As the holidays quickly approach and 2022 looms closer, it’s time to start thinking about, yup, you guessed it, New Year’s resolutions. Maybe the mention of resolutions makes you inwardly groan. After all, most of us have made a resolution (or several), stuck with it for a week or two, then settled right back into our old ways.
Rather than dreading the annual resolution ritual, what if we embraced the idea of setting new personal goals any time of year? And if you’re struggling with chronic pain, here are some tips to make pain management goals you can stick to that can lead to a lot of relief.
What Are the Benefits of Setting Resolutions?
An estimated 74% of Americans made New Year’s resolutions for 2021. Whether due to societal pressure or good ol’ fashioned personal conviction, a majority of us seem to innately recognize the value in setting personal goals.
That’s because there is value in goal-setting, especially when it comes to managing pain.
Here is an overview of some of the many benefits that come from creating meaningful health goals for yourself:
- While at times it might seem like chronic pain is out of your control, setting goals can bring a sense of order and control to your life.
- Setting goals makes it easy to recognize progress!
- Goals keep you focused on what’s most important to you.
- The more goals you reach, the more momentum you gain, and the more confident you feel. Win-win-win.
- Reaching goals will boost your mood.
- Goal-setting works hand-in-hand with pacing, a technique that can help with managing pain flare ups.
- Goals can provide direction and a sense of purpose when living with chronic pain.
Set Goals to Manage My Pain? Yes!
If you’ve encountered any of the following situations in the last six months, setting pain management goals can help:
Does Your Chronic Pain Come and Go?
If you’re experiencing pain in the same location over and over again, that’s a good indication that it should be investigated by a doctor. Together, you can agree on a treatment plan and specific functional goals in pain management that can go a long way to feeling better.
Do You Feel Pain With Specific Movements?
Perhaps your chronic elbow pain flares up after you chop wood or do certain exercises at the gym. Whatever the situation, if an activity causes pain and leads you to avoid it, now’s a good time to set pain management goals.
Do You Avoid Activities You Love Because of Pain?
If you’ve stopped gardening, running, babysitting your grandkids, or anything else you enjoy, this is a sign that you need to take steps to manage your pain. While pain is a natural part of life, if it’s keeping you from doing the things you love, consider establishing a series of small goals so you can get back into your favorite activities.
Do You Experience Pain After Exercising?
We all know that daily exercise is good for our health–especially for those of us with chronic pain. If your pain has become so debilitating that it prevents you from exercising, it’s time to implement a care plan that includes goals (and perhaps pacing too). Your doctor or therapist can help if you’re unsure how or where to start, or need help defining realistic, achievable objectives. (When you sign up for Lin, you’ll learn how we help you set sustainable pain management goals.)
How Do I Improve My Chances of Reaching My Goals?
Staying on target with goals can be hard, so here’s some expert advice for setting and sticking with functional pain management goals:
Tip #1: Break Big Goals Into Smaller Ones
You’ve probably heard this before: Break big projects down into small, manageable tasks. This same concept applies to pain management goals too. Let’s say you want to start walking for 30 minutes a day to improve your mobility, mood, and endurance. To start, set a smaller goal, like walking 10 minutes a day for a week. Once you’ve achieved that, aim for 20 minutes a day the next week. With each small objective, you get closer to reaching your big goal.
Tip #2: Make Sure Your Goals Are SMART
SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited. It’s important to frame goals with these criteria–“sketch 10 minutes every day” rather than “do something to feel better” or “lose 2 pounds this month” rather than “lose weight”–so you can see progress, which will inspire you to continue. (If you’re unsure about what’s achievable when it comes to your chronic pain, check in with your healthcare provider and ask for their input.) If your goal doesn’t meet the SMART criteria, see what you can do to add a SMART letter or two. Define your goal, set a date by which to reach it, and ensure it’s realistic.
Tip #3: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Online pain management support groups can be tremendously helpful when you’re living with chronic pain. (If you haven’t found one you like, here are our top five online chronic pain management support communities.) While the shared experience can make you feel less alone, it can be tempting to compare progress to others seemingly going through the same things. Try not to do this! Remember, we’re all different, and all our pain experiences are different. Make resolutions or goals that work for you.
Tip #4: Try Not to be Too Hard on Yourself
Maybe you decide to set a couple of goals, but things shift (as they always do!) and perhaps you don’t make the progress you’d hoped to. It happens to all of us. Really, it does. Don’t beat yourself up. Try saying, “Today was hard. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I’ll try again then.” Recognize and give yourself props for your commitment to improving your situation. Remember, you put thought and energy into what you want to achieve, and that matters! Your desire to move forward has great value, in itself.
New Year’s resolutions and setting goals helps people focus their efforts and make progress in their lives. That’s just as true for managing chronic pain. Making realistic, achievable resolutions can lead you to reach even bigger pain management goals. We at Lin understand the importance of setting goals, and our personal health coaches incorporate many of these techniques–and more–in each chronic pain care plan they tailor with and for our members. If you’re looking for a good place to start with your own pain management goal-setting, learn more today!