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6 Ways the Chronically Ill Can Set Reasonable Annual Resolutions

Feb 4, 2008
Did you recently make resolutions for the New Year?

- I'm going to exercise more
- I'm going to lose some weight
- I will try to get rid of my bad habits
- I won't let little things get to me any more
- I'm going to start making wiser choices about money

We've all been there. And we've all faced March 23rd rolling around and feeling like a failure because some of those goals haven't crossed our mind since December 31st.

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 . . . The only real exercise my body can handle is getting into a pool and the water temperature is just too cold at the local indoor pool - - even my doctor says so

-- 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 stop spending so much money . . . And then one emergency room visit sets you back two-thousand dollars

So what is the answer?

First of all, congratulate yourself if you ignored that calendar that flashed "January" beckoning you to set resolutions. January is be a time to recover from the holidays, the travel, or the family that may have visited. There is no universal rule that says all goals must begin in January. You're likely exhausted. December is often a time to finish up as many medical visits as possible before the new year's health insurance deductibles set in. The weather conditions can leave you home-bound for weeks. And if you've survived it all without getting the flu, a cold, or infection, you're one of few. Could there be a worse time to make major modifications in our life?

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.

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.
About the Author
Receive 200 tips from "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" by Lisa Copen when you sign up for HopeNotes chronic illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the founder of Invisible Illness Awareness Week
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