SMART Goals and Chronic Pain: What are your goals?
How often do you think you can't do something because of pain?
I struggled with this because I set unrealistic expectations. I based my expectations on what I used to be prior to living in chronic pain. That was my A life; overachiever, perfectionist, multitasker. During the onset of chronic pain, and time of instability, denial and confusion, I lived my B life. Presently, I'm doing my best and living my C life which is stable, moderate and flexible. Learning how to use SMART goals helped me attain direction in my C life and gave organization to guide me towards succeeding and appreciating my small wins.
How have you helped to manage chronic pain using SMART goals? What have your small but satisfying wins been?
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Chronic Pain Support Group.
SMART Goals Are:
SPECIFIC – What do you want to work on?Self-care, exercise, behavior, thoughts? Write each goal plainly. State exactly what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it and how you will do it.
MEASURABLE- Focus on clear, measurable outcomes. A goal is useless if you cannot measure success. "I want to walk for 5 minutes each day" is clear and measurable.
ATTAINABLE – Be sure this goal is within reasonable reach. Start with goals you can achieve daily or within a week to a month.
REALISTIC – Can I accomplish this or am I setting myself up for failure? Be sure each goal is realistic. While reducing the focus on your symptoms and planning for the future, consider your limitations.
TIME-ATTAINABLE/TRACKABLE- How much time do I need to meet this goal? Will it be short-term or long-term? Decide how to track your progress. Keeping a record of improvements encourages you to keep moving forward.
Keep in mind that trying to attain goals may come with occasional set backs. Accept the set back, review the goal and move on again with positivity.
The biggest challenge w/ pain is overcoming the depression accompanying the pain.
Thank you Rachel. I do agree with having SMART goals for being as healthy as I can, given my diseases. So, my goals focus on sticking to a very healthy diet and walking 2-3 miles each day, along with some exercises. But as @kenc says, depression and for me, frustration, is challenging and interferes with realizing the benefits of meeting my goals as my pain continues and worsens.
To add another element to the conversation; distraction, like listening to your favorite music, or even writing posts or poems, stories are effective if you create a healing tale- even better! Of course funny films are notorious for pain relief, and I use therapuetic baths every evening, which relaxes the muscles we tend to hold tight all day in coping. I'm joining a group experience soon, to reflect on and explore the psychosomatic aspects of the pain, which has been roving for nine years. Yes, I have severe depression also- enjoying even a few minutes of comfort is so, so wonderful! That alone helps me get through.
My biggest impediment, on bad days, is getting started! My friend i& neighbor s an amazingly productive artist, who lives with RA and OA pain.
She told another friend and me "Here is how I cope" –
1) I make a list of 2 things to accomplish each morning – sometimes as small as "clear off the kitchen counter" or "get groceries". If I finish those, I had a successful day. But usually, this gets me moving and I go on to accomplish more.
2) Every day, I do something related to art. If I can't paint, I sketch. If I can't sketch, I go through my (on-line) photos looking for inspiration. If I feel too lousy to even do that, I watch art-related videos.
Then you posted about "SMART" and I was amazed at how her goals aligned so perfectly, while still respecting her body, emotions and ability. She inspired me, and I have been trying this fall to emulate her. It has really helped!
Thank you Rachel for the reminder that I need to make goals I can accomplish with the body and energy I have, not what I used to be able to do!
You hit a chord in talking about frustration! I lose so much energy due to a feeling of hopelessness. I have always been a mover and shaker, and now, the pain causes me to think that I have to stay still, so that I can handle it. In reality, its the opposite- getting up and doing self- care rituals actually helps much more, and cuts my depression levels down. This morning I woke- up very angry, when I felt the same- same pain still eating at me. I felt it holding me back, that frustration, and my anger busted through the woeful hopelessness of that frozen sense of defeat. After 4 days of "couch sitting" the pain, I'm ready to get moving.
Aah, Miss Peach, I hear you! I woke up every hour last night with hands and shoulders yelling at me, so the temptation was to curl up in a ball this morning… Instead I got up and soaked the hands in warm water, did the shoulder exercises, and will try to push through. I will find something interesting to occupy me so I can ignore it for a while.
I have learned quite a few good remedies for chronic pain -over time, and sometimes they don't fulfill my expectation. Then what? Like you have given us the Smart Goals, l believe various methods for coping are vital, yet the two goals that have been good friends for me are: Overcoming fear, and accepting pain- which takes tremendous courage! I think pain, of any source, can lead us to believe that "it" controls "us"- or that "life" is uncontrollable with chronic pain. When, realizing the choices at hand, like getting out of bed or not (me), making breakfast and eating it, ordering what you need for self- care online, if driving is overwhelming. So many little and big choices all day, even choosing not to choose is a choice! And it's all okay, to be "in" pain is not "being" pain. I am not pain, I face pain fearlessly, accepting it courageously as a sensation I perceive through my body, mind, emotions and spiritual beliefs.
@rwinney Rachel, I have found that setting my realistic goals have in the past, clashed with the amount of physical activity I used to be able to accomplish. It has taken many years to understand and accept that what "used to be" is not on the table, anymore. As @kenc mentioned, the depression with accepting that fact has been a big hurdle for me. As far as "time attainable/trackable" that is difficult, as some days are so much better than others. For my creativity side, the sewing machine is set-up, my art supplies are close to hand, my yarn is handy, so there is a choice based on what it feels like is attainable any given day. And the e-book reader is always charged up if all else fails!
@sueinmn Sue, having degrees of working with your creativity and projects seems to work for me, similar to your friend's ideas! Right now I am stuck on whip-stitching together the panels of the "afghan from h***" as a holiday gift for the neighbor. She chose the boring colors. Once I finally realized that she won't think any more or less of the whipstitch versus fancy joining, it should go fast, then edge stitching the whole thing.
Great attitude! I wish we could somehow infuse it into every person that has chronic pain, from whatever source.
Just finished task #1 for today refilling the essential oil blends we use. I'm not sure they have a real, measurable medical effect on the various pains & neuropathies that inhabit us, but the aromatherapy surely lifts my mood, and seems to make the little meds I can take more effective. Now task #2 – dry mopping the floors.
Then on to pleasurable pursuits – watch the football game while I prepare wool for a felting project…