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[Listening Lounge] Setting Realistic Health Goals with an Autoimmune Disease

Living with an autoimmune disease presents unique challenges, and crafting achievable goals is crucial for maintaining motivation and well-being. However, as highlighted in the recent Listening Lounge session with Jing Xuan, a clinical psychologist at Open Journey Psychology working with individuals with autoimmune issues and pain issues, it is still possible to create a roadmap for a fulfilling and meaningful life.

This session offered valuable insights and practical strategies to help ADSG members navigate their health journeys.

a black heart paper cut out being passed from one hand to another

Identifying Your Values: The Foundation for Goal Setting

The session began by emphasizing the importance of identifying personal values. These values act as guiding principles, shaping how we approach life and make decisions. What truly matters to you in life? Is it compassion, resilience, connection, or something else entirely? Identifying these fundamental values provides a strong foundation for setting goals that resonate deeply with you.

Through reflection exercises and prompts, participants explored questions like:

  • What do you want your life to stand for?

  • What qualities do you want to cultivate?

  • How do you want to be in your relationships with others?

Understanding your values provides a strong foundation for setting meaningful and relevant health goals. Once you understand your values, consider how they can translate into health-related goals. For example, if "compassion" is a central value, a goal might be to "practice self-compassion by implementing stress management techniques."

A typewriter that has spelled out the word 'Goals'

SMART Goals: A Framework for Success

The session introduced the SMART framework for crafting effective goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Clearly define your goal. What exactly do you want to achieve?

  • Measurable: Establish a way to track your progress. How will you know you're getting closer to your goal?

  • Achievable: Set a goal that is challenging but attainable, considering your circumstances and limitations.

  • Relevant: Ensure your goal aligns with your values and overall well-being.

  • Time-bound: Set a timeframe for achieving your goal. This creates a sense of urgency and helps maintain focus.

Breaking Down Big Goals into Smaller Steps

Participants often expressed feeling overwhelmed by large health goals. The session addressed this by encouraging individuals to break down these goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This approach has two key benefits:

  • Increased sense of accomplishment: By achieving smaller milestones along the way, individuals experience a greater sense of accomplishment, which can boost motivation and keep them engaged in the process.

  • Enhanced motivation: Smaller, more achievable steps feel less daunting, making it easier to stay motivated and committed to reaching the ultimate goal.

Making Room for Difficulties and Practicing Self-Compassion

Living with an autoimmune disease often involves facing challenges and setbacks. The session acknowledged these difficulties and emphasized the importance of self-compassion. Participants learned a mindfulness practice called "Leaves on a Stream" to help them observe and let go of intrusive thoughts and negative emotions that can arise while pursuing their goals.

Additional Tips and Resources

Jing Xuan recommended various resources a first step for further exploration, including:

  • YouTube: Offers guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, and other tools for managing stress and anxiety.

  • Headspace: Provides guided meditation content (subscription required). Headspace content is also now available on Netflix.

Remember, setting realistic health goals is an ongoing process. Be kind to yourself as you navigate your journey, and celebrate every step forward. By aligning your goals with your values and utilizing the tools and resources available, you can empower yourself to live a fulfilling and meaningful life, even with an autoimmune disease.

Thank you to Jing Xuan for facilitating this informative session for the Autoimmune Diseases Singapore community.

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