How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

It’s important to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan to help you in your ongoing recovery from a serious health issue. Strong goals are the foundation of your plan. They provide a destination to work towards and even the direction to take to that destination. They become your road map to the best recovery you can get for yourself.

But what does a strong goal look like? How do you know if you are setting yourself up to succeed? To help you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan, this blog takes you through a six-step plan to do just that.

This blog is part of a series on rehabilitation planning and you can read the first blog here on the principles of a good rehabilitation plan and the second blog here on what you need to include in your plan.

This blog (and the first two) will help you whether you are looking to create a full-on rehabilitation plan or you are further on – months, a year or years even – but want to tweak something you are doing or try something new.

As I’ve said before, rehabilitation is a life-long activity. Sometimes you may not make great gains in your rehabilitation several years after the health issue arrived into your life. But your rehabilitation can keep you from regressing, which is important. Also, rehabilitation is about self-care. And self-care is for life.

So let’s go through this six-step plan.

A woman is holding a map with the title 'My Rehabilitation Plan' at the top and at the bottom is written 'My Destination.' There are four goals on the map and the map shows the route from each goal to the destination. The woman is thinking, 'This rehabilitation map is a good example to follow. Looks like there may be some challenges. I need to visualise my ideal destination and start setting some goals.' The caption read: Set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan can help you reach your destination.

How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

1. Identify what’s important to you

What is most important to you in your life? Now and what you want to be doing in the foreseeable future? How far you look into the future is entirely up to you.

Is it your family, your physical and mental health, your work, enjoyment you get from your hobbies and leisure activities, financial wellbeing, feeling calm and at peace, having a coffee first thing in the morning before everyone else gets up, or having a life purpose? Do you want to return to studying? Change careers? Retire? Doing more things independently? Something else? Make a list.

It doesn’t matter whether these activities are small or big, bring in money or not, involve other people or not, are mundane, are behavioural or just an internal feeling. It may be something you have to do or want to do. They can be from many parts of your life as I wrote about in the second blog in this series of rehabilitation planning. What matters is that they are important to you.

I will use myself as an example with a real-life issue.

What is important to me is maintaining my ability to move as freely as I can, to maintain my physical fitness (so I have to be able to exercise), and to push off having a knee replacement for as long as possible.

This picture contains an original quote by Return to Wellness - "Now that you are living with the impact of a serious health issue - What is important to you?"

2. Have you been able to make whatever is important to you happen yet?

Are you able to do what is most important to you? Have you made it happen yet? If there is anything getting in the way of doing what is most important to you, add that to your list.

If there is nothing that is an obstacle to working towards your goal, and it is something you have started or can get started on, write down what is enabling you to do that. This could be something about yourself, a characteristic, strength, skills and/or a passion you have. It may be support from other people. It could be anything.

The importance of this is it reminds you of what is going well for you, your strengths, and what and who are around you that are a form of support.

An example

I live with progressive osteoarthritis in my knees. My right hip is in pain and I am worried it may be starting there. Moving as freely as I can is a bit hit and miss. By the end of the day when my legs are tired, my mobility isn’t great and I can end up waddling from side-to-side.

I feel down and sometimes frustrated about the pain in my hip. I feel I need to look at how I am thinking about this issue too. Not sure why, but feel I need to.

I have made exercise happen. Finally! (You can read that story here and here.) And I’ve maintained doing the exercise nearly every day and only took breaks over the Christmas holiday and when I had a light injury to my knee. Being part of a group of people who had the same goal to make exercise a daily part of their lives has helped. So has my self-discipline, which I’m really proud of.

I am seeing a physiotherapist for my knees and hips. The exercises have helped my mobility. I waddle less. But I still have pain.

IMPORTANT TANGENT: It’s important to recognise yourself for your accomplishments and pat yourself on the back when you’ve done something well, or something you are proud of. Because there may be times when others won’t do that and you don’t want to constantly be in a place of waiting for praise from others to feed your sense of self-worth.

3. Now it’s time to set some goals. But first, inspire yourself

Look at what is important to you and what is getting in the way of you doing/feeling what is important to you.  What is getting in the way can sign post you towards goals you can be setting.

The pain in my hip and from an old groin injury is getting in my way. This inhibits that feeling of moving as freely as I can.

Now ask yourself this question. If there was something you could do to work with whatever was getting in the way, to work around that obstacle or even work with the obstacle, what would it be?

I think the physiotherapist was a little perplexed I was still feeling pain given my mobility was better and she said the exercises helped to build the required muscle mass I needed. Need to get a scan to find out exactly what is going on in my hip.* I’m wondering about doing a meditation on my hip pain. Use the tennis ball more to massage my hip. I need to sit with my mental state around all this and figure that out.

Don’t judge your ideas now as good, do-able, bad, or not feasible. You’re aiming for as many ideas as possible. Write them down. It may be that the ideas spark another idea.

Do I need a walking stick for days when it’s really bad?

You could do this exercise with someone, in a group, or on your own. If you want, have someone read over your work as they may have ideas to contribute and thought of something you haven’t.

You can also share this with someone who has been in the same place as you but a bit further down the road. They can share what worked for them and others.

If there is anything getting in the way of doing what is important to you in your life, consider what that is and how might you work with or around it so it becomes less of an #obstacle These could become #goals in your… Click To Tweet

4. Craft your goals

Remember, goals don’t have to be of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal type. But they can be if that motivates you. If your goals are big, break them down into smaller goals. These smaller goals are like milestones you can work towards. You are more likely to achieve these smaller goals and this feeds your motivation to continue. Important.

For example, maybe you’ve had a health issue like Transverse Myelitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Cauda Equina Syndrome or a stroke which has greatly impacted your mobility. You want to be able to walk again preferably without a mobility aid within a year. That is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Let’s break that BHAG down into smaller goals.

  • Your first goal may be to go on a course to develop your skills of using a wheelchair so you can get out and about and maintain some independence.
  • You then practice your new wheelchair skills.
  • Your next few goals may focus on strengthening the muscles needed to walk through physiotherapy.
  • Once you have the strength, then you try standing.
  • Then take a few steps with a zimmer frame, then walk 25 meters, 50, 100, etc.
  • You progress to walking with a stick.
  • You then try walking without a stick.

5. Whatever the size of your goals, make sure they are specific

This is key. Because when a goal is specific, it’s more tangible in that a specific goal gives you direction on what you can be doing. Specific-ness ensures your goals are strong.

Whatever the size of your #goals make sure they are specific. That makes it more tangible giving you direction on what need to do. Specific-ness ensures your goals are strong. #rehabilitation #planning Read more here Click To Tweet

Here are some examples of unspecific, vague goals that don’t give much direction on next steps.

Get out more

  • Get out more where? Doing what? With whom? When? Where?

Be more independent

  • Independent from whom, from what? What activities do you want to be doing independently?

Feel calm

  • What do you want to feel calm about? When do you want to feel calm? What gets in the way of you feeling calm? Is it intrusive thoughts? What other people say and do (or don’t)? Something else?

Do more things that make me happy

  • What things specifically do you want to be doing? With whom? When? Where?

Return to work

  • To the same job? If yes, do you need adjustments to your job so you can actually do it? If no, what kind of job do you want? When ideally? How will you know your body is ready? Or are finances dictating your return?

Using me as an example, an unspecific goal would be

Walk more freely.

Unspecific goals can feel large and they don’t provide direction on next steps. Whereas with the walking goal provided above, there was a clear progression of steps the person had set themselves to take towards their goal of walking again. They also knew they would need to attend a course and get outside help in the form of physiotherapy to help them meet their goal.

Answer these questions to ensure your goals are specific

This picture contain the 10 questions to help you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan. The questions are - 1) What specifically do I want to be doing, thinking or feeling? How will that be different from what I am doing, thinking or feeling now? 2) How often do I want or need to do, think or feel this? All the time? Or only in certain situations? What situations are those? Where and when do they happen? 3) When would I like to make this change by? 4) Who will I be doing this activity with? Or is it one I do on my own? Or both? 5) Do I need to learn how to do something? 6) Do I need specialist expertise to help me? If so, what kind and who can provide it? (coaching, physiotherapy, acupuncture for example) 7) Who can support me as I make this change? 8) How can I hold myself accountable for making this change? 9) What other questions do I have about making the change I want for myself?

I’ll continue using myself as an example.

What specifically do I want to be doing, thinking or feeling? How will this be different from what I am doing, thinking or feeling now?

I want to be able to get up from a chair with minimal pain and hobbling. Hopefully there will be less pain. I will feel more free in my body because it is moving more as it is meant to. That feeling of freedom will be me getting up from a chair and walking a little more quickly and ideally no hobbling which I do now.

Notice how goals can be something you see someone do or say. These are behavioural goals. Or goals can be about changing how you feel or think and these may not always be readily visible to others (which is fine).

How often do I need or want to do, think or feel this? Is it something I will be doing all the time? Like walking and/or using a wheelchair for example. Or is it only in certain situations. If in certain situations, what are they? Where and when do they happen?

I get up from chairs and walk daily.

I exercise and do my physiotherapy daily. If I can’t, at a minimum 5-6 times a week.


When would I like to make this change by?

ASAP ideally! But I need a scan. And the results of that scan may determine what happens after that. If I could be walking more freely in six months time, that would be good. It feels like a realistic timeframe. I’ll book an appointment with the GP on Monday.*

Who will I be doing this activity with? Or is it one I do on my own? Or both?

I walk every day with people like my husband, friends or colleagues.

Do I need specialist expertise to help me do what I want to be doing? If yes, what kind and who can provide it? Or do I need to learn how to do something?

I need the following specialist expertise: GP to get the referral for a scan; orthopaedic doctor regarding the scan and its results, physiotherapist for ongoing physiotherapy.

Who else can support me as I make this change?

Husband for moral support. He can also give me feedback on how I am walking.

Coach and therapist for support on how I am thinking and feeling about changes in my mobility.

Notice how these forms of support are non-medical.

How can I hold myself accountable for making this change?

This is SUPER IMPORTANT. I see a lot of people rely on others for accountability and when the other person/people don’t provide it, the person never achieves their goals. You want to strike a balance between support from others in helping you to achieve your goals and support from within yourself.

I have just entered the task of making the appointment into my calendar. If it’s in there, it gets done.*

Including this issue in a blog is a form of group accountability for me.

When I get up in the morning, put on my exercise clothes and do my physiotherapy first thing. I can lay my exercise clothes out the night before.

Every day after finishing my exercise and physio, I will continue posting in the online boot camp’s Facebook group that I’ve done it.

When it comes to #accountability for achieving your #goals, it’s important to have a balance between support from others and support from within yourself. You can’t rely on support from others 100% for achieving your #goal… Click To Tweet

What other questions do I have about making the change I want for myself?

How will I know when a using walking stick would be a good idea? Ask the physiotherapist. And can the physiotherapist do anything to improve how I am affected by the groin injury?

By answering these questions, you give yourself much more direction on what you do next. You have defined a route so you know where to go.

6. You need large doses of willingness to adapt, be flexible, be persistent and practice self-compassion

Picture of a woman sitting at a table on which there are four large bottles of medication. They are adaptability, flexibility, persistence and compassion. The woman is saying, "Time to take my heart and soul medication." Large doses of adaptability, flexibility, persistence and self-compassion will help you when implementing your rehabilitation goals.

Some of your goals are going to require a lot of work on your part. You’ll sweat – physically and mentally. You may feel frustrated at times. You’ve got to stay with. People can support you and contribute to you feeling motivated, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do this. Because no one can do it for you.

You may find that your end goal of walking without a stick isn’t achievable in a year. It may take longer than you thought. Or it may not be possible at all. You may have realised you were over-ambitious. (Being ambitious is not a bad thing. Sometimes ambition can get you further than you or others expected even if you don’t meet your original goal.)

In these moments, it is ok to be upset. And as I always say, you don’t have to unpack and live forever and ever in the upset-ness. This is when you need those doses of adaptability and flexibility, the persistence and self-compassion to adapt or even change your goal and continue striving towards it.

I get frustrated on some days with my hip and groin. It gets so painful and the pain can be random. I’ll have a good day and then several bad days. I walk more slowly sometimes. It’s frustrating. It’s ok to yell. And cry. (I do!) It’s a good discharge for me. I can then move on.

Remember, sometimes you may not know what the end goal is or can be

Sometimes you just don’t know what the end result will be. Or you may prefer not to set an end goal. You just want to get started and figure out the next step as you go along. That is ok.

In either case, what Martin Luther King Jr. said is applicable.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,” having to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Taking that first step with faith in yourself and the people supporting you is key. That first step is a goal in itself.

This picture contains the quote, "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." by Martin Luther King Jr.

What’s it like for you?

Do you like to make a detailed plan of your goals or do you prefer to take one step at a time? What other approaches to goal setting have you tried which worked for you? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

*UPDATE on the scan – Went to the GP to make the appointment, was able to get an appointment that day due to a cancellation, ended up having an x-ray on my hip yesterday. And so just waiting for the results. That was quick!

Here is what you need to focus on when creating a rehabilitation plan

Here is what you need to focus on when creating a rehabilitation plan

Creating a rehabilitation plan to manage your recovery from a serious illness, injury, relapse or exacerbation of symptoms is doing what you can to take control and positively influence your outcomes.

Sometimes on this journey you can feel at a loss on what to do and where to get information. As I said last week and previously, you don’t know what you don’t know when you get ill or injured. And when you don’t get much information from medical and healthcare professionals, that makes it harder to know what to do. Feeling a bit lost in this respect is entirely normal.

So I am going to share what I and others have learned about creating a rehabilitation plan. This builds on last week’s blog in which I wrote about the ten principles which underpin a good rehabilitation plan.

A woman is sitting inside looking dejected. Her wheelchair is in the corner and her walking sticks are lying on the floor. Outside the window it looks like a nice sunny day. Above the window is the caption, 'Life happening out here!' The woman is saying, 'I need to make my life happen again! Both in here and out there. I need a plan but where do I start?' Creating a rehabilitation plan can help you rebuild and renew your life.

But…

In writing this blog, I realised that to share my knowledge with you adequately, this needs to be several blogs. I had written over 6,000 words, the equivalent of a major assignment for a masters degree! That was too much for one blog.

Therefore, this week I am giving you an overview of what creating a rehabilitation plan entails. Successive blogs will focus on setting goals and then what you need to consider for each section of a rehabilitation plan.

These blogs may not be published one after another but when they are, I will refer back to previous blogs in this rehabilitation planning series. This blog is your starting point.

It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your recovery/rehabilitation

Maybe you just received a diagnosis, are in the early stages of your recovery, or have been through treatment and no longer under the regular care of a medical or healthcare professional.

Maybe it has been more than a year since the acute phase of your illness or injury and you are still adjusting. Or even some years since the original event and you are dealing with the ongoing impact and whatever else life has thrown your way.

There is something in here for everyone. Even those of you in a caring/supporting role. You too are impacted by your loved one’s health issue and you have had to make changes as a result. Many of the ideas here will help you to create a plan for you to look after yourself and your needs.

A #rehabilitation plan is for you no matter where you are at on your journey – just diagnosed, during treatment, after treatment, several or many years after the acute phase #chronicillness #wellness Click To Tweet

Things to keep in mind whilst creating a rehabilitation plan

I’ve taken a holistic approach to creating a rehabilitation plan focusing on the medical, non-medical and various parts of your life.

Given your rehabilitation plan will be very specific to your needs and you are all on different journeys, some of what I mention may not be relevant to you. That’s ok. Use what is. Discard what isn’t.

Each section represents a transition in an aspect of your life you are going through due to the health issue you or a loved one is experiencing. They are meant as a starting point. And it doesn’t matter where you start. Start with those that feel a higher priority to you.

Get help from family, friends and suitably qualified professionals as and when you need to.

When thinking about a rehabilitation plan for yourself, keep in mind the ten principles I wrote about last week.

This picture shows the 10 principles to include when creating a rehabilitation plan. It's holistic. It focuses on what matters to you. It involves those close to you. It specifies any specialist expertise you need and who can provide that. It's goal oriented. It can be adapted. It contains info on what to do when you experience a setback, a relapse or fluctuation or progression of symptoms. It contains info on what to do in a medical emergency. It contains info on what to do when you are doing really well too. And it is for life. There is a little boy in the corner of the pic who is saying, "My mummy's plan is helping her play with me again.'

What to consider when creating a rehabilitation plan to progress your recovery

Set specific goals on what is important to you in the various aspects of your life. The goals can be large or small. Break down any large goals into smaller ones as that can make it easier to achieve.

The various aspects of your life, all which can feed into your rehabilitation plan, are listed here. Some of them overlap one another.

1. Managing your health issue

This is more about the medical side of things and your physical health: the medications you take, routines you have, learning how you are affected, managing symptoms, what you do in a medical emergency, when you are not doing great (but it’s not an emergency), when you are physically in a good place, and your healthcare team.

If you are in a caring/supporting role, this is is about managing your health.

2. Your physical environment and getting around

How you may need to adapt your home or move home, adapt your car and equipment you need so you can do daily activities or do them more easily.

3. Nutrition and making any needed changes to your diet

Sometimes your health issue may require you to make changes to your diet. Sometimes it doesn’t. But sometimes making changes can lessen symptoms and so may be advisable.

Regardless, what we eat and drink (and don’t) is fuel for our bodies and when you are recovering from a serious illness or injury or living with a chronic illness, you want to give your body what it needs and nourish it.

4. Prioritise your emotional health

This goes without saying. I tweeted the other week that experiencing a life-changing health issue (yourself or someone else’s) is that jarring wake-up call to life, that you’re mortal and not invincible. It also gives you that permission to make yourself a priority and look after yourself. This is so important. You cannot afford to not look after your mental health.

5. Nurture your relationships

You need good people around you. So this is about taking stock of who is around you, what relationships you need/want to let go of, what kind of relationships you want going forwards, and who isn’t a part of your journey but you want them to be.

Nurturing your relationships are part of creating a rehabilitation plan. A woman is sitting down with her walking sticks nearby and she is thoughtfully considering the following questions about her relationships. Who do I have around me whom I love? Which friends are part of my inner circle? Who isn't any longer? Who might be willing and able to help me? How can I help those close to me help me? What kind of relationships do I want going forwards? What relationships do I need or want to let go of? What isn't part of my life but I would like them to be?

6. Financials

This can be impacted when a health issue enters your life so this is about knowing what changes you need to make and where you can get support.

7. Return to work, volunteering and/or education

You may wish to return to your existing job, change jobs, even change careers. Or you may wish to volunteer instead or return to education. You may wish to retire and find ways to still contribute in some way.

8. Your leisure activities

Your leisure activities are really good for your mental health so this is about returning to previous activities, adapting how you approach them if you need to, and/or finding new activities.

9. Cultural factors to consider

Sometimes the culture we are raised in has specific attitudes towards health, illness and disability and this can have an impact on how we deal with our own or a loved one’s health issue, our relationships and how we get on in and with society.

Sometimes the culture we were raised in has specific attitudes towards #health #illness and #disability and this can have an impact on how we deal with our own or a loved one’s health issue and our relationships. I reckon this… Click To Tweet

10. Spirituality/ Faith

This applies if spirituality and/or a faith are important to you. A serious health issue can test your faith and you may argue with it, and/or even turn away from it for a while or forever. It can also lead you to incorporate spirituality and/or faith into your life more consciously.

11. Your life purpose

This is about who you are, want to be, what you consider important to you now and into the future, the kind of life you want to live and what kind of person you want to be known for.

Set goals on what is important to you when creating a rehabilitation plan. Your goals can be in the area of managing your health issue; your physical environment and getting around; your diet and nutrition; nurturing your relationships; prioritising your emotional health; finances; leisure activities; returning to work, volunteering or education; your life purpose; spirituality and/or faith; and any cultural factors you may need to consider.

There is actually a lot to consider when creating a rehabilitation plan

And only one part of it is medical. There is rather a lot that is non-medical but has a significant impact on you and your life.

It may feel like a lot to address. Don’t take it on all at once. Just focus on those areas that feel the highest priority to you and you think could make the most difference to you and how you are feeling.

And it’s ok if it takes a few years or more to get through all the sections. What is in a section may also change over time too. That is entirely normal.

Stay tuned for future blogs in this series on creating a rehabilitation plan.

When creating your #rehabilitation plan, you don’t need to do everything all at once. Just focus on those areas that you feel are the highest priority for you, they can make the most difference to you and how you are feeling.… Click To Tweet

What’s it like for you?

Which aspects mentioned above about creating a rehabilitation plan are most relevant to you right now? What if anything, do you feel is missing? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to create your own rehabilitation plan, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

Here are the 10 principles of a good rehabilitation plan

Here are the 10 principles of a good rehabilitation plan

Having a rehabilitation plan for recovery and managing the illness or injury sometimes feels like an afterthought in the treatment and care of people with serious health issues.

Unfortunately, I often hear of people being discharged without any information other than medical information on managing their recovery and ongoing rehabilitation.

These people were lucky if the nurses gave them information from a charity or signposted them to a charity that could give them information and support.

You can feel lost at sea wondering what you can do, how you can help yourself. If you learn that someone in a similar position to you did get more info, advice and a plan, it can feel very unfair.

A woman is in a boat and there is a smallish sail that has 'medical sail' written on it. The woman is noticing that the wind is picking up but she is saying, "I wish I had a bigger sail. It will take forever to get home.' Two fish in the sea are talking to one another. One is saying, 'She needs a Return To Wellness sail.' This picture demonstrates that a rehabilitation plan needs to contain more than just medical information to help you in your recovery and rehabilitation.

As I’ve said many times before, as a patient you don’t know what you don’t know when you are diagnosed with a serious health issue or become seriously injured. It’s not like you have read up on the health issue beforehand. So in the early stages, you are very reliant on the medical and healthcare professionals. Learning they have the information but didn’t give it to you can feel like a betrayal of sorts.

I operate on the basis that ‘knowledge is power’ and we can certainly take control and influence our rehabilitation. If you wait for someone else to tell you what to do, you could be waiting for a very long time. Or if someone like a peer who also has your health issue tells you what you can or ‘should’ be doing, it may not be right for you.

So I want to share what I’ve learned about creating a rehabilitation plan as someone who has had a serious illness and having been in the caring role. As a precursor to this though, this blog focuses on the 10 principles which underpin a good rehabilitation plan. I’ll focus on the how to’s of creating your rehab plan next week.

Here are 10 principles of a good #rehabilitation plan. Read more here. #recovery #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

A rehabilitation plan is holistic

It focuses on the medical aspects of your issue and the non-medical too. In fact, the non-medical part of it can be pretty extensive. It may also include any social care needs you have such as benefits, obtaining necessary equipment and/or adaptations to your home.

It focuses on what matters to you

What is important to you, the daily activities which are the highest priority for you to return to, and what you want to be doing because it makes you happy.  

A good rehabilitation plan involves those close to you

The people close to you are your support network. AND YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. It can make a positive difference in your rehabilitation (Reblin & Uchino, 2008).

These people may be family members, relatives, friends, colleagues, others who have a similar illness or injury, and/or your pets. These people are your cheerleaders, they give you comfort when you feel down or are having a bad time of it, they help you with your physiotherapy, shopping, cooking dinner, cleaning your house, looking after your children, helping you if you have a health emergency or something else.

You can of course involve close family members in helping you create those aspects of your plan that may involve them, for example returning to favourite family activities. This gives them a role in supporting you, which can be great for them as they know how they can help you. And good for you to have that active support. A key thing is letting them support you. A rehabilitation plan does not have to be a solo effort.

A mother who now uses a stick to walk, her young son and husband are sitting at the dining table helping the mother create her rehabilitation plan. Her son says, "Mummy, running is exercise. We can play tag in the park!' His mummy responds, "Oh honey! I cannot run anymore. But maybe we can create a new tag game." The father is smiling and saying, 'Make sure to slot me in under me-time!' He is also thinking about how proud he is of his wife. This picture demonstrates that creating and implementing your or a loved one's rehabilitation plan does not need to be a solo effort.

It specifies what kind of specialist expertise you need and who can provide that

You may not know how to do some things in your plan so you may enlist the help of someone who does. You may need support with an issue that feels too big to handle on your own. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say. There may be an activity you need to do that requires a specific expertise you don’t have, like physiotherapy, osteopathy, or a coach for example.

A rehabilitation plan can specify what specialist expertise you need or want and who can provide that. But some people don't like needing help. This pic says, 'We have the saying in our society that 'a problem shared is a problem halved'. So why do we stigmatise getting help?

It is goal oriented

You may have a big goal broken down into smaller goals. Or it may be a series of smaller goals. Some of these goals may be key milestones, like being able to walk with good balance and not falling down for 500 meters.

Your rehabilitation plan can be adapted

As you implement your rehabilitation plan you may find that you need to adapt it as your recovery progresses (however slow or fast that is), stalls or you experience a setback.

As you are not a static person never changing, neither is your rehabilitation plan. Flexibility to adapt as you learn what works and as things change is key.

You are not a static person never changing, so neither is your #rehabilitation plan. Flexibility to adapt as you learn what works and as things change is key. #recovery #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

It contains a section on what you need to do when you experience a bad patch

This may be a setback in your recovery or you experience a fluctuation in symptoms or a relapse. This is kind of like a sub-plan of your main rehabilitation plan which you implement as and when you need to.

Your rehabilitation plan contains a section on what to do in an emergency

For example, if you have a spinal cord injury at T6 (T = thoracic level), you may be at risk for autonomic dysreflexia, which can be life threatening if not treated. Another example is hypoglycaemia if you have diabetes. So if you are at risk of having a health emergency and you may need the support of others to stabilise tings, you need to have in your plan what has to be done, medications to take, who to call, etc.

It contains a section on how you look after yourself when you are doing really well too

Just like you have a plan for when you are not doing well, you have a plan for when you are doing well. These might include favourite activities that you really enjoy doing and can do when symptoms are quiet or well controlled, or you are feeling physically and/or mentally well. For example, going to a concert or play, spending a day, afternoon or evening with friends, going on a walking weekend, entertaining, bubble bath, etc.

A good #rehabilitation plan will cover all the bases – when you are going through a bad period, what you need in an emergency and what you do when times are good #recovery #seriousillness #chronicillness Tell a friend

Your rehabilitation plan is for life

You may be thinking, ‘What the…???’

But yes, rehabilitation is an ongoing process. When you’ve experienced a life-changing illness or injury, often times your body has changed forever. It, and you, need tender loving care. And you need to provide that and make that a priority.

Sometimes you may not make noticeable gains in your recovery and you may have even experienced a plateau and wonder if there is any point in continuing. But keeping to your rehabilitation plan often means you don’t regress, i.e. you don’t lose functionality.

I have heard people say that they notice a change for the worse when they stop their physiotherapy, exercise or stretching for example. Or they stop an activity that has contributed to keeping their mental health in a good place.

In short, a rehabilitation plan is about developing new life habits that are about looking after all aspects of yourself.

Finally, share your plan with the medical and healthcare professionals responsible for your care. Particularly for those items which are medically related (medication dosages, etc.).

This picture shows the 10 principles of a rehabilitation plan. It's holistic. It focuses on what matters to you. It involves those close to you. It specifies any specialist expertise you need and who can provide that. It's goal oriented. It can be adapted. It contains info on what to do when you experience a setback, a relapse or fluctuation or progression of symptoms. It contains info on what to do in a medical emergency. It contains info on what to do when you are doing really well too. And it is for life. There is a little boy in the corner of the pic who is saying, "My mummy's plan is helping her play with me again.'

Come back next week when I focus on how you can create a rehabilitation plan.

What’s it like for you?

What principles above do you think are particularly important? And is there anything you would add to the list above what makes a good rehabilitation plan? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to design a personalised non-medical rehabilitation plan for you or a loved one, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

Here are the 10 things to do when your recovery is uncertain

Here are the 10 things to do when your recovery is uncertain

When your recovery is uncertain, it can be a difficult time. Scary even because you don’t know how much functionality you’ll get back and how long that will take. That might make for uncomfortable reading.

I am mentioning this up front to acknowledge your or your loved one’s reality and that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable about it, even scared. I know, I’ve been there myself. It can be an anxiety-ridden place. But there is hope.

It may feel like you have no control, but you do have some. It’s important to recognise that. And then exercise the control you do have, however much that is. I’ve come up with ten things you can do when your recovery is uncertain.

When your prognosis for #recovery is uncertain, it doesn’t mean you can do nothing. There are 10 things you can do to take some control back. Read more here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

This blog is actually for a friend who is in this position right now

I’ll call him Michael. And I have his permission to use him as a case study. Michael sustained a serious spinal cord injury a few months ago. High up the spinal cord as well so his whole body is affected. Initially he was paralysed but regained functioning and can walk. The doctor said he is very lucky.

Michael had an operation so the disk doesn’t impinge on the spinal cord. It is to prevent becoming Michael becoming paralysed from the neck down again due to the damaged disc if he were to ever have another accident.

As Michael can walk the impact of his spinal cord injury is invisible. The most difficult symptoms he has are fatigue and chronic neuropathic pain. When we talked about me using his situation as a case study for a blog, I asked him what is the one question he would like me to answer. He asked,

‘How long do I have to wait until I recover and go back to the way I was?’

That’s a big question. The doctor’s prognosis figures into this. What did the doctor say to Michael regarding his recovery?

Recovery after a spinal cord injury, many neurological illnesses, and other illnesses such as cancer, are not straightforward. Also, you and your body hardly go back to way you were before the illness or injury.

You can be anywhere on this continuum of recovery.

  • No recovery and you live with the impact whatever that is. This may include permanent disability where a lot of functionality is affected.
  • Some recovery with residual symptoms that impact how you live your life to a moderate degree. It may include a moderate degree of permanent disability.
  • Good recovery with minor residual symptoms that do not have a great impact on how you live your life
  • Complete recovery

Picture of a continuum of recovery where at one end is No Recovery and the other end Complete Recovery. In between there is 'Some recovery, have residual symptoms and a permanent disability' and 'Have residual symptoms but overall a good recovery'. A man is sitting below the continuum asking, 'Where will I end up?' When your recovery is uncertain, you don't know what kind of recovery you will ultimately have.

And the recovery process can take time. For example, with the neurological illness Transverse Myelitis, the neurologists speak of a 2 year window of recovery. With some  conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, you will have a periods of recovery after a flare-ups or relapses (depending on the variant of MS you have).

Michael is very aware of this and had this discussion with his doctor, so this blog isn’t the first time he is hearing this. So I move onto the first thing to do when your recovery is uncertain. These 10 things you can do are applicable to anyone in this situation. Some of them may not be easy to do, but they are important. And they aren’t an exhaustive list.

1. Learn to live with the uncertainty

Learning to live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long recovery will take and the degree to which your symptoms and issues will improve is important. When you can learn to live well enough with the uncertainty, you then free up your energy to focus on your rehabilitation and things that will give you meaning and joy. This can help the recovery process.

Linked to this is the relationship you have with your illness or injury. If it’s a fraught relationship full of fighting and anger, it can be harder to live with the uncertainty. I’ve seen people end up fighting it and as a consequence they end up not looking after themselves physically or emotionally very well. This is stress inducing which can exacerbate symptoms.

Picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: If you weren't fighting your illness or injury, what would you be doing instead? Sometimes when your recovery is uncertain, you can end up fighting your illness or injury. But this actually doesn't help your recovery process as the fighting can generate a lot of stress and anxiety.

2. Take control of what you can

This is your physiotherapy (or exercise if you are not having physiotherapy), your medication and appointments, your diet, your mental health, your relationships, your return to work if you are working or volunteering, your hobbies and leisure time, finances, life purpose and values, and your physical environment.

This is all in your remit to control and influence, making any adaptations and changes to help you live well with the impact of your illness or injury. The next point suggests how you can take control.

3. Develop a rehabilitation plan when your recovery is uncertain

These days I don’t often hear of people leaving hospital with a care or rehabilitation plan. But there is nothing stopping you from creating your own plan.

Developing your own plan could be a blog in itself so I’m going to quickly describe how to do this. For each category listed in point 2 ask yourself these questions for a start:

  • What do I need to do to do my physiotherapy for example, or manage my medication and appointments, diet, etc.? What changes do I need to make?
  • What are my goals for my physiotherapy, returning to work, etc. Ensure these goals are concrete, i.e. based on behaviours and have timescales attached to them.
  • What questions do I have? Is there a person I know who has been through this or a charity who can help?
  • What specifically will I need support with? For example, you may need someone to help you with your physiotherapy.

As part of this, it can be useful to keep a diary of your symptoms (particularly if they fluctuate), progress you are making, when you plateau or have an exacerbation of symptoms, etc. This can help you identify:

  • Patterns and themes in your recovery such as what may trigger an exacerbation of symptoms. This can help you manage the impact of the illness or injury.
  • Questions you have for your doctor and to prepare for your appointments.
  • Any improvements you have made over the longer term which can be motivating to look at from time to time.
When you’re the prognosis for your #recovery is uncertain and the doctors haven’t given you a care plan, you can develop your own non-medical #rehabilitation plan. Get a few pointers here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

4. Adopt a learning mindset

Given recovery from serious health issues are rarely straightforward, things won’t go to plan. Adopting a learning mindset will make navigating this unknown terrain a lot easier and lessen the negative energy spent when things are not going well.

Michael said it best, ‘Live and learn.’ He overdid it in the garden the other day and realised it the next day. He now knows his current limits for gardening activity.

So when you do something for the first time, or you are increasing your activity levels, or something doesn’t go well, ask yourself:

  • What did I learn from this?
  • What do I need to do, think or feel differently next time (if anything)?

Make a note of it if you need to.

5. Develop your willingness muscle to adapt

Develop your willingness to adapt and ask for help. Change can sometimes be hard. Particularly in the context of an illness or injury where things may be harder to do, take longer to do, and/or you’ve lost valued levels of functioning and activities. This can include letting go of pre-illness or injury expectations of yourself and developing new ones.

I am not saying you squash down any sadness associated with this, not at all. Do acknowledge that because that is a psychologically healthy thing to do. You can do this without unpacking and living there.

Developing your willingness muscle to adapt and change, gives you more options. When you have options, you have choice and more control. This can also help reduce black and white thinking where you only have either this option or that option (and neither may be what you want).

When your recovery is uncertain, it is important to develop your willingness muscle to adapt. In the picture there is a man doing bicep curls and he is saying, "I need to strengthen this muscle." There is a woman on a half balancing ball saying, "This is supposed to be good for my legs and balance." On the mirror in this Return To Wellness Gym is a quote, "Developing your willingness muscle to adapt is an all over body workout."

6. Ask for and say yes to help

Asking for help is important as you may want help but people may not be able to spot that, or they worry about imposing.

Also, asking for and accepting help does not mean you are weak or a burden. Many times, the person has offered their help and is only too happy to help you. You get to where you want to be faster and helping you makes them feel good too. Win-win.

Sometimes though, as I mentioned at the end of this blog, you want to say no to help because you want to check what you can do now, if there has been some recovery. That is fine. If someone has offered to help you and you say no, let them know why.

7. It’s especially important to talk to your family when your recovery is uncertain

This is REALLY IMPORTANT. Don’t assume that they don’t want to be bothered. Don’t assume they know what it is like for you. Ask them what they want to know and the questions they have.

If you keep things bottled up out of fear of upsetting them or making things more difficult for them, you inadvertently create the conditions for people to come up with their own stories of what is going on with you. And they may not be correct.

Those in a caring or supporting role are also affected by what has happened to you. They are affected differently, but the impact can be just as great.

Acknowledge what they have had to do. Chances are they have had to take on some of the stuff you did. Listen to them about how they are affected. Put feelings of guilt to one side and worries about not being able to ‘repay’ your spouse/partner/children/parents. Recognition in the form of a genuine thank you, a hug, a kiss, your time and attention is the most valuable ‘payment’.

A picture of a man saying to his partner, "Thank you for everything you've done for me and us." Genuine acknowledgement of a family member's support is so valuable.

Getting your children involved

Children often want to help so if there is some way they can get involved in helping you with your physiotherapy for example, doing household chores, or even in helping you set your rehabilitation goals, that can go very far in helping the children know they matter. It can also help build their confidence levels if they take on new chores and are recognised for making a valuable contribution.

Regarding your children helping to set your rehabilitation goals, ask them what they would like to be able to do with you and make a plan as to what you need to do together to do that activity. Realising you may need to make adaptations to how you do the activity and even the type of activities you do together.

It is usually in these stressful times where pre-existing and sometimes unhelpful family dynamics can get in the way and cause issues. When the pre-existing dynamics come into play, you are both doing something that contributes to this dynamic so this isn’t about blaming one or the other person for what they’ve done or not done. Hence why I am emphasising the importance of talking with your family when your recovery is uncertain.

8. Limit comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self

Comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self can be a recipe for keeping yourself stuck. It is a natural thing to do. Just be mindful of it, how often you do it and how any comparison is making you feel.

I recommend you compare yourself to yesterday. That way your comparison is more fair and realistic.

9. Hold your wants lightly

When your recovery is uncertain and you’ve been dealing with a lot of unwanted changed, of course you may want to recover 100%. You want to be your pre-illness/injured self again. You want less pain, fatigue or whatever symptoms you are experiencing.

That is all a given.

Just be mindful to hold those wants lightly. If you fiercely cling to them, you can inadvertently limit your ability to adapt. You can end up continuing to fight your situation and remain stuck. Chances are that is not what you want for yourself.

Remember to hold your wants lightly for a cure or to get 100% better. If you fiercely cling to these wants, you can inadvertently limit your ability to adapt, and remain stuck. Chances are that is not what you want for yourself… Tell a friend

10. Maintain a well-tuned sense of humour when your recovery is uncertain

There are times we laugh at our situation, but it is more of a gallows laugh, laughing at our misfortune. We do that from time to time but that is not what I am recommending here. Because gallows humour can be a subtle discount of ourselves and our situation.

I am talking about a well-tuned sense of humour. Sometimes with people you know well you or they may find the humorous side to an an aspect of your condition where it is truly funny to all those involved including you.

Also, seek to laugh just for a laugh. It may be banter with family, friends or colleagues. It may reading a book or watching a movie. It may be following a comedian or funny social media account. (I recommend @TheMERL and the libraries and museums on Twitter for that.)

I recommend a belly laugh a day because it brings joy into your life. Put that in your rehabilitation plan.

When you look at all of the above, there is actually quite a bit you can do when your recovery is uncertain.

In the picture there are 10 things listed which you can do when your recovery is uncertain. Learn to live with uncertainty. Take control of what you can. Develop your rehabilitation plan. Adopt a learning mindset. Develop your willingness muscle to adapt. Ask for and say yes to help. Talk to your family. Limit comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self. Hold your wants lightly. Maintain a well-tuned sense of humour.

What’s it like for you?

What on the list above most resonates with you? What isn’t on this list that you think could be there? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support in dealing with any of the issues mentioned in this blog, then have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness

Last week I shared five things you can do to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury and this week I continue on that theme by sharing five more.

A setback can be really disappointing. It’s typically not expected. And given everything you’ve been through, it can feel like an exasperated, ‘Now I’ve got to deal with this too?!’ feeling.

So to help you cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury, let’s move on to this week’s 5 tips. And if you didn’t read last week’s blog be sure to as it contains other helpful ideas on how to cope.

A setback in your recovery can be disappointing. Especially when it's not expected. Given everything you’ve been through, it can feel unfair. Read 5 things you can do to help you cope. Tell a friend

1. Your recovery may be more like a transition to a new place

Last week I referred to our expectation that the recovery process means we go back to the way we were before the illness, injury or latest relapse.

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury - This is a pic of a graph where the Y axis represents the degree of recovery and the X axis represents time. There's a person thinking their recovery will be an upwards and straight trajectory back to normality, i.e. their pre-illness or injury self. But often in the case of serious health issues, this is a myth because the body is changed forever.

Sometimes I wonder whether that expectation helps us to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury. Because sometimes we don’t go back to the way we were. We enter a new place because our body has changed.

This can be full of uncertainty because you don’t know what the new place is like and what you will be able to do there. Take it gently, move slowly. Allow yourself to get used to being in this new place.

It’s like moving into a new home. You have to get to know the new home, what works, what doesn’t and its quirks. You have to decide how you want to put your stamp on your new home, and what you need to do, and can do, to do that.

This takes time so give yourself that time to adjust.

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness. One way is rethinking how we think about recovery. This pic is of a quote, "We often assume that recovery means we go back to the way we were pre-illness or injury. But sometimes that isn't possible because our bodies are changed forever. When that happens, recovery is more like a transition to a new place."

2. Find an activity you enjoy and can do within the constraints of the illness or injury

The purpose of this is to have a healthy distraction. The activity can be anything you enjoy: reading, catching up on a tv series, watching movies, knitting, drawing, painting, making jewellery, genealogical research, doing puzzles, teaching yourself a new language, gaming, listening to the radio, whatever.

This kind of healthy distractions are also good for your mental health, which, if it’s in a good enough place, can help you cope with the setback in your recovery.

3. Continue to do the daily activities you do when not ill (if you can)

For example, it’s very easy when we are ill to just let everything go and we lie in bed or on the sofa for days and not wash or change our clothes. Because there is nothing we can do, right? This feeling can double when you have to cope with a setback in recovery.

Picture of a girl lying on a sofa with one leg covered in a blanket. She is coping with a setback in recovery from illness. She is asking herself the question, 'When did I last wash?' There's a brownish-grey cloud around her to reflect that she hasn't washed in some time.

Whilst I was in hospital with Transverse Myelitis gradually getting weaker, losing the ability to walk, and not knowing why this was happening, I promised myself that regardless of what would happen, I would somehow manage to keep myself clean. Looking back, this was a really good thing for me to do.

I washed my face in the morning, brushed my teeth twice a day and showered every other day. I would drag myself to the shower (or be wheeled in) and endure the pain of showering. I had a high degree of neuropathic pain at this point so water hitting my skin felt like I was being pelted with nails. Raising my arms to wash my hair was painful too. Keeping clean was a challenging physical and mental effort.

I would also change my from my pyjamas to my ‘hospital day wear’, sweats and a sweatshirt. Feeling clean and fresh after washing and changing my clothes, I felt ready for what that day would bring and more able somehow.

Why keeping myself clean was a good thing to do

These are several reasons why I think keeping myself clean was a positive thing to do.

Note: The daily activity you choose doesn’t have to be keeping yourself clean. It could be reading. Or making a cup of tea or something else. A thing to keep in mind is selecting a gentle activity you can still do, even if it’s to a much lesser degree.

It was part of my daily routine prior to becoming ill and when we continue to do such activities when we are ill, it’s a reminder of a normality we are familiar with. That can be comforting.

Daily activities can give our days some structure in what otherwise can feel like an endless episode of illness or injury.

Daily activities can also have a positive psychological impact. They give us that important sense of control when we’re in a situation where we can feel powerless at times. They also give us a sense of personal agency, i.e. that we have the ability to influence things and change something for the better. It’s about doing what you can to help yourself and your situation.

This is another pic of the same girl lying on a sofa whilst coping with a setback in recovery from illness. She looks brighter. She is listening to radio which is giving the positive reasons of doing light and gentle daily activities when coping with a setback during recovery.  She is saying, 'Good points. Glad I moved the radio closer to me.' So in effect, she has been practicing what the radio show is talking about. She moved the radio close to her so she could listen to programmes whilst recovering, which is a light and gentle daily activity.

4. Treat your body like the temple it is

Your body may not feel like a temple at the moment. It may feel more like it’s in need of a whole scale refurbishment. And when you feel really bad, it can feel easier to reach for comfort food which isn’t as healthy for you.

But your body needs a lot of nourishment during a setback. Eat and drink healthily. Get as good a rest as you can. If you can take some exercise or do your physiotherapy, do that. Even if that is walking around the room or light exercises in your bed or chair. This is all stuff that is in your control to do as mentioned last week.

When you are dealing with a setback in your recovery, make sure to treat your body like the temple it is. Eat and drink healthily. Your body needs the nourishment. Tell a friend

5. Use your support network

For conversation, companionship and to help you with what you need help with. Let them know specifically what you need help with because that is helping them to help you. But also let them know what you may not need help with and explain why.

Many times people in our support network are very keen to help us so you are not being a burden. However, there are times when we want to do something by ourselves to test ourselves, to see what we are now capable of doing, to check if there has been some recovery.

But we can also get a sense of accomplishment when we do something on our own. When you’re ill or injured and more reliant on others, there is less opportunity to gain that sense of accomplishment. So if you don’t want someone’s help for those reasons, let them know that and that they are actually helping you by not helping you.

This pic shows the girl on the couch again. But now she is sitting up and going through some papers and old magazines and newsletters. A friend is asking her, 'Do you need help with that.' The girl on the sofa respond, 'No, that's ok. I want to see how kong I can go before fatigue sets in. To see if that has changed at all.' The point of this is that it's good to explain to others the reasons we don't need their help. Because those reasons could be about us checking in with ourselves and our bodies to see what we are capable now.

What’s it like for you?

What has helped you to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury? Is there anything which did which is not listed here? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury or another aspect of the health issue you are dealing with, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

How to cope with a setback in recovery

How to cope with a setback in recovery

The realisation that you have to cope with a setback in recovery can be very disappointing. Especially if you have been doing what you need to be doing to recover well. It’s another piece of bad news.

Someone recently asked me for resources on how you cope with a setback in recovery and although I had written about this topic some time ago, that blog was from the carer perspective. Hence this blog. (and next week’s blog too)

So how do you cope with a setback in recovery?

When we’re recovering from an illness or injury, we often have an expectation that our recovery will be a smooth upward trajectory back to good health. (The meaning of ‘good health’ is subjective. Every person’s version of ‘good health’ will be unique to them, their body and their circumstances.)

Pic of a person thinking their recovery from a serious illness or injury will be an upward trajectory back to normality, i.e. their pre-illness or pre-injury self. The person is standing in a graph where the Y axis is Recovery and the X axis is Time.

It may not have occurred to you that you would have to cope with a setback in recovery because you didn’t think it would even happen. Or the medical and healthcare professionals said your recovery should be straightforward.

But actually, it is very common for the recovery process to be more like this.

Pic of a person thinking their recovery from a serious illness straightforward. Their future self is looking on saying, 'Sometimes it is. But not always.'  The two people are standing in a graph where the Y axis is Recovery and the X axis is Time. The line between the two people, which symbolises the recovery process, is going all over the place to show that recovery from a serious illness is not always straightforward and there can be setbacks. So it is important to learn how to cope with a setback in recovery.

Being able to cope with a setback in recovery is therefore something many of us end up having to do. So I share ten things I think can help you cope with a setback in recovery – five this week and five next week.

How do you cope with a setback in #recovery? Read five tips here #seriousillness Tell a Friend

See your doctor to find out what’s going on

This is stating the obvious but it’s important. The doctor can (hopefully) tell you what is happening, why and what they and/or you need to do medically to address the situation.

Keep a diary of your symptoms and bring it to your appointments. But make sure to look for trends and patterns in the info you keep before your appointment. Giving it all to the doctor and expecting him/her to analyse it for you during the appointment is not the best use of appointment time. Also come prepared to the appointment with the questions you have. This is all about helping the medical and healthcare professionals to help you.

Acknowledge that there will be uncertainty

Picture of a quote: "One thing is certain. There will always be uncertainty." This is true when you have to cope with a setback in recovery.

And potentially a lot of it. Sometimes the medical and healthcare professionals cannot tell you why there is a setback in your recovery. When they don’t know why, then there is potentially less they and you can do. Or they try something but there are no guarantees it will work. This can be a scary place.

You and the medical and healthcare professionals have all this energy to do something but without knowing what to do, that energy kind of has nowhere to go. So you all end up in a scary place with a lot of frustration and feeling powerless to make things better. It’s a difficult place to be.

When the cause of a setback in #recovery is unknown, the uncertainty can be scary. You and the doctors have the energy to sort things, but without knowing what to sort, that energy has no place to go. Feelings of frustration and… Tell a Friend

Although this is stating the obvious, what you can do to help manage the uncertainty is…

Take it one day at a time

Slow down. Be gentle with yourself. Shower yourself in self-compassion. Self-criticism has no place here and won’t help you or your situation.

It’s totally understandable if you are upset because of the setback. And it’s ok to be upset. Acknowledging your upset-ness is healthy. Just remember not to unpack and live there. If you lived in the upset-ness, that would be less healthy. As you come out of it, channel the energy of the upset-ness into your recovery.

A man is trying to cope with a setback in recovery. But he is so upset he is unpacking his suitcase of upsetness. In it are anger, sad, loss and frustration. He is saying, 'I'm so upset I'm just gonna unpack and live here.' His other half, a woman, is saying, 'Honey, I can see how tough this is for you. I can help you sort your suitcase. And I have another suitcase which might be better for this journey.' The other suitcase is near her and written on it is Return to Wellness. The point this picture is making is it is ok to be upset, and that you can acknowledge how upset you are without unpacking and living there.

Focus on what you can control and influence

Focus on what you can directly control and influence. This is how much rest you get, what you eat, taking medication, and doing any exercise or physiotherapy you can for example.

What you don’t want to do is attempt to control things which are not in your control. This could end up with you wasting a lot of energy which you need for your recovery.

There are a lot happening in our bodies that we cannot control. Processes happen on their own that don’t require active intervention from us. We can influence our body in how we take care of it, but otherwise that’s it. We can however control our minds, our muscles and our breath. (Provided the illness/injury we have doesn’t affect any of these.) And this leads me to my next point.

Picture of three circles inside one another. The inner one is Direct Control. The next circle is Influence. The outer circle is Concern. To cope with a setback in recovery, you want to focus on what is in your Direct Control and Influence to do. What you cannot control or influence, and that is in the circle of concern, you need to let go of that. This model is by Stephen Covey and is from his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which was first published in 1989.

Look after your mental and emotional health too

Your mental/emotional health is equally important. And it could take a knock when you have to cope with a setback in recovery. Mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, speaking to a counsellor or a coach, reading books on maintaining your mental fitness, and more can all help you to care for your mental health.

If your physical health isn’t in a place where you want it to be, but your mental health is, that can help stay in the driving seat of coping with your physical health issue.

Picture of a man driving a car and the license plate says, 'My Health.' This is about looking after your mental health so you can cope with a setback in recovery. Your mental health can also be impacted by a setback. But if you look after your mental health well, you can remain in the driving seat of your health.

What’s it like for you?

What has helped you to cope with a setback in recovery? Is there anything which did which is not listed here? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to cope with a setback in recovery or another aspect of the health issue you are dealing with, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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