Key takeaways

What do you do when you’ve had a diagnosis, or there is an investigation underway and you need to make changes to how you live your life? Your practitioner has likely made recommendations to change something like nutrition, alcohol, sleep, exercise, supplements - it could be anything. It might feel quite achievable until you start thinking about all of the practicalities and social impact.

The recommendation requires you to change something about the way you live and for lots of us, that can be tricky territory. But the change is also confronting because there are other people in your life and it very well might impact them. 

How do you draw the line between letting people know about it so they can support you, whilst not oversharing with the wrong people? 

While there’s not really one right answer, I've got an approach that might be helpful. It’s called the bullseye strategy and it may help you figure out how much you share, and with whom, in order to get the best support.

There are some consistent challenges patients share with me around the difficulties that arise with these lifestyle changes. A lot of them are around communication and implementation.

Some patients keep to themselves and opt not to tell anyone about the changes, and that might be because:

  • they don’t want to be an inconvenience to others
  • they feel guilty 
  • they can’t be bothered with the hassle
  • they don’t know how to communicate (and with whom)
  • they’re embarrassed
  • they’re confused or overwhelmed

When patients don't confide in others about their journey, I observe two main negative impacts. Firstly, patients might not adhere to treatment guidelines which could then inhibit progress or improvement. Secondly, the people who would want to help them aren't given the chance because they're unaware. While a health coach can help to support a patient to understand their feelings and provide them with some practical strategies, people stand to gain a lot by leaning on the right people in their life.

And while this is the problem most raise, the opposite can also be true with someone who is either an expressive communicator, is strongly impacted by the change, or has a strong need to be understood. They overshare. The workmate at the water cooler really doesn’t need to know that you’ve been diagnosed with colitis and you’re changing x, y and z about your food, and now you need to take x supplements, and these are your bathroom problems, etc. You can see them slowly fading out of focus as their eyes glaze over (but you persist). 

Too. Much. Info. And actually, it's not helpful for them or for you to have shared that amount of detail.

The bullseye strategy

The bullseye strategy is helpful any time you’re communicating with others about lifestyle changes you’re making. Take your mind now to an archery target or a dartboard. The amount of detail we share about our health is relative to where people 'sit' on your target board.

The bullseye - your inner circle

You can visualise that in the middle you have a very small (but meaningful) circle. That’s your inner circle. The biggest prize is here! These are the people you see all the time. They might live with you, be your husband/wife, child, parent, best friend or housemate. These people need to know the nitty gritty in order to support you. They might be part of your meal prep team or be involved in your socialising. 

Level of detail to share with your ‘bullseye people’:

  • Diagnosis - you can get granular with what this is. Explain as much as you understand about it so they really understand
  • The outcome of your diagnosis - what is your day to day pain from the diagnosis? Don’t only think of the physical pain, think of the pains that might be more emotional and what you miss out on or how you feel about it (scared, angry, frustrated, hopeful)
  • Changes you’re implementing - what changes are you making to support your healing and recovery?
  • Practicalities - what are the details of the practicalities around the changes you’re implementing? E.g. cooking, shopping, making plans, helping with communication to others

Your middle circle 

The next circle out on the ‘target board’ are the people who you see frequently, are close to you, but there is clearly a step of separation from your bullseye people. These people could be close work mates, friends you see often socially, school friends, your boss, grandparents. These are people who are involved in your life, but not in a nitty gritty way. 

Level of detail to share with your middle circle:

  • Diagnosis - as much as feels appropriate
  • Treatment strategy - include some of the details of your treatment, like how you might be changing diet, or something you're introducing or eliminating from your life
  • Support - how they can support you (this can be as simple as knowing you’re going through change and understanding that you have different emotional capacity). A few details around meal prep might be helpful

Your outer circle

One more circle out, and now we’re thinking about our ‘sometimes’ people. The amount of detail you share with these people is greatly reduced. These people are colleagues you don’t have much to do with, friends of friends, waiters and hospitality staff, distant relatives, the barista, the tram driver, school parents, the priest…you get the gist.

It is not important for them (or you) for these people to have much detail. Chiefly because they’re not involved in or affected by your changes. Therefore, it can be unproductive to share too much with your outer circle people. Tell these people - almost nothing. If situations arise where it’s helpful for them to know, keep the information top level and almost vague. 

Level of detail to share with your outer circle:

  • Diagnosis and treatment strategy - keep information about this brief, no need to include much detail at all. Here are some examples of how you might share the information with someone in your outer circle:
  • “I have a health condition I’m managing so I’m just not eating gluten right now”
  • “I’m working with someone to help with a health concern so I’m reducing my social load right now”
  • “Sorry I can’t attend as I am prioritising rest at the moment”
  • “I need to avoid dairy, can you please help me find something suitable on the menu?”

Hopefully using a  framework like the bullseye strategy helps you figure out who to call on for lots of detailed support (and just know that giving them all of the details can make such a difference for how they show up for you). Also, not everyone needs to know everything.

By leaning into your 'bullseye' and ‘middle circle' people, you now have people on your team going in to bat for and with you. Those concerns about feeling like a burden, not wanting to make a fuss, etc. are resolved or reduced when support is layered in like this. Your need for change is not a burden and I hope you’re surprised and delighted by how people show up when you let them into your circles.

bee pennington health coach wearing teal dress standing smiling
About 
Bee Pennington
Being fascinated by the impact of our thoughts and words on our wellbeing, Bee has a professional interest in mindset and behaviour change, emotional health, and the art of maintaining healthy boundaries.
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{ "datePublished": "Mar 21, 2023" }