A pretty simple question, really. One you would think folks could answer relatively easily. And, accurately.

In the past several weeks, however, I’ve noticed a rather strange phenomenon among my wellness clients. They tend to underestimate–sometimes significantly–how often they get sick.

To clarify, I’m talking about colds, flu, severe headaches, the stuff that makes life uncomfortable, but isn’t typically life threatening. I’m talking about the more annoying, zap-your-energy, really-want-to-stay-in-bed-all day-but-can-still-function-if-I-have-to kinds of ailments.

During our initial health and wellness assessment, most of of my clients indicate that they are overall healthy, but know they can do better. They report that they rarely get sick and are choosing to work with me to improve their health primarily as a preventative measure.

In our initial coaching relationship–as they begin to make changes–they continue to view themselves as healthy and some even continue to reference the fact that they rarely get sick. Here comes the interesting part: all of this self reporting is counter to what they are experiencing day-to-day and week-to-week!

Twice in the last week I reminded clients that they had been ill more often than they were recalling (I keep good notes). In one case, I reminded a client (who said he was lacking sleep and had a sore throat) that he had recovered from a cold less than three weeks ago. In the second case, because I know the client outside of coaching, we were able to think back through this year to determine that she has actually been getting sick every couple of months. She was actually getting sick 5-6 times per year!

So what’s going on? Why do so many view themselves as healthy when they are actually getting sick on a relatively regular basis?

Obviously, a cold or the flu is a minor concern when compared to diabetes, cancer or a heart attack. But it’s still sickness and it still detracts from the quality of your life (not to mention your productivity, income, and added health care costs).

Unfortunately, I think many falsely believe that those less serious, but still painful ailments, are simply a part of life and it’s “normal” to deal with them regularly. However, although you may not ever be able to completely eliminate them, a healthy diet, good sleep, regular exercise and stress management can go a long way in keeping illness away.

Because medical research tends to focus on how we can prevent the major stuff, we sometimes forget that lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce the frequency of minor ailments, in addition to helping prevent the major ones.

As we enter the cold and flu season, here’s your reminder to do what you can to avoid annoying, zap-your-energy, really-want-to-stay-in-bed-all day-but-can-still-function-if-I-have-to kinds of ailments. Eat good food, get plenty of sleep and rest, and relax!

Be well!