Setting Goals with Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Help for Reaching Those Milestones

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Setting goals is easy -- it's attaining them that's hard. When you have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it can seem impossible.

The specific challenges that make goals difficult for us include low energy, fatigue, and forgetfulness (brain fog). Some of us have symptoms all the time, which makes it hard to do anything, ever. Others of us have roller coaster symptoms, with brief periods of productivity followed by a crash and doing absolutely nothing.

Throw a lifestyle change into the mix ... it's not going to be easy.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. A goal can give your life new focus, and achieving a goal is good for you! You know that feeling of accomplishment? It comes from a burst of norepinephrine in your brain, and since we usually have sluggish activity of that neurotransmitter, it can actually be therapeutic.

Of course, when chronic illness already has you feel lousy, you don't need failure to add to the pile of negative emotions. That's why it's especially important for us to pick realistic goals.

Here's how to approach goal-setting:

Choose a small, attainable goal with a short time frame.

  • Problem Goal: I want to lose 80 pounds in the next year.
  • Why It's a Problem: Too big a goal for most people, and it allows you to procrastinate because you have a whole year.
  • Better Goal: I want to lose 5 pounds every month this year.

    Build in Some Leeway.

    • Reason: You may have times that are worse than what you're used to when you're not able to work toward your goals. We have to expect setbacks.
    • Even Better Goal: I want to lose an average of 5 pounds every month this year. So if you don't lose anything in March, for example, you know you have to work a little harder for a few months to get your average back on track.

      Write Down Your Goal

      • Reason: Experts on goal setting say it's proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Especially if you're forgetful, it helps to post them where you'll see them frequently.

      Re-evaluate Now & Then.

      • Reason: It may be that you've set too ambitious a goal for yourself, or that an unexpected event changes your goals or your ability to reach them. For example, I was working hard at losing weight a couple of years ago, then realized I was gluten intolerant. The demands of radically changing my diet and counting calories was too much for me, so I changed my goal.

      Identify Obstacles & Find Solutions.

      • Reason: What's kept you from reaching this goal in the past? What problems can you foresee this time? How can you solve those problems? Coming up with solutions now can help you get past obstacles a lot more easily.

      Here are some resources that can help you reach specific goals:

      Diet & Exercise

      Smoking

      Organization

      Sex

      When things aren't going well, the most important thing is to forgive yourself. You're human, and you're a human facing extraordinary challenges. Recognize that getting through the day is an accomplishment for you, and just do what you can.

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