6 Tools for the Chronically Ill to Making Sensible Resolutions
Posted Nov 03 2008 8:56pm
6 Tools for the Chronically Ill to Making Sensible Resolutions Lisa Copen
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
Most of us have at least reflected on a list of aspirations to accomplish but then March 23rd rolls around and we feel like a failure. Some of the goals we haven't done a single thing about but feel guilty.
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 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 . . . 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 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 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 things that are important to you. Rather than saying, "I'm going to make wiser choices about money." Write down what it is that you desire. Have you wanted to go see a local Broadway show for years, but have never been able to afford the $50 ticket? Is your car running on bolts and old tires? How much would you need to fix it or replace it? Surely you value the freedom having your own transportation gives you. By taking some time to write down what is important to you, and stick them on the bathroom mirror as a reminder, it will give you some motivation when you are making those small little choices each day.
Fourthly, team up with a friend who is also ill, to encourage one another in your practical goals. Stress and illness is not a good combination and any change in our life (good or bad) dramatically intensifies the strain. It's not helpful to have a healthy friend say, "Well, maybe if you cut back on your calories more it would help. I noticed you had two bowls of soup at lunch today." (Did she even notice that you completely resisted the temptation of the basket of bread? And it had free refills!) Symptoms of illness are very unpredictable and a friend who understands what you are experiencing is an amazing gift. You will be able to keep a better perspective on your goals when a true friend says, "It's so depressing when you lose the weight and then the medications make you blow back up overnight. But hang in there. It won't last forever."
Fifth, give yourself a break. Depression and chronic pain go together way too often. When you make a decision that is less than ideal, don't sweat it! Don't think of it as a failure, but rather just a less than perfect choice you made for that moment. You will have another sixty-something times in the next month to make the correct decision. Start out by just aiming for making the correct one more than half the time. Skipping that shopping spree or avoiding the drive-thru burger place 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.
If you have supportive friends and down-to-earth expectations, by the end of the year you will find that you are one of the few people who actually met some of those "resolutions." And everyone has some of their goals that are left for next year's calendar! So celebrate the fact that you have found some joy along the journey of reaching towards some new habits, despite living with illness.
Geta free list of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen, just subscribe to HopeNotes invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the founder of Invisible IllnessWeek