The holiday season is that infamous time when people start thinking about and sharing their goals for the upcoming year. However, setting any life goal can be daunting when you live with a chronic health condition. If you can’t count on your body to stay stable, it can be hard to plan or to make the same goals as others.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set resolutions or personal goals if the idea appeals to you. If approached healthily, New Year’s resolutions can provide a great opportunity for self-improvement.
Your goals and how you choose to go about meeting them are what matters. Setting a goal to do anything every day is unrealistic no matter who you are, but when you live with a chronic condition, you know better than anyone that life can be unpredictable, and a daily goal may not be attainable.
If you choose to set some resolutions this holiday season, do your best to approach them realistically for your lifestyle, and remember to give yourself some grace in the event your condition gets in the way. Try your best to redefine what success means to you and know that that definition looks different for everyone.
Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to stick to a diet and to exercise more. When you have a chronic condition, exercise can be tricky. Some days you may not be able to get out of bed or off the couch at all, and many days you may feel run down, fatigued, or just in pain.
In any case, throwing in the towel and not setting any goals may feel easier. But consider if there are more reasonable resolutions you can make that would serve you best. In my case, I made it a goal to walk out my front door as often as possible. Some days that just means walking to the end of the driveway to my mailbox, but that’s an improvement compared to the days when I didn’t get any fresh air at all.
If you’re setting a goal of increased fitness in the new year, consider more flexible exercise programs like chair yoga, virtual low impact classes, or adding wrist or ankle weights as you go about your day.
When it comes to diet, what is considered healthy can vary greatly depending on your goals. While some wish to lose or gain weight, many people with chronic conditions follow a specific diet plan to better manage their symptoms.
Be sure to check with your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes, especially if you take any medications.
Watching friends and family taking trips can be difficult if you have health limitations. You see their pictures from the beach, the ski resort, or the amusement park and think, “I could never plan for that.” Appreciating what you have can be extra tough when others seem to have it easier and can do many more things you hope to try.
If you’re up for it, last-minute travel can be fun, even if it’s not much beyond your hometown. Sometimes just going to a local hotel with a pool and a breakfast buffet can be a nice change of pace. Or you can book a room at an Airbnb in the closest city and go see a show or visit a museum.
It doesn’t have to involve air travel and months of planning to be worthwhile. Getting out of your own four walls when you’re feeling good can be a big mood lifter. Consider making a resolution to push your boundaries a bit when you feel stable.
One of the most important promises you can make is to do your best to take care of your mental and physical health, which goes beyond diet and exercise.
Self-care may mean different things for different people, but in all cases, it should mean carving out time and energy for the things and people you love and making yourself comfortable in your home. It may mean committing to calling an old friend once a month or decorating your space in the way you really want instead of settling for what’s there.
For me, it means splurging on handmade soaps and occasional takeout even when I’m on a budget. For you, it might mean buying a new plant or getting a pet.
You might make a resolution to discover a new hobby or interest by taking one of those classes you keep seeing advertised in the library, adult education brochure, or learning website. They’re not graded like in high school, so if you need to miss classes sometimes because of your condition, that’s OK.
Self-care also means following up on your medical and dental visits and advocating for yourself when you don’t get the answers you need.
For many of us, having a chronic condition interferes with our careers and may even cause us to leave jobs we love. So often, we define ourselves by the work we do, and losing the ability to work or get ahead in your career can have a negative impact on your self-esteem. But consider other ways you can feel productive and worthwhile and think about setting a resolution to seek more opportunities.
Maybe this means finding ways to give back in your community or volunteer for causes that are important to you in a manner that you can handle: writing postcards or sending texts to support a political campaign, starting a YouTube channel to teach people a skill you have, volunteering at a nursing home, art gallery, or civic association.
If you can’t work full time, you might look into more flexible options like delivering through services like Grubhub or DoorDash or selling homemade items on Etsy or through Facebook Marketplace.
Living with a chronic condition often means working within your body’s parameters, which can mean editing your expectations. Always give yourself grace and remember that your New Year’s resolutions — if you choose to set them — don’t have to “match” anyone else’s. They only have to feel helpful to you.
Medically reviewed on December 24, 2022
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