Every year, at the end of the year, I sit down and spend a little time taking stock of the year I just finished. I always measure how I did with the goals I set. If I did a good job of establishing my goals, I’m able to see exactly how well (or poorly) I’ve done toward reaching them.
Measuring progress toward goals can be extremely simple. For financial goals we look at how much we saved or how much debt we paid off. For weight-loss goals we measure how many pounds we lost or how many clothing sizes we went down.
Measuring progress with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness is not so simple.
As anyone who has fibromyalgia knows, we can feel great one day and the next we feel as if we’ve been kicked by a horse. When our symptoms come and go at will and flares often come on suddenly and with a vengeance, it’s hard to feel as if we ever make any progress. It often seems we take one step forward and two steps back.
We may look at how we’re feeling on a particular day and feel as if we haven’t made any progress at all, but as I mentioned in Lessons From The Grandpa Tree, with fibromyalgia, improvements aren’t linear. There will be times of growth, and there will be times when we’re just surviving, but when we look back we can see where we’ve actually made gains.
Rather than basing how we’re doing on how we feel on a particular day, we can look at the bigger picture of our lives.
Here are a few questions that can be helpful when we’re trying to assess how we’re doing:
- Are there things I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do 6 months, a year, two years ago? Depending on where we start, it could be something as simple as being able to take a shower without needing to lie down afterward. Whatever you’re able to do, whether it’s something small or a major breakthrough for you, it’s a victory. Take the win and be proud of it!
- How is my stamina most days? Notice that we’re talking most days here, not just the day we’re asking the question. Energy levels ebb and flow, and we’ll probably always experience those individual days of utter fatigue, but taking a look at our overall stamina can help us assess whether we’re making any gains in this department.
- How am I doing with the things I can control, i.e.; diet, exercise, relaxation, etc.? We can’t control our illness; I think we all know that, but we can do things that contribute to our health and could impact how we feel overall. Our actions are actually easy to measure. Am I sticking to my eating plan? Am I doing my relaxation exercises? Am I getting my steps in?
- How am I doing in other areas of my life? Sometimes we can forget that there’s more to our lives than the constant pain and fatigue, but taking stock of other dimensions of wellness can take the focus off our illness and help us realize how rich our lives really are.
- How is my attitude? Attitude makes all the difference. We get to choose how we react to our illness. We can choose whether our attitude is negative or positive. When I talk about a positive attitude, I’m not talking about having pollyanna-ish, everything-is-great outlook; I’m talking about being realistic about our situation but maintaining a dynamic optimism – optimism based on action.
Living with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness can be discouraging, especially if we don’t feel we’re making any progress, so it’s helpful to have some ‘landmarks’ to help us see how we’re progressing in our journey.
How do you measure progress when it comes to your illness? Please share!