Chronically Living and how to make the most of it

What Actions Can I Take to Improve My Well-Being?

December 27, 2021 Kelsey Season 2 Episode 27
Chronically Living and how to make the most of it
What Actions Can I Take to Improve My Well-Being?
Show Notes Transcript

We're talking about values-based living. Doing things to improve our lives, even with chronic illness and chronic pain, which sometimes means going outside of our comfort zone. This is the second-part to the episode, "Why Can Connecting With Your Values Improve Your Well-Being?"
In this episode we discuss:

  • what values based living is
  • SMART goal setting
  • HARD barriers to living by our values and how to overcome them

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Kelsey Harris:

Are you wanting to make changes in your life to make it better? Maybe you're stuck on how to do this because it's extra hard when you have a chronic illness to actually make those changes. Perhaps you've recently connected with your values and you're like, Okay, now what do I do with them? This week, we're turning those values into values based living so we can live better lives, even with our chronic illness. Welcome back to chronically living. I'm Kelsey Harris, chronic illness warrior and psychotherapist on chronically living and how to make the most of it, we're providing tangible ways to improve the well being of subunits. So get ready to make the most out of your life even with that pesky chronic illness. Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in this week. As promised, this is part two of a two part episode. We did part one a few weeks ago, and that was on values. That was episode or season two, Episode 24. So before proceeding into this episode, if you haven't listened to that one yet, I highly recommend checking it out. Because this episode will make way more sense and be way easier to follow and engage with if you do that. Also, if you listened to that episode, and you did happen to write down some of your values, I would encourage you to pull out that list and keep it nearby as you listen to this episode, because it will be very helpful. So today, we're going to talk about values based living, what it is and how we make it happen. So values based living is essentially making life choices guided and motivated by our values. So this could be actual physical actions that are visible to everyone. But it can also mean psychological action, which is obviously less visible, but just as important. So to quote Russ Harris, this implies flexible action, so readily adapting to the challenges of the situation, and either persisting with or changing behaviors required. In other words, doing what it takes to effectively live by your values. And the whole purpose of this is to take those values we connected with a few episodes ago, and turn them into actual behaviors. So why is this important for people with chronic pain and or chronic illness? Well, short answer, this is actually important for everyone, regardless of health status, because it leads to a more fulfilling life. Long answer, if we are just specifically looking at chronic illness and pain, it kind of goes like this. Usually when we become consumed by our illness or pain, just as happens often with mental health issues. So if you have both, this might be extra happening to you. We are taken away from our values, and we often start acting opposite of them. So I'm gonna give you some examples from my own life. So independence has always been a value of mine. Since I was very, very young, I was always very independent child and adolescent and young adults and adult came, it's always been important volume. When I first became ill, I started to become incredibly clingy and dependent on my then partner. So I was actually just acting the opposite of my value. Another value is being able to self care for my health. And that's kind of for me tied tied closely with fitness. But I was terrified to exercise at first, because I thought it would make like my pain worse. And it took me quite a while to be convinced to do any strength training, I was had a dog, so I was already walking and I worked in retail, so I walked around a lot, but to do any strength training was like, really scary. So again, I was living maybe not fully opposite to this value, but certainly not fully in line with it. Now I'm sure some of you are saying, but I really can't live in a way that represents my values because of my pain or my illness. And I totally hear you been there. Okay? It this is really hard to do. The thing is a lot more is in our control than we usually are willing to see or admit. When life is difficult, like it is for all of your warriors. We usually have more control over our physical actions and what we say that when we do have our thoughts and feelings, for example. So in our case, the thoughts of feelings are likely about our illness. But what if I held a knife at your back and said, have no feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness, etc. Have no thoughts about bad things happening to you? Could you do that? Probably not. Much. No one can do that. We know from psychological research that often the opposite happens, we think more about it. But what if I hold the knife to your back and demand that you dance like a penguin while singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star? Could you do that? So most likely, the answer is yes. You know, that fear kicks in and we're like, oh, God, I gotta stay alive. Gotta, you know dance like a penguin singing Twinkle, twinkle. But let's back up for a moment. I'm going to read a little bit from Russ Harris again, because I like the way he phrases certain things, including this challenge formula. For any challenging situation we face, we always have three options, one, leave, to stay and live by your values. So change whatever you can to improve the situation and make room for the pain that goes with it. Or three, stay and give up acting effectively. Just do things that make no difference or make life worse. Now with chronic illness, we can't actually leave our illnesses or pain would be great, but not actually what's going to happen. So we're down to two choices. So which one do you think might actually make your life better, which one makes it worse? Okay, so now we're going to do the fun part of the episode. And I've touched on this in the past, but we're going to talk about it again today a little more deeply. So this is goal setting. And here's how we're going to do this. So again, if you have some paper and want to write down all this for yourself, it might be really helpful. It's hard to keep track of some of the stuff in our heads. So writing it down also makes it more likely that we're we're going to do that and remember how to do it. So first thing you're going to do is pick one domain in your life that you want to improve. So this could be your health, maybe it's your family relationships, or getting back to work, or personal growth. Really anything that you want to improve leisure, whatever it is, okay. Next, choose one of your values that you want to bring into this life domain. Right. So if you chose health, maybe it's that self care piece that I like, right, or if it's relationships, maybe it is compassion in your relationships, or communication, right. So pick your value that goes with that life domain domain. Your value here is meant to motivate you toward your goal. So make sure you're choosing this very carefully. Once you've done that, we're going to set SMART goals. So feel free to pause and resume as needed during the section if you need to do some writing. Okay. So let's review what smart goals are. Now, a lot of people use the business model of setting SMART goals. But what I'm going to do is use the values model because that just makes way more sense for what we're doing. S stands for specific. So what are you specifically going to be doing? Try not to be vague, you want to be as specific as possible. M stands for motivated by values or meaningful, okay, is this goal motivated by the values that you wrote down? A stands for adaptive is the school going to improve your life in some way. R stands for realistic. So make sure that is something you can actually achieve taking into consideration time, money, your current health status, social supports, knowledge and any other skills that you have or need to have to accomplish your goal. And finally, T stands for time bound. So we want to set a specific timeframe for when you want to accomplish this goal. And sometimes what we have to do is break the goal down into smaller goals. And this is often key for most of our goals. So if your goal is to take your medication as prescribed, but you're only doing it a third of the time right now, then maybe start by aiming to take it half the time by x date, and then two thirds to three quarters of the time by x date. And then 100% of time by x date. So you've just broken it down so that you can kind of easily go along so that it's more realistic and time framed. So let's take a moment to check on your goal. So again, if you need a moment to write it down, just pause and then come back. So is this a live person's goal? So what do I mean by that? A dead person's goal is something that well, a dead person could do as well or better than you could. So a good goal is going to be one that describes the behavior you will take. So what you are going to do, not what you're not going to do, okay, so if you're trying to cut out sugar for example, your goal wouldn't be I won't eat any more sugar. It would be when I'm craving sugar. I will acknowledge and make room for that urge and something healthy like an up if you didn't listen to To the episode on acceptance, so that season two episode 21, where I talk about urges and urge surfing and I also talked about some of the things I'm going to mention later in this episode like self compassion, then maybe take a listen to that one after this episode because it will be important. Also double check that your goal is realistic. So on a scale of zero to 10, 10 being you could easily accomplish it, and zero being there's no way you could accomplish it. Just take a moment and give your goal reading. If you rated it less than a seven, rework that goal, so maybe that's breaking it down into smaller steps, you know, you need to be confident in your ability to accomplish this. Lastly, check that the payoffs of accomplishing the goal are important to you. So how will this goal improve your life? Now, inevitably, we will have obstacles to accomplish your goals. So try to think about what might get in your way? Will it be your thoughts and feelings? For most of us, that's what it is. If an obstacle comes up, what will you be doing instead to act by your values and or accomplish your goal. Sometimes we also come up with impossible goals. So this would be like if I said I want to run a marathon next spring. But for me, I it would be impossible because I don't run, okay, I power walk like I can walk pretty fast. But I don't run running is really hard on my knees, which have been hurting more recently anyway. So it's an activity actually kind of increases my pain, whereas walking is not. So when we have these kind of goals, it's really hard. So like, if this was my goal, right, it'd be really hard because it'd be disappointing to, to acknowledge that, you know, maybe it's impossible, maybe I can't do that. And that's okay. It's normal, like those emotions that you're having are normal, around impossible goals. We have to make some room for these feelings, you know, create some distance between ourselves and our thoughts and offer some some self compassion. What would my value be underlying the school though. So this was my goal. So this sounds like a health and fitness goal. So maybe what would a more realistic goal be then? So maybe it's to walk the distance of a marathon or half marathon? Guy, I'm not even gonna, I don't even know what the distance marathon or half marathon is. But I'm hoping you kind of get my point by that, right? Like, you want to make sure that that goal is realistic for you. Also, this is not actually a goal of mine, I have no interest in running a marathon. But I've also learned not to set impossible goals or to try not to, or if I noticed that I have to quickly rework it into something that is more manageable. So by the way, engaging in these new value space behaviors is often super uncomfortable, and can even feel sucky at first, especially depending on what your goal is, like you're trying to make dietary changes or exercise changes, sometimes it's like, like, doesn't feel good. However, we can actually improve our lives without going through some of the suck, right? That's just part of life, we have to make some room for it. And I know I keep saying that. So please, please listen to the acceptance episode if you haven't yet, because it will make it much easier for you to go after your girls if you start to learn to accept and make room for some of those painful emotions, and sometimes even painful sensations, right? Like if I gave into every sensation and emotion that was painful for me, I probably would not be working. Okay, and I love my work and it really aligns with my values. So for those of you who don't know, I'm a therapist, and I would probably not be doing this podcast. Okay, this also is something I love to do and aligns with my values. So I have to make some room for some of the things that are uncomfortable and painful. In order to do some of these other things that are values based. There are a few things that stop us when we are trying to live by our values. So this acronym is called HARD, which totally makes sense. H-a-r-d. We are hooked by our thoughts. We are avoiding uncomfortable feelings. We are remote from our values. We have doubtful goals. What do we do when this happens? Well, we need to unhook from our thoughts. So that was season two episode 18 We need to make room for discomfort. So again, the acceptance episode, we need to connect with our values values episode. We need to reassess our goals to make sure that they're realistic. We also need To look at the workability of our current behaviors, so is what we are doing making our life better or worse right now, like, whatever your current behaviors are. If you answered that things you're doing are making it worse, then it's not workable. Or if it's providing short term relief, but not long term relief, it also is probably not workable. But if you answered yes, it is helping me out long term, then that's good that we want to stick with that that's a good behavior. So I'm going to give an example for me eating gluten was not making my life better. Kind of hard on my stomach. I knew that for a long time, but I kept eating it because delicious. Cutting it out has made it better though, for me. Okay, my meditation practice was making my life better already. So I keep it makes sense. Okay, hopefully I haven't lost anybody. We also need to determine our willingness to engage in these behaviors. If you aren't willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to live the life you want to live, you won't ever do it. Okay. So remember to keep in mind the benefits that this change you want to make are going to have on your life, and also just consider any costs of what you're currently doing. So you might have to run back to the episode on creative hopelessness, that was season two, Episode 12. For more on that, and, yes, this, if you really want this, as I said, this is a part two of a two part series. But if you really want to look at this as like a, it's gonna be like a seven episode, like mini series to kind of help you along your way, in, you know, living this values based life and making life a little bit better for yourself. Also, I highly recommend just doing this with a therapist, if you can afford to go see a therapist or, you know, if you have access to free therapy, which is out there and is available. Try to take advantage of that. I think that this is you can definitely do this, like a self help version, kind of like we're doing here or by buying self help books. But obviously, having someone to support you along the way, will make it that much easier for you. I want to end this episode by highlighting two things. So first, change is hard. I don't know anyone who has purposely decided to make changes in their life and found it easy. It's definitely never been easy for me. I usually have to put a lot of time and energy into it. But I can say it's always been worthwhile for me. The second change is slow. So remember when Dr. Richard Harris said that back in episode and season two episode 11 He's 100% Correct. And I have to remind my clients and myself about this all the time. It took me so long to make some of the changes in my life. So for example, downloaded the meditation app comm in 2018, but did not start meditating daily until 2020. And that was at first only five minutes a day. Now I do about 20 minutes a day. But like as you can see, change is slow. Okay, so let's take a deep breath in. Exhale. What do you notice about your thoughts and feelings today? What are you noticing about your noticing? I'll talk to you all again in the new year. In the meantime, keep making the most of it. Special thanks to marred.e for the original music and Charity Williams for the original artwork.