Did you skip resolutions or did you already forget them? Don’t sweat it! When life is so unpredictable, as it is when you live with a chronic illness, it can be hard to set New Year’s resolutions. Read about how you can make some smart choices.
"3-2-1 Happy New Year!" Is it? When that ball dropped in Times Square did you have some New Year's resolutions all ready to start January second?
- I'm going to lose that extra weight - I'll really save some money this year - I'll give people more grace - I will exercise on a regular schedule - I will start some good habits
We all start out with the best of intentions but as March 23rd rolls around we reflect on all the ways we've already let our goals slide. It's easy to feel like we are letting ourselves and those we love down.
For most people, going through the steps of setting goals is an expectation of themselves. For those of us who live with chronic illness or chronic pain, however, it can be frustrating and intimidating. illness symptoms change constantly, hence our life, feels like it is out of our complete control most of the time, following through on the little things, like jumping on a treadmill, seem impossible before we've even began.
The rationale behind why we don't meet our goals is very reasonable.
--> I'm going to exercise more . . . And then I have surgery and my illness is exasperated. Even my doctor said to take it easy and not overdo right now.
--> I'm going to lose some weight . . . The chronic pain medications I am on make it hard to even maintain my current weight, much less lose it. I've been to the dieticians and they just say "quit taking the prednisone" which the doctor says isn't an option
--> I'm going to start making wiser choices about money . . . Money? What money? I'm barely surviving on what I have!
So what is the answer?
First, if January passed you by and you didn't make any resolutions, congratulate yourself! You've not broken any universal rule that say all new habits must begin January 2nd. January is a time for recovery: recovery from holidays, visiting relatives, travel, and maybe all those medical visits you packed into December before your health insurance deductibles start over in the New Year. If you've been able to get through the whole month of January without an infection, cold, or the flu, count your blessings. And in most parts of the USA, freezing conditions make us often just go into hibernation.
Secondly, make some changes without labeling anything a "resolution." When you go to grab snacks at the store, get items with high fiber, soy, sugar-free, organic, or even those that have immune boosts. Check with a dietician about what some healthy choices would be, taking your illness into consideration. Little changes will eventually add up, and you can have the pleasure of knowing you are working towards your objective.
Thirdly, make a list of some of the things you value and want to strive for. Don't just say you are going to "save some money" but instead, think about what you really want to save it for. Have you longed to visit a relative but you've not been able to afford an airline ticket to go visit? Though saving money to repair your car may not seem like a fun use of that saved money, surely you value your freedom to have your own transportation. Put your list on the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror so you can frequently recall just why it is you are sacrificing those large white chocolate mochas.
Fourthly, find a friend who has an illness who will unite in supporting you with your goals and you hers. Stress management helps illness and a healthy friend who says, "Well, you're never going to lose any weight until you join me at the gym. They have a new boot camp special that would be perfect for you!" will quickly leave you depressed and disheartened. Chronic pain and depression often go hand in hand. Our health is so out of our control that it's important to have someone who can help you see what goals are reasonable and which ones are a bit irrational under the circumstances.
Fifth, don't be so hard on yourself. When you make a less than perfect choice, give yourself the gift of grace, not guilt. You will have hundreds of do-overs in the next month to make better choices. Strive for making the right choice at least half the time and then take small steps forward, encouraged by your success. And remember, not doing certain things that are detrimental to your goals count as successes too. Skipping the drive-thru restaurant for that large fry you were craving was an admirable choice!
Lastly, set goals that are fun too! Stress and illness is draining and not everything in our lives needs to be fixed. There is no better chronic pain relief than adding more joy to your life. Call people you've met in the past that you admire and ask them if they would have breakfast with you. Go to the movies each month. And when you meet a step towards your goal, such as cleaning out the closet to become more organized, reward yourself. Go buy a chic new hat that brings out the diva side of you that you've been hiding. Living with chronic pain means forcing yourself being silly sometimes.
By having levelheaded expectations about your goals in addition to some compassionate friends, you'll likely discover that you are one of the few people who have reached a few of those New Year's goals. And regardless of how many aspirations you didn't reach, you will definitely have discovered how to live with more joy. You will feel less guilt about what you've not been able to do and instead, appreciate all that you are able to accomplish.
Get a free list of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen, just <a target="_blank" href="http://www.restministries.org/res-ezine_ill.htm">signup for to HopeNotes</a> invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa founded of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.invisibleillness.com">Invisible Illness Week</a>