We are now at the Maintenance Stage of the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska and DiClemente). Characteristics of the maintenance stage include:
- We are more likely to have formed new habits/behaviour patterns that create for us the ability to stick to our goals.
- What we had implemented in the action stage is still playing a part, but we may not be as zealous in frequency. (Exercise is a good example.)
- Our confidence has increased. We feel a sense of accomplishment and continue to relish the positive changes to our physical/emotional health.
It is important to mention relapse, as it is a common reaction to change and in this model, is most likely to occur in either the contemplation, preparation or action stage. Sometimes we may encounter a stressful event and we quickly go back to the old habit (think of smoking or emotional eating); other times, we may lose our confidence, or feel set back by the difficulty and hard work of what lies ahead.
When we reach the maintenance stage, we have reduced our chances of relapse; however, it can still occur. Tips to reduce the probability of relapse include:
- Being mindful of temptations and having a plan to deal with them. This includes knowing what your associations are to the old habit and being active to maintain healthier choices.
- Building your self-efficacy. This might be through positive affirmations, or helping others to achieve a similar goal.
- Not shaming yourself for a relapse, but leaning into examining what led to it. This will give you the opportunity to ‘right the ship’ so to speak.
- Be aware of new barriers. Sometimes we can be faced with an obstacle that will challenge our resolve. Being aware of the stress that it might be taking on us, can lead us to creating a plan that does not include going back to our old ways.
We have examined the 5 stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. It is an interesting way to understand the way change occurs (not necessarily linear) and we can apply this understanding not only to ourselves but to those in our lives as well.
By looking at the value in each stage, we can become an active participant in changing a habit we realize is no longer serving us.
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