by Stefanie Remson
Fact Checked by:
by Stefanie Remson
Fact Checked by:
Managing your chronic illness on top of life’s everyday tasks can be overwhelming. These tips can help you find the motivation and inspiration you need to reach your goals.
Do you ever think about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Six months? Tomorrow?
Having a chronic illness can make the future look foggy and feel unpredictable. Whether the future is clear for you or not, setting goals is part of life. Goals give our lives meaning and purpose, and achieving goals is what defines our personal successes.
Setting a goal is one thing, but achieving it can be really hard. It’s always difficult to do something different from what you usually do. Your brain likes to follow paths that have been well-traveled. Setting goals and making plans to achieve your goals means creating new paths, which often comes with resistance from our human brains.
Plus, with the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought, there is added pressure on everyone to make the future more memorable and amazing than ever before.
To do more, be more, and achieve more, one needs drive, motivation, and inspiration. These are usual hurdles that disabled and nondisabled people all need to overcome to achieve their goals.
Everyone can relate to the gym membership bought and never used, the book club that was joined and never attended, and the national park pass that has only one stamp inside it.
On top of that, managing the symptoms of a chronic illness can be difficult and unpredictable. Managing your healthcare around big goals can require expert schedule coordination skills as well. Trying to schedule medical appointments, pick up prescriptions, manage therapies, and get enough sleep while managing your everyday life can be time consuming.
For example, getting moving in the morning is already hard, and the medications you take at night make you groggy the next day. You want to be active, but exercise makes your pain worse. Or maybe you’re nondisabled but haven’t left the house in more than 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the anxiety you have about getting the infection.
Here are some tips to help you set goals, achieve them, and increase your productivity to be the best that you can be with a chronic illness.
Maybe you weren’t expecting a new project, promotion, or job title, but at least consider it. People with chronic illness may often turn down opportunities due to anxiety about not being able to perform to the standards they believe are expected.
Don’t let your assumptions hold you back. You never know where opportunities will take you.
When you multitask, you’re not truly present for anything. Close the door. Turn off your notifications and alerts. Focus on focusing.
Setting a goal of wanting to exercise more doesn’t lead to any measurable action. A more specific goal would be: I want to walk for 10 minutes every day.
Another example is: I want to eat healthier. This is vague and not measurable. A more achievable goal would be: I’m going to fill one-third of my plate with vegetables for every meal. This is measurable. You can check it off at the end of each day with a sense of accomplishment.
Keep the list somewhere that you see every day. This can be on a piece of paper taped to your mirror or in a notes application on your electronic device.
Look at the list daily and anytime you need a little extra motivation. Reevaluate as you go. If some goals seem out of reach and need tweaking, you can adjust them. Adjusting goals to be more realistic can help us stick with them long-term.
Don’t forget to celebrate all victories — big and small.
Losing 50 pounds in a month isn’t achievable or realistic. Waking up without any trace of chronic illness isn’t achievable or realistic either.
Try this instead: I’m going to lose 5 pounds in the next 6 weeks. Another achievable and realistic goal is: I’m going to schedule an appointment with my doctor to evaluate other options available.
Give yourself time to do things the right way with plenty of breaks along the way. Schedule plenty of rest and time away, too.
A research review from 2012 recommends small and sustainable changes for the best success. It’s more gratifying to feel a little success every day, especially at the beginning of taking on something new. It’s also a lot easier to succeed at walking 10 minutes a day than going straight to 10,000 steps a day.
Dedicate dates and times to your specific goals. Put them in your calendar as nonnegotiable, scheduled events. When you know you dedicate time to something, you will worry less about it day-to-day.
Asking for help can be hard for people with chronic illnesses, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you need extra help around the house, whether it’s with cooking or child care, there’s no shame in asking. If you don’t like to cook, consider a meal-prep service or order in a few nights during the week. If cleaning your shower is back-breaking, consider hiring a cleaning service. When you outsource chores, you have more time to achieve your personal goals.
Hiring help may not be feasible for everyone, so ask around. Friends, family, and neighbors may be able to help in little ways.
One bad day is not a complete failure. If you made nonnutritious eating choices, start tomorrow off with a green smoothie. If you didn’t exercise today, walk an extra 5 minutes tomorrow. Every day is a new day. It’s never too late to start over.
Find a buddy to help hold you accountable. Social media makes connecting with people with the same goals, backgrounds, and experiences easier than ever.
If you’re not ready for new in-person commitments just yet, find someone to be your virtual buddy in achieving your goals. If you both have the same goals, the energy you bounce off of each other becomes electric.
Why do you want to accomplish this goal? Is it for your health? Your future financial stability? Your children? Focusing on the reasoning behind the goal can help give you the motivation you need.
You’ll have many setbacks. No road to success is a straight line. As you know, a life with chronic illness can be anything but predictable.
Be kind to yourself. Show yourself extra love on your worst days. If you have a bad day, always remember tomorrow is a new start. A bad day will soon be a distant memory.
Setting goals and achieving them is possible with chronic illness. Remember that your experience navigating the world with a chronic illness truly makes you a jack-of-all-trades. Who else can manage everything you have going on? You’ve got this!
Fact checked on October 07, 2022
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About the author
Ms. Stefanie Remson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC is the CEO and founder of RheumatoidArthritisCoach.com. She is a family nurse practitioner and is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient herself. She has spent her entire life serving the community as a healthcare professional and has refused to let RA slow her down. She has worked with The Arthritis Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Healthline, Grace and Able, Arthritis Life, Musculo, Aila, and HopeX. You can learn more at her website and on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.