortness of breath. Those who already have compromised lung capacity may experience impacts early on. Knowing what the conditions really are can help us be proactive about taking the precautions that will help us feel our best on any given day.
Understand your risk level. Monitoring the air quality is a good place to start. Knowing what constitutes a “dangerous” level can help you make better decisions. “Like air pollution, wildfire smoke — and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns — can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems,” said Colleen Reid, an environmental epidemiologist and health geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder.
A number of online resources provide real-time readings. Both sites below include local air quality data from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) sensor located in Pagosa Springs with recommendations on what those levels may mean for your risk category.
Helping Others. You can take the precautions above to help yourself and still help others. If you are able to get out but know of a neighbor or a friend who has challenges when the air quality is poor, you can offer to run errands, walk their dog, or water their garden.
Our bodies are designed to work hard to maintain an even internal temperature. Heat stroke is serious business, so knowing how to prevent it, the warning signs of it occurring, and what to do about heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be lifesaving. The simple, common sense answer of course is “stay cool and hydrated.” Sounds easy enough – but it is more complicated than that.
Understand your risk level. Healthy people can be adversely affected by heatwaves, as can those who are very young and those 60 and better. Some medications and some long-term health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia can lead to greater risk. As the body heats up, blood vessels close to the skin open to transfer heat back to the environment – this makes the heart work harder. Sweating takes place for the same reason. In our dry climate, many people do not realize they are becoming dehydrated because the sweat evaporates immediately. For those not acclimated to high altitude, symptoms from heat are exacerbated and may be hard to distinguish from altitude sickness. Residences may remain quite warm at night if they heat up during the day. When it fails to cool down sufficiently at night, this places greater stress on the body. Even during rest, at 85 degrees, the body can lose nearly a half-gallon of water overnight.
Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
What to do. If you, or someone you are with, is experiencing mild heat exhaustion symptoms, try to cool down. Basic first steps – Get into shade. Sit or lie down and raise feet. Take fluids. Place cool cloths or packs on armpits, wrists, ankles, the back of the neck. Heat exhaustion that cannot be alleviated may be a symptom of heat stroke that may require immediate medical intervention.