Incremental goals may be more manageable and fun to track, often making them easier to stick with over time.
Remember your New Year’s resolutions—something about eating healthier, staying active, watching less reality TV and keeping up with friends and family?
If you’re already off track, don’t beat yourself up over it. Sticking to year-long goals can be tough for anyone, and the unpredictability of myasthenia gravis (MG) can make it even harder for people living with this condition.1 If you, like many others, struggle to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, try making realistic short-term goals that fit your lifestyle—and adding a touch of flexibility too.
Think Small to Win Big
For people who live with MG, setting short-term goals may provide clear, attainable steps to reaching larger goals. Also, seeing small successes along your journey can be fun and hugely motivational.
This year, Stephanie, who lives with myasthenia gravis, is using what she calls “subgoals” to help her achieve long-term goals like learning to play the piano. It’s a new strategy for her, mostly because she’s tired of feeling bad or guilty every year about not accomplishing big goals in a certain timeframe.
“I’m not putting a ‘complete by’ date on these goals,” Stephanie said. “These are small building blocks. And I’m giving myself time to rest, both physically and mentally, while trying to complete each one.”
One of Stephanie’s goals this year targets managing her myasthenia gravis. She plans to not overexert herself to please others. To help do that, her subgoals include being honest with others and asking herself whether she even wants to do tasks asked of her.
Tommy is also opting for an incremental approach to managing his MG this year.
“I’m finding ways to land on more good days than bad days, whether that’s trying to exercise 15 to 20 days each month or eating healthy foods,” he said. To hold himself accountable, he is tracking his successes in his Outlook calendar.
Keep It Real
Alesheia, who is also living with a rare autoimmune disorder, says it’s important to set realistic goals that are both achievable and flexible.
“Goals don't need to be a 180-degree turn from what you're doing every day,” she said. “They just need to set you in a direction that feels better to you than what you’re doing now.”
Alesheia notes that if her goal is to read more books in the coming year, she’ll take it day by day—even chapter by chapter if she needs to—and not feel bad about it. To help manage her symptoms, she’ll choose whatever favorite activity best matches her energy level that day. She’ll stay flexible, perhaps doing gentle stretching or mindful breathing one day and going to a tai chi class the next.
I’m not putting a ‘complete by’ date on these goals. These are small building blocks.Stephanie, who lives with MG
Niki also lives with MG and is opting for a more realistic resolution this year. She says that she’s overreached in past years by resolving to “stay more active,” which was hard on days she was feeling weak.
That’s why her 2021 goal is to “stay as healthy as possible.” With this, her short-term goals can range from exercising to taking more rests—whatever makes her feel healthier on any given day.
Whatever goals you may choose, it’s important to shed the guilt, Alesheia said.
“Give yourself the grace and permission to change or be different. For me, it doesn’t matter that last year I was a dairy-free, gluten-free vegan and this year I’m not. I like pasture-raised beef and the occasional egg. I tell myself, ‘That’s okay. I enjoyed eating that.’”
Set Goals to Help Manage Your MG
Ready to get started with some more manageable, realistic short-terms goals? As a person living with
myasthenia gravis, a good place to start with subgoals relates to managing your MG.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Need a better grasp of how MG works? Check out what myasthenia gravis is and how it works in the body. MG symptoms can change over time, so your goals may need to adjust to them1
- Do you know the signs of an impending MG crisis? If not, learn about what a myasthenic crisis is and how to create a crisis plan. A doable first step is to print the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America’s (MGFA) MG Wallet Card, fill it out and carry it with you at all times. Then you may want to talk to your doctor about coming up with a crisis plan that’s best for you
- Do you want to learn more about common tools neurologists use to chart your symptoms? You may want to ask your doctor about tools such as the Myasthenia Gravis Activities of Daily Living (MG-ADL) and the Myasthenia Gravis Quality of Life Scale (MG-QOL15r)
It’s better to start small and build from there than not try at all.Dr. Emma Ciafaloni, neurologist with expertise in MG
Rochester, New York
Invest in Your Health
If you plan to eat healthier this year, you may want to start by sampling some well-balanced, MG-friendly recipes. Here are some suggestions:
Meal prepping, or cooking your meals in advance, may set you up for culinary success when you feel up to cooking. You can create a meal-prep plan that matches your energy, schedule, cooking ability and food preferences.
Short-term goals may also work well for helping you manage both your physical and mental health, which are often interconnected. For example, you can take a step toward well-being by sampling activities you may like, such as meditation, yoga or mindful breathing. Rather than committing to a class or buying fitness equipment, you can start slowly by going online or downloading an app for some guidance.
“Even if it’s a few minutes a day, try to incorporate a health or exercise program into your daily routine,” said Dr. Emma Ciafaloni, a neurologist with expertise in MG. “It’s better to start small and build from there than not try at all. At the same time, take a rest when you need to and don’t feel guilty about it.”
Be Good to Yourself
Whatever goals you choose, listen to your inner voice and give yourself some grace.
“It's great to have goals to help keep us motivated and improve our quality of life, but we also can't measure our success by anyone else's standards but our own,” said Kait Masters, who tries not to let her MG slow her down. “Let your resolutions guide you but know it's okay if things need to adapt and change beyond what you resolved on January 1.”
For support and motivation, you may want to ask others to join you on your journey. Partner with a friend or someone from a local myasthenia gravis group such as the MGFA. Then, schedule time each month to talk about the progress you’ve both made.
Or you may want to create your own community. Stephanie achieved one of her past goals by pulling together a care team that listens to her and understands her needs. It took time, she said, but she’s extremely happy with the results.
So, while New Year’s resolutions are sometimes hard to keep for an entire year, setting realistic and achievable short-term goals can set you up for success for the long term. Start small in order to begin creating the changes you want to see in your life.
- Gilhus NE, et al. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019;5(30):1-19.
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