When you have a chronic illness New Years Resolutions can be somewhat intimidating. There are many health orientated resolutions or goals you might want to attain but seem too large to overcome. The guilt of not succeeding can make a person not even want to attempt the process at all. However when you look at your wellbeing as a whole there may be small goals worth adding to your life that can make a significant difference. Each small goal you attain adds up and improves your overall wellbeing. We can even break up larger resolutions into smaller manageable goals.
We all know there are a vast amount of health orientated goals for us to choose from. When it comes to a New Years resolution however this is a very specific goal you want to achieve over the year. So of the vast array of health goals pick one precise thing you think will improve your overall wellbeing in some way. Look at the ways you can achieve this goal and how you want to begin. Remember every improvement is meaningful.
There are different areas you can choose goals within that will improve your wellbeing:
Lifestyle changes: This can include things like improving sleep quality, changing diet, exercise, relaxation techniques, meditation and mental health.
Life Engagement: This includes increasing social interactions, hobbies, employment and financial wellness or volunteering.
I know we would all like to ‘decrease stress’ but that makes for a poor resolution because the factors needed to change that when you are chronically ill are multi-factor. Things you might want to consider that would help would be working on your diet (small changes even), working on your sleep routine and exercise (small amounts at first, going at your own pace). Or conversely adding in the things that help combat stress such as relaxation techniques, meditation, social interaction or that well needed downtime you don’t think you deserve. All of those are separate goals.
I think it is important to understand with these sorts of goals that we cannot do everything at once without feeling overwhelmed. And not everything is achieved quickly. So KISS Keep It Simple Sweetie.
Never compare your health to others and choose goals of things you believe will benefit your Wellbeing as you are now… not what you believe will because that is what you are told. Never let people say they must be large lifestyle changes, when the small goals may improve your thinking, your mental and emotional wellbeing, just as vital and important.
Make a list of long term and short term goals you want to achieve and brainstorm some methods you will use to get you there in a journal. Then make a copy of that list and put it somewhere where you will see it as a reminder. Review these goals Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter… you may have achieve short term ones, some may be habit by then, and some may need to be removed or modified if they are not working for you. But journal or blog about how you are doing with them, what progress you are making, what benefits you get from it.
Try to have defined time lines for short term and long term goals. Short term goals 1- 6 months maybe. And the long term ones can be a year or more.
I had made a list recently on a post of things I was going to incorporate into my week and goals I had… went like this:
1) mediation/relaxation/biofeedback half and hour each day- I choose which one to do but this is not taxing and I think it is beneficial. (This is to reduce stress, potentially help with migraines and something I have been working on with my pain psychologist)
2) some sort of cognitive workout- Do a puzzle or play a game on my Brain Games. Read some non-fiction if my brain lets me. Also half-an hour each day. Likely in the evening when I am alert. (This is to just choose to do something to help keep me cognitively alert. Prevent some of that mental stagnation and lethargy I feel)
3) Do something to boost mood- listen to music, dance to music, watch something funny. For half an hour. (Mood boosting is pretty important and some simple remedies are music, moving to music and, indeed, just exposing yourself to funny things)
4) Exercise- now this can vary. I have a video I can do that is low impact. But I will also be buying Kinect video games so that exercising will be also fun to encourage me to get into it. Three times a week. Whatever I am capable of to start, the aim being to half-an hour… the end goal to an hour. (This is a neuro recommendation, as always. But I do a little exercise to help with fatigue. I choose the type though at this point, meaning the types that do not cause harm. And I choose the pace which works for me.)
5) Get out of the house once a week to socialize. Go for coffee with my mom is the most common option here. But maybe I can call my work friend and go for coffee with them. Or go play card again with my spouses work friend. Has to be mellow, but social interaction is on the list of things that helps so I will add it in there as something I will try to do. (Difficult one for a hermit, with chronic migraines, but I added it because social interaction has positive benefits to our wellbeing. But, that being said, I get some social interaction online, and that counts. I’m just added some out of the house interaction, so that I also get out of the house. But really adding in chatting on Skype, or on Facebook is the same here.)
6) Quit smoking- as you can imagine this would be the neuro recommendation (in addition to the exercise) and will be a hard one. It is going to be done one way or another. (I say as I am smoking) But honestly this time will Be the effing Time. (This seriously could count as a typical New Years resolution, but in fact it is just me wanting to quit again and my neuro saying I really should due to stroke risk. And wanting my spouse to quit, who will not, until I do.)
So I have some goals and not all of them are going to be achieved right away. Exercise is a Long Term goal since FM complicates it and I need to start slow. Others will need to become habit like number 1 there. And 6 hopefully will be a hard but Short Term goal. All of them are designed to improve my wellbeing in some way though. Because I want a foundation on which to do other goals later. I do not want to do too much at once and this seems sufficient for now.
When I was working before I went on long term leave… a little over a year ago one goal I made was to improve my emotional health. I was in a difficult state, unable to cope with the levels of pain I was enduring on a daily basis, the status migraines, the sleep deprivation and still having bouts of depression with suicidal ideation. Rather scary considering I had tried to kill myself a few years prior, so I knew the potential was there with every one of those migraine induced bouts. How do you improve your mood when you are in that much pain and working, which is causing a great deal of pain? My solution was… I will go to a psychologist and they should have some ideas on how to manage unmanaged pain, stress, sleep and hopefully prevent me from getting into a bad state. It was a very good choice to make because I would not think about the things I need to do to cope with chronic pain quite the same way without them. All the smaller things we can do that help our wellbeing that are just as important. Also helping me with new ideas such as meditation and biofeedback. Obviously treating depression related to pain is a long term goal. So is trying to manage my sleep. But at least they changed my perspective on the issue from just this pain to the whole picture. So choosing goals that help us mentally and emotionally and are not these massive lifestyle changes… are just as fundamental. Maybe a goal is to give yourself more downtime. More necessary time to help yourself recover from a migraine, de-stress, do things that help you.