Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Health Goals for 2013

I haven't been posting much here lately. For us, the hectic holiday season seems to last right through February. We make it through Christmas and New Year, then quickly move onto Craig's birthday (the celebration often lasts for 2 weeks!), then Mardi Gras (a major holiday in our house) and my niece and nephew's birthdays in Connecticut. Then, we can take a breath!

Anyway, I posted a couple of weeks ago with a look back at 2012 and promised to write about my goals for 2013. As I said in my previous post, I am a data freak, and I also really like setting goals! No, really, I find goals inspirational. They aren't resolutions but specific measurable goals. I used to set my goals the first week of the year and then forget all about them until the end of the year when I'd be disappointed in myself for not doing what I wanted to do....again. Then, I learned to take those broad goals and set smaller, measurable objectives to support them (it's actually something I used to teach companies to do with environmental management). The key for me is that I track my progress against my goals each week. That probably sounds like a lot of work, but I found that it only takes a few minutes and it keeps me on track. Then, by the end of the year, I've actually focused on the things I wanted to focus on. And that makes me very happy.

Of course, CFS gets in the way, and my tendency to over-commit is still there, in spite of 11 years of illness! But, this process works well for me overall. So, I have lots of small, measurable goals (too many, I'm sure!), but I'll just focus on the more health-related ones here. Almost all of these are goals I also had last year that I want to continue to work on.

I have a group of Relationship goals, which do actually relate to health. Close, healthy relationships are good for me, and eliminating the stress of poor relationships is critical. So, some of my goals include:
  • Meeting my husband for lunch once a month
  • Date night with my husband once a month
  • At least 1 overnight getaway with my husband during the year
  • Do something fun with the kids at least 4 times a week 
  • Call my mom once a week
  • Get together with friends once a week
CFS certainly makes it more challenging to find time alone with my husband. It is just easier for me to stay home most of the time!  But we did better last year (i.e. date night 67% of the months) than the year before (date nights only 25% of the months), so we are making progress, and I will try to do even better this year. The goal to do something fun with the kids is an important one: now that they are older, it is too easy to end up all plugged into our own various electronic devices. I have to make a conscious effort to play a game with them or do something else fun. At first, I wasn't counting TV time, but by evening when we are all together, we are usually pretty wiped out, and I realized that enjoying a TV show together does count - I know lots of families with teen kids can't even manage that. I did quite well at getting together with friends at least once a week last year (94%!), and that helps my emotional well-being and mood very much!

Enjoy the Outdoors
Nature and the outdoors are very important to me. Even though CFS has greatly reduced my outdoor activities, I still make an effort to do what little I can because I find being outside is replenishing to my soul. Like supportive relationships, spending time outdoors helps me to keep stress down and increase the joy in my life. Some of my goals include:
  • Spend at least 10 minutes a day outdoors (even if it is lying on my deck wrapped in blankets!)
  • Go hiking at least once a month
  • Go camping at least 3 times a year
I feel so much better when I spend time outdoors, but I only managed it 20% of the days last year. I suppose every day is probably too tough a goal, but I want to keep trying. "Hiking" is loosely defined; I did a slow walk on level ground with two friends this morning for about 25 minutes (wearing my heart rate monitor)...that counts! And we only went camping twice last year, though "one" of those times was a 3-week long road trip. This year will be challenging, with our oldest son now in college.

Some of my specific health goals include:
  • Try new treatments for Jamie and I
  • Walk at least 3 times a week
  • Do gentle yoga for at least 5 minutes, at least 3 times a week
  • Light muscle-building, at least 2 times a week
  • Rest when symptoms flare
Last year, I was totally focused on Jamie - we tried dozens and dozens of changes and new treatments, and some of them worked wonderfully to help get him functioning again. This year, I need to start thinking about myself again. I think I may try a slightly higher dose of low-dose naltrexone, for one thing, and perhaps going up on my Imunovir dose which is currently lower than recommended.

The exercise goals are more modest than they appear, and all of them are predicated on not causing a post-exertional crash. My walks are usually slow, easy walks around my neighborhood, about 25 minutes, wearing a heart rate monitor and staying below my AT the entire time (beta blockers allow me to do that). I have discovered that gentle yoga while sitting or lying down helps me even on bad crash days - the worse I feel, the more I focus on lying down, meditative-type yoga. And on any day, the stretching feels good, especially first thing in the morning. The muscle-building is likewise done very slowly and carefully, wearing a heart rate monitor and staying below my AT. I have found that breaking it into tiny increments works best. So, I might do 10 push-ups, then lie on the couch with my laptop; an hour later, I might do some lying-down abs exercises, etc. And I only attempt the muscle-building on days when I feel my best. I improved with both yoga and muscle-building last year and want to continue to strive for the goals above.

The "rest when symptoms flare" is actually a tough one for me but critically important. I tend to push myself too hard and convince myself that things "have to" get done, even when I am feeling bad, so I am trying to work on this. I only managed this 45% of the time last year, so I will continue to focus on it. Actually having it as a written goal helps me to give myself permission to "slack off" (ha ha) on bad days and take better care of myself.

Reduce Stress
This is really part of overall health, but I realized last year that I needed to work more on reducing stress and taking better care of myself. Some of my goals are:
  • Meditate 10 minutes a day
  • No computer after 7 pm
  • Take one "day off" per month
I really need to work on the meditation goal, but I find it hard to slow down and just "do nothing" during my productive time of day. My afternoon nap is sacred, so I do well at taking that time off each day, but I know meditation would help, too. I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) when I was 16, so I have the tools; I just need to practice.

I know I spend way too much time on my computer and that it is tiring for me...but I am totally addicted to my online life!  So, I have tried to set limits for myself, to ensure I don't overdo and also to make sure I spend quality time with my family in the evenings. I'm going to continue to work on this one!

Taking a day off each month is an idea I got from an online friend (who does not have CFS). This is actually really tough for me. I am always focused on being productive; even on crash days, I lie on the couch with my laptop and try to get stuff done. So, the concept of a day off once in a while - a day just for me, with no responsibilities or obligations - is a difficult one for me but very, very beneficial. I only managed it 25% of the time last year, so I hope to do better this year.

So, that's a summary of my health-related goals. How about you? Have you set any goals for yourself this year? Baby steps...


Renee said...

Sounds like you have a lot of goals set! I guess without writing them down I have set a few for myself. Write out my "conversations in the garden" that I post on my Faith Blog into book form. Walk a 1/2 mile a day by spring and 1 mile a day by fall. Walking 1/4 mile at most now. Continue to move forward with "going out into the world and fearing nothing"...... Also travel to my kids homes and go to a couple of conferences I have my mind set on.
WIshing you well, Sue.

Sue Jackson said...

Wow, Renee - a mile a day! Now that is impressive! Good for you. I have some writing goals, too, including moving forward on a book.

Yes, I have a lot of goals, but notice that some of them boil down to "rest more" - kind of an oxymoron to set a goal to do LESS, but that's the crazy CFS world we live in, right?

I am so thrilled that you are doing so much better and getting out in the world!!

Reading the Signs said...

Me and goals have a difficult history. I set them and then find I can't keep them, which can make me feel like a failure. So one of my goals is to be more accepting of myself. But with this illness there is such a fine line to tread - it's difficult to know where personal failure begins and ends.

Good luck with all your projects.

Sue Jackson said...

I totally understand. That's why some of my "goals" are things like "less time on the computer" and "rest when symptoms flare." I, too, need to be more accepting of my limits.

Anonymous said...

I love your idea of 'measurable goals.' I never thought of keeping tabs and breaking the goals down into specific areas. How do you record daily results, on your computer or in a notebook? I had been using a 'primitive' cell phone till just recently when I bought an IPhone 5. It's wonderful and there's a 'notes' app that comes with it in which I keep a journal of sorts. The phone has a voice recognition feature. So I speak and it writes it down !!!! I can talk as slow as I want, so easy on my voice. It's far from perfect and I have to make corrections, but beats writing or typing when my hands are too weak. I don't know how to snyc yet, that's my next goal. Thanks for all the ideas. From Leah

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks, Leah! Making things measurable and keeping track has totally changed things for me.

You are way ahead of me technologically! I still have a dumb phone :)

But I am a bit of a geek, so I use an Excel spreadsheet. I have one page to track progress during the week, then I copy and paste the week's results onto a monthly sheet, then the monthly summary to a yearly sheet. I know it sounds like a lot of extra work, but for me, it really isn't and staying on track all year long is worth it!

I think everyone needs to figure out what works best for him/her.

Good luck!


Tanya @ Moms Small Victories said...

Thanks for sharing your goals with #throwbackthursdaylinkup! I love that you are so statistical in your analysis of your goals. As a former accountant, I love using Excel too :) I hope you continue to post updates and link up with our goals linkup too! It's nice having some support and cheering one another on. I love the goals you have and no computer time after 7pm, that's when I get most of my blogging done! :) I probably shouldn't though, it does impact my being able to get to sleep.

Tanya said...

Thanks for sharing on #throwbackthursday linkup! I have CFS and fibromyalgia. I 've had them since 1992. I have two teenagers, but luckily so far they have not showed any symptoms. I did have a daughter when I first got sick. We both had cytomeglavirus, which the doctors think may of contributed to my Cfs. Unfortunately my daughter passed away at the age of two form the virus. Thanks for sharing your goals. It's good to have goals even if we can't always achieve them. My blog My Fruitful Home has a new focus for moms with chronic illness. I would love for you to check it out.

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Tanya - nice to "meet" you! Sorry to hear you also have CFS (and FM, too!).

I will definitely stop by your blog -


Heather said...

Thanks for sharing this on #throwbackthursdaylinkup last week. I would like to list it as my favorite this week because I have a friend who is in the process of finding out what she has going on and possibly Lyme Disease and I can't wait to share this with her. Thanks!

Sue Jackson said...

Heather -

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Sorry to hear about your friend. I had Lyme for 3 years and my son has Lyme as well as 2 other tick infections (plus we both have ME/CFS). So, please tell your friend I would be happy to help her with diagnosis or whatever else she is struggling with - we've been through all of that. She can visit this blog or e-mail me at jacksonde at comcast.net

Best -


Unknown said...

I really like your approach, as I am processed-driven. Plus, I am an HR/Safety professional, so I get your EMS goal-setting /tracking methods. This has made me think about the kind of categories and goals I want to set myself. Thanks for sharing what you did in detail.

Sue Jackson said...

Hi, Gina - A fellow EHS professional! I no longer do that work, but the objective-setting process works well for personal stuff. Glad you found it helpful :)