The whole point of setting New Year’s resolutions is to have something to look forward to in a new year. Resolutions give you goals to work toward and ways to better yourself. Figuring out how to realistically set New Year’s resolutions when you have a chronic health condition, like IC, can be challenging. IC affects our lives in so many ways from our jobs to our relationships to our hobbies. We can easily fall into a slump of thinking it’s pointless to make resolutions because planning ahead with a grumpy bladder doesn’t always go so well.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can definitely get on board with catastrophizing like this. I can moan and groan in my head. In no time, I can start hosting a giant pity party. But I’ve also learned through the years of dealing with IC and other chronic health issues that I can’t predict the future. I don’t know how my body will behave in the coming year; however, I can be in charge of my attitude. And you can, too! We can set and keep New Year’s resolutions that will have us making the new year a good one, in spite of the challenges it may bring.
Come up with specific resolutions.
Take time to really think about the resolutions you want to set. If you end up needing to wait and set them a week or month into the new year, that’s fine! Once you have some overall goals in mind for the new year, you want to make specific New Year’s resolutions in order to be successful.(1) For example, one resolution you might set is to be more active in 2022. That’s a great overall goal, but it’s pretty vague. Instead, go for a specific resolution of walking for 20 minutes three days a week. Or you might resolve to stay in touch better with friends during the new year. Make is specific by resolving to call a friend each week or send text messages every Saturday morning.
Keep your New Year’s resolutions simple.
I love simple. If something is too complex, complicated and convoluted, I am usually not so interested. This is true for New Year’s resolutions as well. The simpler you make your resolutions, the more likely you’ll be able to stick with them. You want to be specific with your resolutions, but not overcomplicate them. For example, if you want become a better cook, set a resolution to try making a new recipe once a month. Avoid making your resolution be to look at recipes every week, try a new recipe every other week and watch a cooking tutorial every other, other week. While you can always do the other activities as well, keep your main resolution specific and simple to have a better success rate.
Be realistic about your New Year’s resolutions.
While this is a great tip for anyone setting a New Year’s resolutions, it’s particularly important for those of us in the chronic illness community. We have to be honestly realistic. You might not be able to do everything you once could or the things you think you ought to be able to. In the example of getting more active, you might notice my example was walking for 20 minutes, three days a week. That’s a more feasible goal for many IC patients rather than resolving to go to the gym for an hour-long workout five days a week. (If you can do the longer workout, go for it. But if you can’t, that’s OK, too.)
Think about what you can actually do the majority of the time and set your resolutions based on that. Some days will be better and you can do more. Others will be worse and you won’t be able to do much. Embrace and plan for the unpredictability of your health. And be honest with yourself about what you can really do.
Set only a few resolutions.
If you set too many resolutions, you are most likely setting yourself up for failure. You can only do so much! Some psychologists suggest picking one goal for the year and setting your resolutions based only on that goal.(2) You can set just one New Year’s resolution for that goal or a few smaller, specific ones that are all geared toward that goal. Maybe your overall goal is to be healthier in the new year. Your specific resolutions could be to be active three times a week, to make a new healthy recipe once a week and to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Plan how to achieve your goals.
Once you know your resolutions, start planning how to actually make them happen. Think about what you’ll do if things go sideways.(2) For example, maybe your resolution is to call a friend a week to stay in contact but you miss one week because you weren’t feeling well. Do you call two the next week or just pick back up the next week? Maybe you need to set your resolution with your bladder specifically in mind like “I will walk three times a week for 20 minutes unless I’m in a horrible flare. During those times, I will do some gentle yoga at home instead.”
Come up with ideas of how you’re going to make your goals happen. If you want to cook at home more, think about what that will entail. Plan time to get groceries or look at recipes during the week. If you are going to start walking for your health, decide whether you’ll walk indoors or outdoors. Make sure you have the shoes and any other gear you will need. Without a plan, it can be easier to get discouraged and just not work on a goal.
Figure out a way to be accountable.
I’m going to get really honest here and tell you that as a “fluffy” gal, I’ve dieted quite a few times throughout my adult life. Sometimes I didn’t tell others about dieting because then I knew I’d be accountable for my success — or failure. However, I’ve been most successful when I have shared with a few trusted others what I was working toward with my weight. I’ve been even more successful when I keep myself accountable through using an app (or a long time ago writing down) everything I ate in a day to make sure I wasn’t having more than I needed. And my success increased all the more when I had a friend or loved one join me on the journey.
Figure out a way to have accountability for your New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you have a friend who is planning to make the same sort of goal. Great! Encourage each other as you go. Just knowing that someone else is also keeping track of what you’re doing, can help you stay on track.
Being flexible is important in a couple of ways. First, you need to be flexible for when have a bladder flare or something else that completely disrupts your usual schedule and makes working toward your resolution difficult or impossible. Definitely give yourself grace at times when you just need a break to rest or deal with other things. Second, you also need to be flexible to change your plan and even your goal as you go. If something just isn’t working for you, don’t stick with it or give up. Find a way to change it for the better. Maybe your goal for learning how to cook better is just making you miserable. It might be stressing you out so much that your bladder is flaring. Stop and rework the goal. Maybe you need to work on something else instead. Sometimes we try something, and it just doesn’t work for us. We don’t want to give up prematurely, but change can be necessary.
Set New Year’s resolutions for your health.
While you can set New Year’s resolutions for any area of your life, living with and managing a chronic health condition is going to be part of your new year. So make at least a couple of resolutions with your health in mind. Get inspired by these suggestions!
- Stop feeling guilty for resting when you need to.(3)
- Don’t apologize for having IC or any other chronic health condition.(3)
- Allow yourself to say no to something that hurts your bladder without feeling bad about it.
- Take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually in whatever ways work best for you.
- Prioritize medical checkups for everything from your bladder to your overall health.(4)
- Think positively, including when you think about your body.(4)
- Stop comparing yourself to others.(5)
- Harvard Health Publishing. Seven Steps for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick. Nov. 24, 2020.
- Cherry K. 10 Great Tips for Keeping Your Resolutions This Year. Very Well Mind. Dec. 21, 2020.
- Munoz K. New Year’s Resolutions for People with Chronic Illness. Active Beat. Jan. 4, 2021.
- Jones B. 8 Simple New Year’s Resolutions for People with a Chronic Condition. Pharmacy Solutions.
- Therapy Achievements, LLC. New Year’s Resolutions for Patients with Chronic Pain.