Video: Pacing & Action Planning for Exercise

If you’re thinking about exercising to help with your chronic pain or overall health, it is important to consider two things: (1) pacing – so that you don’t over exert yourself one day and pay for it the next; and (2) action planning or goal setting so that exercise is realistic for you. Also, remember to always talk to your healthcare team before starting any new exercise routine! If you’re having thoughts about your ability to exercise that are causing you distress, check out this podcast episode.

Keep making the most of it!

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Goal Setting with Chronic Illness

It can feel hard to set goals for yourself when you’re sick and/or in pain. Be it personal goals, work/career goals, relationship goals, or health goals, they just feel harder to attain and when something is so hard it’s so easy for our minds to give up and just not do it. But we have to be careful, because that giving up can lead to hopelessness, which can lead to depression, which can then make it even harder to set goals and live the life we want to live. You might be saying, “but Kelsey, how can I live the life I want to live when I’m in so much pain, and I’m struggling so much?” And that is a valid question. Journeys to living our best lives aren’t easy for people who are healthy, so they are far less easy for those who are not, which is why I believe that starting to set goals for ourselves early on, before that hopelessness sets in, is essential. (For those of you who are already struggling from depression, goal setting is still very important, but I recommend seeking out a therapist to help you on your journey, this post is going to focus on goal setting when our mental health is doing better).

Sometimes we focus too much on obstacles and stop ourselves from setting goals.

Personal, career, relationship, and health goals are all possible to set and achieve. The easiest strategy for goal setting, that is often used in business AND is what we use in counselling, are SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting goals this way, will help you have a step-by-step process that will make it easier to reach your goals. With chronic illness, our goals might be smaller than our healthy peers. Maybe a health goal is to walk around the block rather than run a half marathon (or if your ultimate goal is to run that half marathon, we might have to start with the goal of walking around the block). Before we jump into some examples of these SMART goals, I want to just stop for a minute and talk about realistic versus unrealistic goals. I think it gets a little fuzzy with Spoonies because sometimes we can either limit ourselves in what we believe we can do, or we try to ignore our limitations and believe we can do more than we can. The truth is, only you know if you fall into one of these categories, or if you’re being completely realistic about your goals. Using the marathon example, if you believe you could NEVER run a marathon (even if it is technically possible) than you might limit yourself in the box of continuing to struggle with going for walks (I’m not saying this is or isn’t fitting for you and your story, just an example of what could happen). On the other end, if you believe you could run a marathon within a year but you struggle with pain when you take a few steps, that is also not necessarily realistic (again, depending on you). My point is, we want to have realistic expectations of ourselves when we set goals, and sometimes those can change when we make these smaller goals, and take one step at a time.

Goals can still be set if you have chronic illness – in fact they should be set!
(Niagara, ON, July 19, 2020)

Let’s do an example of a SMART goal with something from my life. (By the way I have a million goals, some of them are “life” goals and will take a lot of time to build up to – thus the baby steps – and some of them are smaller goals). This month I’m participating in a 30-day yoga challenge. So, I’m going to use that as my goal.

  • S(pecific) – Participate in Timothy Gordon’s 30-day yoga challenge (found on YouTube here) at around 5pm every day.
  • M(easurable) – Tracked daily by viewing the videos in order: Days 1-30
  • A(ttainable) – the videos are between 15-30 minutes in length, and I have been doing this style of yoga (yin) for 10 months, so yes it is attainable.
  • R(elevant) – this has a dual purpose for me: to get present and centred in my body (which is helpful for chronic pain and mental health), and for light exercise (also helpful for chronic pain and mental health).
  • T(ime-bound) – I started on March 1 so I will end on March 30.

Therefore my goal is: To participate in Timothy Gordon’s 30-day yoga challenge at around 5pm daily from March 1 to 30, which is based on my current fitness level and will improve my chronic pain and mental health through being present and light exercise.

My current Yoga challenge is indoor, but I’d love to do outdoor yoga again!
(near Peachland, BC, August 30, 2020)

If, for example, you wanted to have a similar goal but were not used to doing yoga or this style of yoga, you could spread it out over two months and do it every other day. I hope you get the idea though. It’s important to set a goal around your health when you have a chronic illness. Just setting one goal at a time, and accomplishing it can feel really good and improve your overall quality of life (which then will likely improve your mood as well). If you have questions about this kind of goal setting, or really any questions at all, feel free to reach out! Also, my podcast episode with Katie and my one with Trachele, are really good to check out as they relate to goal setting with chronic illness.

Until next week, keep making the most of it!

Self-Development

Normally at this time of year I do a yearly recap and/or setting goals for the new year, but seeing as 2020 did not turn out how anyone expected, it seems unnecessary to recap and hard to want to set goals since we have no idea what’s coming (not that we’ve ever had an idea but there was more optimism in the past). By the way, if you want to watch an extremely funny take on the past year check out “Death to 2020” on Netflix – satire at its finest. Here’s the thing though, I don’t think personal development has to stop because things aren’t going well in the world. At least it doesn’t stop for me. Sure, some things were completely derailed because of the pandemic, and some more so for some people than others but I don’t want to stop living to the best of my abilities, do you?

I read an article on Global News this morning, indicating that 40% of Canadians have been struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues since the beginning of the pandemic (and about 30% with weight gain). Interestingly the normal yearly prevalence rates for mental illness in Canada is about 20%, but the lifetime prevalence is 50% (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2020). Our yearly rate is definitely up, and only time will tell how the lifetime prevalence will be affected. I think it is safe to say that this year we all should focus on our mental health. Whether that means going to therapy (check your area for free counselling options or therapists will sliding scales), utilizing crisis intervention services, or just enhancing our self-care practices to try and keep ourselves as feeling as good as possible, we all need to do something. In terms of substance abuse, it’s important to monitor how much you’re drinking and do the occasional detox/cleanse is probably a good idea. Finally, if you’re concerned about your weight, try to come up with ways to exercise at home (I’ve done a lot of this and post a workout video every 3 weeks on this blog).

At home exercise can be as effective as at the gym exercise.

So, in a sense, we kind of do have some goals for this year that are totally realistic, regardless of what the year has in store for us. For chronic illness warriors, I’m adding one additional, totally realistic goal as well. And trust me, I’m going to do these with you as well.

  1. Prioritizing our mental health: therapy and/or crisis intervention services AND self-care (if you can subscribe to my premium posts, they are all about improving self-care).
  2. Watch how much we are drinking: go a week here-and-there without drinking at all; monitor what you do drink; and try not to drink too much. I find tea in the evening is a good substitute for a drink.
  3. Keep in as good of shape as we can: my chiropractor told me he thinks my recovery from surgery has gone so well because I was in good shape before my surgery. Eat healthy and find creative ways to exercise at home!
  4. Continue to monitor and prioritize your illness: go to your doctor appointment (virtually if necessary), take your medications, utilize any other health services you have, and rest as needed.
Self-care can be anything you enjoy doing, that makes you feel good, and it is essential for mental health.

I’m going to link some podcast episodes for you to listen to when you get a chance in order to help you with these goals:

The best goals are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound – so remember that when actually making your goals for the year. For example, my goal for mental health is: Do one self-care activity every day for at least 5 minutes, 7 days a week for the whole year. If you need help creating some of these goals, feel free to reach out.

Take care of yourself this coming year, and keep on making the most of it.