I get pretty excited when the new year is upon us, as it offers a clean slate and an opportunity to start fresh. The beginning of a new year is an empty vessel we can fill with new desires and goals. For those of us with chronic illness, our resolutions and goals will likely be different from those of our healthy peers.
When I contemplated my resolutions for 2018, I spent some time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t during 2017. This brought me to the realization that my resolutions didn’t need to include adding a new task or therapy. Instead, I could focus on removing things from my life. My reflection period of the past year highlighted how removing certain things left me with less stress, more joy, and more time to take care of myself.
Following are a few effective changes I made in 2017 that made it to my 2018 resolutions list:
Get serious about self-care
Self-care has been a hot topic over the past few years, and with good reason. But while I heard about it almost daily, I didn’t take it seriously. Then, during a particularly rough season in 2017, I realized I was completely burnt out and never had quiet time away from noise, people, and electronics while doing something positive for my body.
So, I sat down and examined my budget for frivolous spending. I cut out a lot of coffee and tea purchases, and curbed my book spending habit — I’m a bit of a book hoarder. I then took the money I saved and made scheduled commitments to get a massage, take restorative yoga classes (which calm down the nervous system), and enjoy salt cave therapy when possible. (Amazing!) The first few weeks, I didn’t notice major benefits. But over the next few months, my family members and I noticed I was calmer and happier. I also had less pain, was more flexible, and had a little more energy (which I was grateful for — fatigue is one of my worst symptoms). For the times when money was tight, I lit candles, put on my Pandora radio, and took a warm, long bath. In addition, I used YouTube to find restorative yoga routines and guided meditation videos.
The greatest challenge to taking my self-care seriously was the voice in my head telling me I had to keep up with or surpass those around me who are healthy, and that taking “me” time was selfish. Today, I realize it is vital to my health and to cultivating a positive mindset.
Remove energy-sucking events and commitments
“Yes, yes, yes.” I felt like that was my answer to everything most of my life. I didn’t want to let people down, didn’t want to insult anyone, and certainly didn’t want them to blame my illness for my inability to do something or be somewhere. But learning to say no (and here’s the trick — not feeling guilty about it) was the most amazing thing I implemented in my life. When I have family responsibilities, work, doctor appointments, and treatments, adding a bunch of non-crucial commitments exhausts me without break and brings me to a point of constant flare-ups.
This isn’t OK for someone with lupus
I learned the hard way that pushing too much all of the time ends up hurting me physically and incapacitates me to the point that I can’t maintain vital commitments such as working or home responsibilities.
The challenge in this change was accepting that people could feel let down or insulted if I say no to an event or volunteering opportunity. But I can’t please everyone in life, and most of them don’t understand that I could suffer for days or weeks if I overextend myself. Bottom line: I have to take care of myself.
Be grateful for my gifts
This is an evolved resolution. Early on in my diagnosis, I heavily focused on things I could no longer do. But through mindfulness and gratefulness, my views have shifted to the gifts and talents God gave me, such as my journalism career, my love for cooking and photography, my creative side, my compassion for animals, etc. Focusing on what others had or could do always left me depressed. I made a commitment to stop playing the comparison game. Today, I focus on my talents and make the most out of them.
Take time this New Year’s to reflect on what can be added or removed from life to make 2018 the best year yet. And leave your favorite resolution in the comments below!
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.