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Health Plan for Holistic Treatment of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Choose a specific health behavior that you would like to set as a goal for yourself or for someone else, and develop a strategy or program for change.
First, briefly describe the specific health behavior you are addressing and why you are addressing this behavior (e.g., your own attitudes, societal norms, medical information, fear of future illness).
Next, briefly describe the behavior-change approaches and supports that you think would be appropriate to maximize the chances of success (e.g., cognitive-behavioral elements, operant conditioning or reward systems, self-monitoring, social support, etc.).
How should stumbling blocks be addressed? Assuming success, how would you prevent relapse?
A health plan is often designed in order to create or encourage health behaviors; health behaviors “are behaviors undertaken by people to enhance or maintain their health” (Taylor, 2015, p. 39). I decided to develop a health plan for my mother that focuses on relieving the pain she feels from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a group of disorders that affect connective tissues, such as: tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs (Genetics Home Reference, 2014). The health behavior that I would like to set as a goal for her is get her to avoid cycles of boom or bust. Boom or bust cycles occur when a person with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome fails to pace their activity level to be balanced from day to day; instead of having equal levels, a person has days of high activity and then low activity (EDS-H & JHS, n.d.). Boom or bust cycles often cause the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome to be exasperated and the days after a boom are often followed with a bust because of over exhaustion. In order to avoid boom or bust cycles, she would need to “establish a baseline level of activity that can be repeated each day with no exacerbation of symptoms” (EDS-H & JHS, n.d.).
In order to have her stick to her established baseline of activity, I would recommend the use of self-monitoring and cognitive restructuring. The first step would be to use self-monitoring in order to get her to understand the fact that when she exceeds her established baseline, it exasperates her symptoms and causes her next day to be a bust day. In order to do this, I would recommend that she uses a calendar to track her boom and bust days, the symptoms she is experiencing each day, and her feelings at the beginning and end of each day. This would allow her to truly understand the harm that her boom days are causing as well as gaining an understanding for which feelings cause her to have a boom day.
The next step would be cognitive restructuring in order to replace negative thoughts with more constructive ways of thinking. For instance, she needs to alter her thinking from “I overdid it today and tomorrow will probably be really painful” to “I made a mistake when I overdid it today, but it was part of my learning experience, and next time I won’t push myself as hard”. To assist her in remembering to restructure her thoughts she could place sticky notes in places that she will see when she is engaging in activities that are physically strenuous. The restructuring of her thoughts could also be used prior to a boom day; for instance when she has a day that she knows she has a lot to do, she can alter her thoughts to: “I have a lot to do, but I should avoid a boom day, so I am going to arrange my day so that I do not have do everything at once, and perhaps I can ask for help or do some of it tomorrow”.
In establishing a health behavior of avoiding boom or bust days, it is likely that there will be stumbling blocks and relapses along the way. The best way for her to be successful is for her to understand from the beginning that stumbling blocks may occur and that they are not a sign of failure, but instead a motivator. When she hits a stumbling block, she will need to remind herself that by balancing her activity levels she is working to reduce her pain levels in both the short and long terms as well as to improve the quality of her life. She could also create her own reward system, where at the end of every successful week she could get herself a small treat that she would enjoy; this could be anything from a dessert to a hobby item. Stumbling blocks should also be addressed through the utilization of the same cognitive restructuring that is a part of her health plan. In order to prevent relapses from occurring she would need to make the health behavior into a health habit; health habits are health behaviors that are ﬁrmly established and often performed automatically, without awareness (Taylor, 2015, p. 39). While most health habits are established during childhood, it is not impossible for her to establish a new health behavior with positive reinforcement and social support from her family.
EDS-H & JHS (n.d.) Understanding Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility-Type and Joint
Hypermobility Syndrome. Retrieved http://www.edhs.info/about1-c1ah1
Genetics Home Reference. (2014). Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Retrieved
Taylor, S. (2015). Health Psychology (9th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.