SMART Goals and Chronic Pain: What are your goals?

Posted by Rachel, Volunteer Mentor @rwinney, Nov 19, 2021

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 group.

@misspeach

P.S. Having used essential oils, herbal teas and many "naturally occuring" supplemental foods and tonics for over 30 years (personally, and with clients), and witnessing the often, profound effects of natures cure, that assist the body with detoxifying, stress and pain relief; I can say with confidence that it may be worth trying. Many of these are nervines (St. Johns Wort, Valerian esp.) which, do not pair well with anti- depressants, so be careful and always check with an M.D.. A diffuser, a cotton ball dabbed with a fav scent, either thrown in the dryer with your pillow case, or snuggled inside for deeper sleep helps. Some citrus scents are uplifting, other oils invigorating, bring clarity and diminish sensations of pain, in some people. As we know clove oil remedies a tooth ache, so as a eucalyptus steam clears the sinuses (don't open your eyes!).

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If you have pets, get advice before you use essential oil scents. Dogs and cats can be made quite ill with some.

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@misspeach

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.

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Life can certainly be a struggle, but as you say, just sitting may feel good for a while, but ultimately getting up and moving generally has more positive benefits. Even though it can be painful, I enjoy walking every day as it helps me stay positive and reach a daily goal.

Keep being strong and overcoming that feeling of hopelessness!

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@rwinney

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.

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I have done this sort of thing on my own for some time now. My one disappointment is that I cannot get out and walk. I was on steroids for vasculitis for 5 1/2 years before they determined I didn't have it! The damage from the steroids includes diabetes, osteopenia, spinal stenosis, tooth damage, weakened muscles, bones, tendons (torn tendon that cannot be repaired because it would just tear out again), and more. I am gaining weight due to inactivity. I am doing more that I was two years ago. I work around the house (dishes, cleaning, etc), but cannot stay on my feet more than 5-10 minutes. I wanted to get a back brace that would support the spinal stenosis and lumbar pain I experience, but have been advised against it by my doctor. I would use it only to get out and walk – the 5 minutes would be a good starting point for me. They want to inject my back but they want to use steroids. After a lot of long hard thought I decided I have enough damage from steroids. I have decided to learn to live with it, which I am doing (plus my husband had his back injected and ended up with arachnoiditis – don't want to add to my problems). My only other goal is to do some walking. Distraction is a help. I am an author, I knit and crochet, I read, but these all add to my sedentary lifestyle, which I am trying to change. I am gaining – I was doing nothing 2 years ago. If I could just get out and walk some, I could accept the rest. I may go ahead and get that back brace anyway – it's not like I would be wearing it 100% of the time.

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@cheriums

If you have pets, get advice before you use essential oil scents. Dogs and cats can be made quite ill with some.

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Thank you. I no longer use my diffuser for this reason.

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@janie6696

I have done this sort of thing on my own for some time now. My one disappointment is that I cannot get out and walk. I was on steroids for vasculitis for 5 1/2 years before they determined I didn't have it! The damage from the steroids includes diabetes, osteopenia, spinal stenosis, tooth damage, weakened muscles, bones, tendons (torn tendon that cannot be repaired because it would just tear out again), and more. I am gaining weight due to inactivity. I am doing more that I was two years ago. I work around the house (dishes, cleaning, etc), but cannot stay on my feet more than 5-10 minutes. I wanted to get a back brace that would support the spinal stenosis and lumbar pain I experience, but have been advised against it by my doctor. I would use it only to get out and walk – the 5 minutes would be a good starting point for me. They want to inject my back but they want to use steroids. After a lot of long hard thought I decided I have enough damage from steroids. I have decided to learn to live with it, which I am doing (plus my husband had his back injected and ended up with arachnoiditis – don't want to add to my problems). My only other goal is to do some walking. Distraction is a help. I am an author, I knit and crochet, I read, but these all add to my sedentary lifestyle, which I am trying to change. I am gaining – I was doing nothing 2 years ago. If I could just get out and walk some, I could accept the rest. I may go ahead and get that back brace anyway – it's not like I would be wearing it 100% of the time.

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Hi Janie – It sure is tough when activities we used to take for granted are "out of reach."
When I was rehabbing from surgery (several times), walking was one of the things I missed the most. To get started, at first I would just walk to the mailbox & back (probably 150-200 feet) and just kept adding a little every few days until I was finally back on track. By the time I could walk our entire cul de sac, my neighbors had taken notice and were cheering my progress!
With your bone and spine issues, long walks may be permanently off your list, but do you think a couple of short strolls each day are doable? Do you live in a house, or an apartment?
Sue

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@purpleturtle

Thank you. I no longer use my diffuser for this reason.

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I too skip the diffuser – we have no pets, but there are often children and people with allergies in our home. It is also hard to keep them clean enough to be sure they don't spread bacteria, and I have bad lungs.
Sue

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@sueinmn

Hi Janie – It sure is tough when activities we used to take for granted are "out of reach."
When I was rehabbing from surgery (several times), walking was one of the things I missed the most. To get started, at first I would just walk to the mailbox & back (probably 150-200 feet) and just kept adding a little every few days until I was finally back on track. By the time I could walk our entire cul de sac, my neighbors had taken notice and were cheering my progress!
With your bone and spine issues, long walks may be permanently off your list, but do you think a couple of short strolls each day are doable? Do you live in a house, or an apartment?
Sue

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I do walk to the mailbox and back. It is probably 100' and then I go down the road to a tree on our yard. Not far but a beginning.

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@janie6696

I do walk to the mailbox and back. It is probably 100' and then I go down the road to a tree on our yard. Not far but a beginning.

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That's a good start. Next maybe twice a day, or to the next tree down the way?
Sue

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@kenc

The biggest challenge w/ pain is overcoming the depression accompanying the pain.

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You're absolutely right @kenc, there is no denying that depression accompanies pain, it's bound to be present. Setting even the simplest of goals can help to start combatting depression. One goal I focused on to begin helping pull myself from depression was to list my abilities. I literally wrote down the simplest of things that I was able to do in my C life, forget about my A life, that was over and never coming back. As chronic pain sufferers, its easy to get down on ourselves and focus on what we've lost or cant do anymore, but what about what we can do?

For me, it took being very real and honest with myself to start appreciating what I was taking for granted that others may not be so lucky to have, or be able to do. For example; tonight I am typing on a computer, reading, and participating in a supportive Connect community. Not everyone has the ability to see, read and type due to various health issues, myself included at times.

I know that focusing on the positive is not always easy and there will be set backs, but sometimes its all we have in the moment. As part of my goal I began keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing things like my small win of the day, which might be helping someone on Connect, or drinking more water and eating less sugar.

Having an optimistic outlook, believing things can be better, and believing you have the power to help yourself is all a part of goal setting. What goals to help combat depression can you think of that might work for you @kenc?

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Your actions are commendable and obviously work for you, but with me the pain get so severe that I have to lay still.

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@rwinney

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.

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I admire the SMART goals concept, but having suffered from chronic pain for almost the same amount of years I have been trying to lose weight, my biggest obstacles have more to do with SMART “obstacles” I always seem to be lacking: Support system, Motivation, Accountability, Results. and Tenacity.

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@athenalee

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.

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@athenalee I like your goal of sticking to a healthier diet, walking, and some sort of excercise.

Congratulations on keeping goals in mind no matter the pain and repercussions. You are a fighter.

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