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6 Tools For The Chronically Ill To Making Sensible Resolutions

Jan 22, 2008
Did you recently make resolutions for the New Year?

- I'm really going to start an exercise program - I'm going to lose those extra pounds - No more bad habits! - I won't be so sensitive - I'll save more money

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.

The concept of setting resolutions is worthy and helpful for most people. When you are chronically ill, however, resolutions can be wearisome and even scary. Most of the time our bodies and our health, therefore our lives, are out of our control. The effects of chronic pain can be devastating I you dwell on it. Though losing five pounds a month seems reasonable, a prescription of medication can quickly add on the pounds, despite our best dieting efforts. Even small goals seem hopeless.

The list of why we may "fail" at our resolutions even seems justified.

--> 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 . . . But a simple trip over a curb turns into a broken bone and then the doctor puts you on steroids. Soon you just want to maintain your weight and not gain even more.

--> I'm going to stop spending so much money . . . And then one emergency room visit sets you back two-thousand dollars

So what do we do? Where do we begin?

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 a few simple changes and don't label "resolutions." When you make your visit to Starbucks ask for the "sugar-free vanilla, breve, misto." (That's coffee with steamed half-and-half, with a touch of vanilla. It has fewer carbs, no sugar.) Rather than splurging on the "muffin" covered in chocolate chips have the sugar-free banana walnut cake (Trust me on this. . .heavenly!) Talk to a dietician about what habits you could start that would make a difference in the long run.

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.

Fifthly, go easy on yourself! When you make a choice that is not the healthiest option don't beat yourself up over it. It's not a failure, but rather a momentary lapse in your drive to reach your goals. Try to make the right choices at least fifty percent of the time and then build on your success. Skipping the drive-thru fast food restaurant where you used to order the milkshake is a step in the right direction.

Lastly, assign yourself a goal that is fun! We forget that not everything in our lives needs fixed. Sometimes we just need more joy. Mark your calendar for lunch with a friend every two weeks as a new habit. Surround yourself with people who are inspirational and who overcome the odds in their lives with enthusiasm. And don't forget to reward yourself too. If you clean out your closet, working towards an ambition to get more organized, go buy a new chic hat that isn't typically you.

With realistic expectations and encouraging friends you'll soon find that you are one of the few people who actually met some of your goals that you set for the year. And though some of them will go on next year's to-do list again, as they do for us all, you will be one of the blessed people who found some joy during the journey.
About the Author
Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen, just signup for to HopeNotes invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the founder of Invisible Illness Week
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