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My Health Goals for 2013

Posted Jan 22 2013 9:30pm
I haven't been posting much here lately. For us, the hectic holiday season seems to last right through February. We make it through Christmas and New Year, then quickly move onto Craig's birthday (the celebration often lasts for 2 weeks!), then Mardi Gras (a major holiday in our house) and my niece and nephew's birthdays in Connecticut. Then, we can take a breath!

Anyway, I posted a couple of weeks ago with a look back at 2012 and promised to write about my goals for 2013. As I said in my previous post, I am a data freak, and I also really like setting goals! No, really, I find goals inspirational. They aren't resolutions but specific measurable goals. I used to set my goals the first week of the year and then forget all about them until the end of the year when I'd be disappointed in myself for not doing what I wanted to do....again. Then, I learned to take those broad goals and set smaller, measurable objectives to support them (it's actually something I used to teach companies to do with environmental management). The key for me is that I track my progress against my goals each week. That probably sounds like a lot of work, but I found that it only takes a few minutes and it keeps me on track. Then, by the end of the year, I've actually focused on the things I wanted to focus on. And that makes me very happy.

Of course, CFS gets in the way, and my tendency to over-commit is still there, in spite of 11 years of illness! But, this process works well for me overall. So, I have lots of small, measurable goals (too many, I'm sure!), but I'll just focus on the more health-related ones here. Almost all of these are goals I also had last year that I want to continue to work on.

I have a group of Relationship goals, which do actually relate to health. Close, healthy relationships are good for me, and eliminating the stress of poor relationships is critical. So, some of my goals include
  • Meeting my husband for lunch once a month
  • Date night with my husband once a month
  • At least 1 overnight getaway with my husband during the year
  • Do something fun with the kids at least 4 times a week 
  • Call my mom once a week
  • Get together with friends once a week
CFS certainly makes it more challenging to find time alone with my husband. It is just easier for me to stay home most of the time!  But we did better last year (i.e. date night 67% of the months) than the year before (date nights only 25% of the months), so we are making progress, and I will try to do even better this year. The goal to do something fun with the kids is an important one: now that they are older, it is too easy to end up all plugged into our own various electronic devices. I have to make a conscious effort to play a game with them or do something else fun. At first, I wasn't counting TV time, but by evening when we are all together, we are usually pretty wiped out, and I realized that enjoying a TV show together does count - I know lots of families with teen kids can't even manage that. I did quite well at getting together with friends at least once a week last year (94%!), and that helps my emotional well-being and mood very much!

Enjoy the Outdoors
Nature and the outdoors are very important to me. Even though CFS has greatly reduced my outdoor activities, I still make an effort to do what little I can because I find being outside is replenishing to my soul. Like supportive relationships, spending time outdoors helps me to keep stress down and increase the joy in my life. Some of my goals include
  • Spend at least 10 minutes a day outdoors (even if it is lying on my deck wrapped in blankets!)
  • Go hiking at least once a month
  • Go camping at least 3 times a year
I feel so much better when I spend time outdoors, but I only managed it 20% of the days last year. I suppose every day is probably too tough a goal, but I want to keep trying. "Hiking" is loosely defined; I did a slow walk on level ground with two friends this morning for about 25 minutes (wearing my heart rate monitor)...that counts! And we only went camping twice last year, though "one" of those times was a 3-week long road trip. This year will be challenging, with our oldest son now in college.

Some of my specific health goals include
  • Try new treatments for Jamie and I
  • Walk at least 3 times a week
  • Do gentle yoga for at least 5 minutes, at least 3 times a week
  • Light muscle-building, at least 2 times a week
  • Rest when symptoms flare
Last year, I was totally focused on Jamie - we tried dozens and dozens of changes and new treatments, and some of them worked wonderfully to help get him functioning again. This year, I need to start thinking about myself again. I think I may try a slightly higher dose of low-dose naltrexone, for one thing, and perhaps going up on my Imunovir dose which is currently lower than recommended.

The exercise goals are more modest than they appear, and all of them are predicated on not causing a post-exertional crash. My walks are usually slow, easy walks around my neighborhood, about 25 minutes, wearing a heart rate monitor and staying below my AT the entire time (beta blockers allow me to do that). I have discovered that gentle yoga while sitting or lying down helps me even on bad crash days - the worse I feel, the more I focus on lying down, meditative-type yoga. And on any day, the stretching feels good, especially first thing in the morning. The muscle-building is likewise done very slowly and carefully, wearing a heart rate monitor and staying below my AT. I have found that breaking it into tiny increments works best. So, I might do 10 push-ups, then lie on the couch with my laptop; an hour later, I might do some lying-down abs exercises, etc. And I only attempt the muscle-building on days when I feel my best. I improved with both yoga and muscle-building last year and want to continue to strive for the goals above.

The "rest when symptoms flare" is actually a tough one for me but critically important. I tend to push myself too hard and convince myself that things "have to" get done, even when I am feeling bad, so I am trying to work on this. I only managed this 45% of the time last year, so I will continue to focus on it. Actually having it as a written goal helps me to give myself permission to "slack off" (ha ha) on bad days and take better care of myself.

Reduce Stress
This is really part of overall health, but I realized last year that I needed to work more on reducing stress and taking better care of myself. Some of my goals are
  • Meditate 10 minutes a day
  • No computer after 7 pm
  • Take one "day off" per month
I really need to work on the meditation goal, but I find it hard to slow down and just "do nothing" during my productive time of day. My afternoon nap is sacred, so I do well at taking that time off each day, but I know meditation would help, too. I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) when I was 16, so I have the tools; I just need to practice.

I know I spend way too much time on my computer and that it is tiring for me...but I am totally addicted to my online life!  So, I have tried to set limits for myself, to ensure I don't overdo and also to make sure I spend quality time with my family in the evenings. I'm going to continue to work on this one!

Taking a day off each month is an idea I got from an online friend (who does not have CFS). This is actually really tough for me. I am always focused on being productive; even on crash days, I lie on the couch with my laptop and try to get stuff done. So, the concept of a day off once in a while - a day just for me, with no responsibilities or obligations - is a difficult one for me but very, very beneficial. I only managed it 25% of the time last year, so I hope to do better this year.

So, that's a summary of my health-related goals. How about you? Have you set any goals for yourself this year? Baby steps...

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