Volume 16, Issue 2
Living Well with a Chronic Condition
Chronic health conditions with symptoms ranging from severe to mildly annoying, are quite common. Some chronic conditions, just to name a few, are diabetes, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic migraines. You may have a family member diagnosed with such a condition, or you yourself may be dealing daily with its challenges. The good news is that not only can you learn to manage a chronic condition, but actually thrive in spite of it! Living well with a chronic condition means developing strategies that help you build a framework you can rely on when things get difficult, and to celebrate when you have successfully integrated those strategies into your life. Living well with ongoing illness or disease means YOU are in control of the illness to the greatest extent possible.
Strategies for managing a chronic condition
Get Educated: Knowing the specifics about your condition, treatment plan and medications puts you in the driver’s seat. The more you know, the better you can work with your healthcare providers toward the best treatment plan and best outcome. You are the most important person on your health care team.
Identify your Cheerleaders: Knowing who is in your circle of support makes all the difference. Identify those that support you not only emotionally, but those that can support you physically and socially. Even if you have a “mild version” of a condition, don’t assume others who are worse off may not want to hear your story. They know what you are facing and can offer support and ideas to manage the challenges!
Abandon Guilt: Protect your health and learn to say “no” without guilt. Only you know your limits. Overdoing it can make you feel unwell and worsen your condition – you may pay for it he following day. Saying “no” and setting limits takes courage but being dishonest about what you can or cannot do does your co-workers, family, and friends no favors.
Create a New Lifestyle Measurement Gauge: This is your life. Learn to measure it in different ways and create modified or new goals. Change saying, “I cannot do that anymore, ”to saying, “This is what I can do now”. One way of embracing your new yardstick is the use of technology. For instance, those suffering from chronic pain can use an app like the free WebMD Pain Coach. It lets you track pain patterns and triggers and is helpful for reporting history when going to the doctor.
Dream, Set Goals and Nurture Passion: You don’t have to give upon all of your dreams and goals. Just figure out a different way to accomplish them—it may require some help from others and creative thought. For instance, if you have a goal at work, it may entail sharing your condition with your supervisor. Enlisting others can put them on your team to devise ways to reach your goals with needed modifications. Remember the old saying: “There is more than one way to skin a cat”? Remember that in living with a chronic condition, there is more than one way to accomplish your dreams and goals—it just may take some help from others. And, when you truly cannot do something anymore that you once loved, then new dreams and passions can replace old ones.
This is also a natural progression of moving through life adjusting to the challenges you encounter and making lifestyle changes along the way. Regardless of your goals, passion will get you there faster and make it fun!
Living well with a chronic condition is all about overcoming obstacles and accepting who you are right here and now. You can only do this with a plan to manage your condition rather than letting it manage you. Then, despite having a chronic condition, you can grow and change in positive ways and live a balanced, meaningful and passionate life.
The Importance of Setting Goals
Imagine embarking on a spring break trip to Florida without planning ahead. The end result will most likely be a frustrating, if not disappointing, experience. Planning and goal setting are essential to successful outcomes, not just for big ticket events, but in daily and weekly tasks we need to accomplish to keep moving forward. Without goals, we lack intention, focus and direction.
Goals tell you:
- where you are wrong
- how you are going to get there
- how you will know when you’ve arrived
Goals give substance to our hopes and dreams—goals make dreams possible. Without goals, we can feel as if time is passing us by in the pursuit of activities which have little purpose and certainly don’t con- tribute to helping us achieve our dreams. When we choose goals that are congruent wit our values, we see the dots start to connect be- tween our dreams and our reality and we experience the satisfaction that our time is well spent.
Goals that push us out of our comfort zone are usually well chosen ones and provide the best opportunities for personal growth. The path may not always be a comfortable one, but think about what you want, put the negative self-talk aside—and keep moving towards that goal.
Setting Goals that Work
- Set Goals that Motivate You. Identify goal(s) that are consistent with the priorities in your Write down why your goal is valuable and important to you. If a goal is important to you, then you are in- vested in the process of doing the work to achieve it.
- Set SMART goals:
Set specific goals. Goals must be clear and detailed. This is your road map to show you the way.
Set measurable goals. If you cannot measure your goal, how will you know you achieved it? You will never know if you have met the goal of “lose weight.” However, “lose 5 pounds this month” is a measurable goal.
Set attainable goals. If your goals are not realistic, you will set yourself up for frustration and possible failure. If you set goals that are not challenging, you risk limiting and underestimating your capabilities of achieving your dreams. Plan your steps to reach them and create a time frame that allows you to success- fully carry out each step.
- Set relevant goals. Identify goals that are most important to you. Be detailed with your goals in the specific areas of your life such as job, family, finances, etc.
- Set timely goals. All goals should be specific in terms of time frames. Your sense of urgency will kick in with deadlines and will help you avoid procrastination.
- Write Your Goals on Paper. This makes your goals become real and “present”, not just a daydream. Post these goals where you will see them daily.
- Make an Action Plan. Write out the individual steps and cross them off as you complete them.
- Review Your Progress and Keep Going! Goal setting is an ongoing process. Build in reminders to review your progress and keep yourself on track.
There is an abundance of supportive tools to assist you in goal setting. Websites, books, worksheets, and personal coaches are just some of the many avenues you can access to help you get started down the path of achieving personal goals. Your Employee Assistance Program, Personal Assistance Services (PAS) also offers coaching to help you identify your values, goals the steps necessary to achieve your goals, and help you stay on track as you work toward accomplishing them.
Goals give substance to our hopes and dreams—goals make dreams possible
Stay on Track with Your Financial Goals
Did you make a resolution this year to improve your financial situation but now you are finding it difficult to stay on track? Consider these tips to stay on track:
Talk about your shared budget, goals and expenses if you share your finances with someone else. Focus on working together to achieve your mutual dreams.
Stay motivated. Getting off-track doesn’t mean you have to abandon your plan or budget. Revise your spending patterns and pick up where you left off with a more realistic outlook.
Be flexible. Accept that there will be set- backs. Life isn’t always predictable. Use direct or automatic deposit to set aside money to reach savings goals.
Leave a little room in your budget for occasional treats. Too tight of a budget will ensure failure.
Get help from a financial consultant. PAS offers financial consultation for general information. A certified financial planner can provide advice specific to your situation.
Review your budget periodically. Revise your plan as needed. Motivation, self-discipline and commitment will have big payoffs!
Are you or a loved one dealing with a chronic illness?
PAS can help you live life to the fullest. Our Nurse Coaches offer education and support for you to:
- Adapt positively to the life changes that are presented with a new chronic illness diagnosis
- Learn ways to effectively communicate with multiple health care providers
- Know what questions to ask when going to the doctor
- Find answers to questions regarding diagnoses, testing, medications and procedures
- Learn ways to live well with illness
PASWord Express © 2013 is published by Personal Assistance Services, 9735 Landmark Parkway, Suite 17, St. Louis, MO, 63127 -9968 (800) 356-0845. Material may not be reproduced without written permission.