Hitting the reset button: Navigating the new year with chronic illness

A columnist shares four important questions she asks herself each year

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by Marisa Zeppieri |

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At the start of each new year, I find myself awestruck by what it could bring to my life. While social media has a funny way of making us feel an overwhelming pressure for a “new year, new me,” I’d like to share with you a gentle reminder: Life with chronic illness doesn’t always follow the same script of grand resolutions and sudden transformations.

So instead of overwhelming ourselves with pressure to enact instantaneous change, let’s talk about how we can hit the reset button in a more compassionate and manageable way.

First things first, take a deep breath and prepare your mind as we do a little self-inventory to set us up for our journey. Let’s swap the traditional resolutions with some reflective questions to guide us through the next 11 months. I’ll highlight four questions I ask myself each year.

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1. What went well for me?

When reflecting on the past year, it’s essential to celebrate the victories, no matter how small they may seem. I call these my small wins, and I often jot them down in shorthand in my daily planner.

Truth be told, my memory is awful. So, by the end of the year, as I read back my small wins, I am in awe of how much I have accomplished and persevered through.

What are your small wins? Perhaps you’ve discovered a new coping mechanism, connected with a supportive community, or found the strength to advocate for your needs. Recognizing these wins isn’t just about patting ourselves on the back; it’s about acknowledging our resilience.

Grab your journal or a notepad and jot down the moments from last year that brought a smile to your face. Cherish those victories and make them the foundation for the positive changes you’re about to cultivate. And, if you want to take it a step further, commit to jotting a few notes down every day, week, or month, and then put them into a jar. By the end of this year, I promise you will be surprised when you read them again.

2. What areas of my life would I like to improve?

Let’s shift our focus to the areas that could use a little extra attention. Instead of framing it as a need for drastic change, think of it as a gentle nudge toward growth. It could be improving your self-care routine, strengthening relationships, or finding a better work-life balance.

Consider the aspects of your life that contribute to your overall well-being and jot them down. This exercise is not about instantly fixing what’s broken but nurturing what’s essential for your happiness and overall health.

3. What areas of this illness journey regressed?

Chronic illness comes with its share of ups and downs, and it’s perfectly OK to acknowledge our setbacks. We all have them. While I had a great year overall, I had to acknowledge two major flares — one after a stressful move and another after the recent death of my dog.

Looking back on the move, my body had provided me with plenty of red flags indicating the start of a flare, but I kept pushing through. I knew what would happen, but I ignored my body and paid the price. I don’t want to repeat that this year.

Take a moment to reflect on the challenges you faced last year and remember that setbacks are not synonymous with failure. They are opportunities for learning. What lessons can you take away from these moments?

4. What area of my illness journey would I like to focus on?

As we map out the road ahead, consider honing in on a specific aspect of your illness journey. Whether it’s refining your diet, navigating relationships, learning more about alternative therapies, advocating for your needs more often, or exploring employment options, choosing a focal point allows for a more targeted and manageable approach.

Set realistic goals for your chosen area, breaking them down into small, achievable steps. Remember, progress is progress, no matter how incremental it is. By directing your energy toward a specific area, you can channel your efforts more effectively. And as we all know, those of us with chronic illness have a limited amount of energy, and it must be used wisely.

As you reflect on these four questions, I want you to remember that improvement is a gradual process. There’s no rush to meet society’s (or Instagram’s) expectations. This year, let’s prioritize self-compassion, celebrate our victories, and work toward improvements with gentleness and understanding.

Cheers to a year of meaningful progress!


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.

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