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Why Some New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Work for People With Chronic Illnesses

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A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions. Many of them focus on things people want to do to become healthier. As a person dealing with multiple chronic illnesses, my resolution list is drastically different and much more limited than the lists of healthy individuals. There are some things my physical limitations won’t allow me to change. 

Here are some common New Year’s resolutions and why they won’t work for me or others with chronic illnesses: 

1. Lose weight.

I have gastroparesis and a number of other gastrointestinal issues. If anything, my resolution would be to not lose any weight, but it’s not a decision over which I have any control. I am on TPN (IV nutrition) every day, but one bad flare, an infection or any physical complication can destroy that plan. In some instances, people with chronic illnesses have the opposite problem and can’t lose weight no matter how hard they try because of the conditions they have or treatments they are on.

2. Maintain a routine workout plan.

My body completely defines what I’m capable of doing from one minute to the next. I may feel energetic and up for a walk in the park, but by the time I get my clothes or shoes on, I may need to crash for the rest of the day. Instead, my resolution is to stay as active as I possibly can, whenever I can, to avoid losing more strength. 

3. Be more socially active.

My mind wants to do it all — to go to every party, every outing with my friends and participate in every volunteer opportunity that comes my way. But I have to resolve to set boundaries. I have to listen to my body and remind myself I can’t do as much as I would like. I can’t keep up with my peers. I can’t do everything I want to do, but I will do what I can and be proud of every accomplishment I can make. 

4. Eat a healthier diet.

I have no options. I wish I could eat. Period. Instead, I have to resolve to maintain a healthy schedule infusing TPN, fluids, get my labs checked and central line dressing changed weekly and maintain as sterile an environment as possible while connecting to my “food” every single day to avoid getting sepsis. 

5. Maintain a healthier sleep pattern.

Sleeping can be a challenge for people who are chronically ill. Some need a lot of sleep, others can’t sleep for various reasons and many have trouble maintaining any kind of routine sleep schedule due to medications, symptom flares, hospitalizations, medical equipment that malfunctions in the middle of the night or other factors. Plus, my body may go so far and just need to stop suddenly. A simple catnap doesn’t do the trick. I may still be exhausted, or it may be impossible to wake up from the catnap, which throws my sleep schedule completely off. 

6. Begin working on an developing an overall healthier lifestyle by combining all of the above.

Although I can decide to do everything I can to fight the effects of my illnesses on my body, I only have so much control. My resolution in this area never changes. I will follow my medical regimen as closely as I possibly can so that nothing I do inaccurately will impact my health in a negative way. I will walk or exercise in some way as much as I can. I will keep up with my medications, my TPN, my fluids, my doctor’s appointments and tests, and I will stay on top of symptoms and inform my doctors of any concerns. I will try to rest as much as I need to, but also maintain as healthy of a social life as possible for my psychological well-being. 

woman with IV bag

While healthy individuals can take on most of these resolutions, people with chronic illnesses often can’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change anything. Every year my resolution is to change aspects about myself that I recognize I need to develop throughout the year that have little to do with my physical health, but so much to do with who I develop into as an individual and the legacy I leave behind. Do I need to give more? Love more? Forgive more? Cut back on frivolous things that preventing me from doing more productive things? Is there a project I can start that gives back to others? Can I begin a new hobby? Learn something new? Set a reasonable goal to strive to reach in a year or two? What do I have control over that I can change about myself this new year to become a better person overall? 

We all have things we can work on. If we can’t change our physical health and appearance, there are other things we can change about ourselves. Often those changes are the most difficult ones. We may not recognize them all at once, right at the end or beginning of a year, but we should always be open to them and not delay making changes as we recognize them.

Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to change a lot of things all at once or worry about changing things you can’t control. If you can make changes to improve your health, do it! But even if you can’t, focus on becoming a better you and what you can do to develop a healthier attitude, more positive outlook on life or create healthier relationships. 

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Originally published: December 30, 2016
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