Lesson 4 of 10
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4) Setting Goals

I-Engage May 1, 2021

In this lesson, you will learn how to go about setting pain management goals.

Step one: Set your goals – Plan and prioritize

It is easy to lose sight of your priorities when dealing with the challenge of managing chronic pain. Pain often drives a wedge between what you care about and what you actually do. Shift your attention to those things that are truly important to you.

Do activities every day that reflect what you value. For example, if you highly value your relationship with your partner, you should plan to spend time with them over dinner or a fun activity. If you value spending time with your children, you should plan activities with them (e.g., listening to them read, or cooking together). If your health is of high priority to you, plan some gentle exercise, prepare some healthy food, or make that appointment you have been meaning to schedule.

a couple having fun with their child, swinging her from their arms.

Think ahead and plan activities so that you don’t overstretch yourself

Step two: Write down the things you have to do

Arrange your ‘To Do’ list into order of priority. Ask yourself if each task really needs to get done, and then cross off those that aren’t necessary. If there is one really important thing you need to do, arrange your day around that task.

Step three: Do little and often

Break down tasks such as cleaning or gardening into smaller pieces. Or, lessen your load. For example, carrying the groceries in from the car in smaller amounts.

This may seem complicated at first, but it will help conserve energy and reduce pain flares. Now, many activities that you might have given up (like gardening), become possible again. It just takes some planning and adjusting.

This requires a shift in expectations. Don’t expect yourself to do things exactly like you used to. Be patient and have an open mind.

Step four: Alternate tasks

Plan to alternate heavier tasks with lighter, or less stressful ones. Plan to incorporate relaxation periods every day.

Writing down a weekly plan can help you to balance out tasks and to focus on your goals.

Helpful Tips for Pacing Activities

Start with pacing activities that are easier. Leave the activities that are too hard for now and come back to them or note them as goals for the future. Set yourself up for success and try the less difficult tasks first.

For activities that you cannot leave, it is most important that you pace yourself. Take short rest breaks as often as possible. Incorporate your pacing principles to get them accomplished.

Remember it is good to ask for help. Delegate tasks that are too difficult to tackle right now and offer to do the less difficult ones.

A young family with a mom, dad, a young boy and a young girl cooking a vegetarian meal together. The daughter is sitting on the dad's lap while she chops up mushrooms on a cutting board in front of her. The table has zucchini, peppers, tomato, eggs, pasta, and other veggies on it.

Work with the environment. Adjust to the weather. For example, if it is hot, raining, or cold, an alternative might be to do your walk in a local shopping mall. Be proactive and make plans for unideal weather in advance.

Stick to your targets and goals. This will mean that you, not your pain, will decide how much you do. If you are having a bad day, keep going as you planned but pace yourself more by increasing the number of rest breaks.

If you are having a good day try not to be tempted to do more. Don’t overdo it!

Remember that setbacks or flareups may happen. Have a plan ready and use it at these times to avoid slipping back into unhelpful ways of coping. Cut back your activity and increase rest breaks. Then, plan to return to your normal activity as soon as you can. You may need to start at baseline and slowly work your way up again. Be patient with yourself.

In the next lesson, you will learn about getting active and incorporating more exercise into your life.

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