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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - January 2011

Your health needs a manager
Making smart decisions and considering alternatives can help you put life back into your life

Self-management of any chronic condition is always a choice.

Healthy U is a free, six-week, chronic disease self-management workshop that can give adults of any age the skills they need to live a fuller and happier life with chronic conditions. Contact your area agency on aging to find a workshop starting soon in your community.

Your doctor said you have a chronic disease. You will always have it, and it will always have an impact on how you live your life. What comes next is entirely up to you. You can decide you are sick, or you can decide to get on with your life while managing your condition. You may have to change some of the things you do or change the way you do them, but your life can continue to be full and active. Self-management of any chronic condition is always a choice. You can decide to be active and learn all you can to manage your condition, or you can decide to do nothing and suffer in silence, living a diminished life. Which would you choose?

Self-management means you find ways to take care of yourself and deal with your condition, such as taking your medications, exercising, changing your diet and talking with your doctor. It's not as easy as doing nothing, but it offers better results. You still have your life to lead, with all your normal chores, your job and your social life, but you may not be able to go about these activities the way you used to. When faced with barriers, a self-manager decides what she wants to accomplish and finds an alternative way to do it.

Let's say you love to travel, but now you find it too tiring to drive long distances. You could choose to travel to closer destinations. You could make a two-day trip instead of one. You could have a friend come along to help you drive. You could choose to fly, instead of driving. Having a chronic condition does not mean you have to give up what you love. You may have to learn a different way to accomplish what you want to do.

The first step is to decide what you want to accomplish, realistically and specifically, then look for alternative ways to accomplish that goal. Sometimes, what keeps people from reaching a goal is failing to see alternatives or rejecting alternatives without knowing much about them. List all the options you can think of and choose one to try. Turn that option into a specific action or set of actions that you can realistically accomplish within a period of time. "I'm going to lose weight in a week" is too vague to be very motivational. However, "I'm going to cut out between-meal snacks," is very specific, achievable and measurable.

Each week, consider making a new action plan that includes:

  • Exactly what you are going to do;
  • How much you will do;
  • When you will do it; and
  • How often you will do it.

At the end of a week, see where you are. Taking stock is important. Sometimes the first plan is not always the most workable. Change your action plan so the steps are easier or give yourself more time for a task. If something doesn't work, try something else. Don't forget to reward yourself frequently for achieving small goals. Rewards don't have to be fancy, expensive or fattening. There are many healthy pleasures that can reward your efforts.

What you will find from managing your chronic condition is the reward that comes from accomplishing your goals and living a fuller, more comfortable life.