When the clock strikes midnight on January 1 every year, it’s time to reflect. To look back not only at the positive aspects of the year we are leaving behind, but also at areas for growth. Whether you are setting chronic pain resolutions or trying to make changes in other areas of your life, SMART goals can help you make that happen. Here are 15 chronic pain resolutions to consider in 2021.
What do we mean by SMART goals for chronic pain?
Setting SMART goals is one of the best ways to achieve them. SMART is an acronym that can help you set better goals and make a plan to reach them.
SMART goals are:
- Time bound
Consider the difference in the following two goals:
- Goal 1: I am going to get more physical activity
- Goal 2: I am going to walk 20 minutes a day right after work, five days a week
Considering the first goal, if you park in the farthest space away from a building once a week and walk to the door, technically you are getting more physical activity. But the amount of activity is not specified, and achieving the goal isn’t really measurable. The vague quality of the first goal makes it easy to let slide.
On the other hand, goal 2 is more specific (walking), measurable (five days a week), relevant (increasing physical activity), and time bound (for 20 minutes each time). The achievable aspect of this goal lies in the adjustment of the other factors. Maybe only 15 minutes is possible, and perhaps after dinner or during a lunch break makes more sense for you. The point is that the second goal is actually something concrete. And this brings us to setting chronic pain resolutions for 2021.
Any goals for chronic pain relief and management need to be understood in a realistic way. Many people won’t be able to “cure” their pain simply by setting chronic pain resolutions, but there are ways to lessen it and help you better manage your response to it. Sure, you might have as one of your chronic pain goals to reduce your pain levels, but many people in pain are also concerned with the other aspects of managing a chronic condition.
Get started with chronic pain resolutions
This is where setting chronic pain resolutions comes in. Decide which aspects of your daily life you’d like to focus on, and set a SMART goal to improve it. Below are 15 chronic pain resolutions, set using the SMART goals format. These are just examples that you can tailor to your own specific circumstances and needs.
1. I will return to work/daily activities.
The psychological boost that comes with simply being able to take care of daily activities or return to work is nearly immeasurable. Many chronic pain resolutions start here. Your goal may be to head back to work part-time, or it may be to start taking over some household chores that had not been possible before.
Your SMART resolution might be “I will make dinner for the family four nights a week,” or it might be “I will return to work outside the home two days a week, with two additional workdays at home.” Tailor it to be SMART for you.
2. I will focus on my mental health with weekly support group/therapy check-ins.
The mental health challenges that accompany physical pain are significant, yet many patients suffer in silence and don’t get the support they need. Make a commitment to improving your mental health by finding a good therapist or joining a support group (in-person or online).
3. I will increase physical activity by two hours a week, spread over five days.
This SMART chronic pain resolution mirrors our example above but gives you space to customize it to your life. Maybe physical activity for you is nine holes of golf, or maybe you prefer laps in the pool. The time frame above is just 24 minutes for each session — an achievable, measurable goal.
4. I will explore one new complementary therapy each month.
Complementary medicine works in tandem with traditional medicine to provide treatment support for chronic pain. Many of these treatments have no side effects or drug interactions and are safe to explore in conjunction with regular treatments. Think supplements, acupuncture, biofeedback, and chiropractic care.
As always, coordinate this care with your doctor before you begin.
5. I will participate in two social activities per month.
One of the first things that gets neglected when we suffer from chronic pain is our social relationships. But human beings need to be connected. This goal is all about strengthening your relationships and feeding your social side.
These activities needn’t be high-volume, physical occasions. Think about meeting a friend for a walk or cup of tea, or attending a family birthday dinner.
6. I will reduce my pain medication (as recommended by my doctor).
Some patients might look at this chronic pain resolution and cringe, while others might embrace it wholeheartedly. With research demonstrating that opioid medications do more harm than good when it comes to chronic pain, maybe 2021 is the year you begin to gradually reduce your prescription medications.
Of course, changes to prescription medication should be completed under the supervision of your doctor. Best to have a frank discussion with them before making any changes.
7. I will add five minutes of daily meditation at bedtime.
If your overall goal is to reduce your stress, the chronic pain resolution above can help you get started. Adding just five minutes of meditation to your day can help to ground you and cope with life’s daily stresses.
8. I will get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
That five minutes of meditation you resolved to add before bed? This is just one of the ways you can reach the goal of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a crucial part of chronic pain management. Plentiful, high-quality sleep can go a long way towards keeping chronic pain patients active, and a lack of sleep intensifies and heightens the perception of pain during the day.
So how do you get your full night of shut-eye? By improving sleep hygiene, getting regular exercise, and practicing meditation.
9. I will pursue an accurate and specific diagnosis of my underlying condition by the end of the year.
This one is a doozy, we’ll admit that upfront. With the average time to diagnose fibromyalgia at five years, and other rare conditions that take even longer to diagnose, it’s no wonder sometimes pain patients feel like guinea pigs in treatment. Make 2021 the year you actively and unrelentingly pursue the root cause of your chronic pain so your treatments have a better chance of working.
10. I will indulge in a new hobby/interest three times a week.
Chronic pain has a nasty habit of sucking much of the joy out of our lives. This includes old hobbies that may just not be possible anymore.
But this does not mean that all hobbies are done for. The number of potential hobbies is remarkable, and there is something for everyone to explore. Take the first part of 2021 to explore a variety of hobbies, then settle on one for the goal above.
11. I will be able to complete (insert task) at least (insert time frame).
Functional goals for chronic pain patients focus not on pain reduction but on returning patients to their ability to function in their daily life. Perhaps pain has made it nearly impossible for you to climb stairs in your home, or maybe walking the dog down the street is something you’ve had to give up. Setting a functional goal, and starting small, helps to focus your attention on something measurable.
This type of goal is something that you can build upon, too. Once you achieve one functional goal, you can gradually expand to others.
12. I will focus on my partner’s needs with a weekly date night/check-in.
The people that care for us when we are sick deserve a medal. No matter how hard we try, chronic pain can sometimes make us forget how lucky we are to have our loved ones. If you are in a relationship, a weekly date or check-in with your partner that focuses on how they are doing helps to strengthen the bond between you and shows them that you appreciate everything they do. This also works to improve your mental health with connection (and fulfills a social activity, too!).
Not currently partnered? Take the time to thank a good friend who regularly helps or celebrate older children who are working around the house in support.
13. I will find a doctor who best meets my needs.
Breaking up with your doctor can be hard. And we know that access to healthcare (or the lack thereof) sometimes dictates who you can choose as a doctor.
But if you have suffered through substandard care that includes a medical practice that doesn’t listen to your concerns, it’s time to look for a new provider.
14. I will become a better advocate for myself by researching my condition, recent research, and potential treatments.
This goes hand-in-hand with finding a doctor who is a good fit. Chronic pain resolutions that are backed by education are the best kind. Ask your doctor for any recent articles on your specific chronic pain condition, or find a blog from a reputable pain clinic online to search. This empowers you and helps guide your decisions for treatment.
15. I will not let chronic pain define me.
This may not be a SMART goal in theory, but it’s one of the smartest chronic pain resolutions on our list. You are not your chronic pain. You are not your treatments, your diagnosis, or your trauma.
Let 2021 be the year when you let go of the idea that chronic pain defines you, and bring your whole self boldly into the next decade.
It’s time to find a life with less pain
If you are in Arizona and looking for a pain management doctor to help coordinate your care is in your resolutions, it’s time to call our office now to set up your first consultation.