5 Actually Helpful New Year's Resolutions for People With Chronic Illness and Disability

New year, do you.

disabled man holding sparkler

Stocksy/Evgenij Yulkin

  • For many people who live with chronic illness and other disabilities, New Year's resolutions can be difficult.
  • There are some steps people with chronic illness and other disabilities can introduce into their lives for the new year, if it feels right to them.
  • Three chronic illness and disability advocates share five New Year's resolution options.

With each impending new year there's also the pressure to introduce a "new you" into the world—one that exercises more or saves money or switches up their diet.

But in reality, many people who live with chronic illness and other disabilities don't have the time or energy to completely transform our lives—especially when caring for oneself is already a full-time job.

Still, there are some steps that people with chronic illness and other disabilities can introduce into their lives for the new year, if it feels right to them. Here, three chronic illness and disability advocates weigh in about certain New Year's resolutions that are actually helpful—and doable—for people in those communities.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

In the new year, you may hear more and more about what professional goals people want to accomplish. This can lead to us being hard on ourselves, especially if we’re suddenly dealing with new or worsening symptoms, which can be a full-time job to try and manage.

“It is so hard, especially with chronic illness in young adulthood to compare yourself to others,” Sneha Dave, founder and executive director of Generation Patient who lives with ulcerative colitis, told Health. “You are on your own timeline, and there is nothing that should make you feel like you are behind.”

Take Time to Eat Your Lunch

One resolution that can help people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to take care of themselves is to remember to eat lunch. 

On a regular basis, Ford Foundation’s US Disability Rights Program Officer Rebecca Cokley, a little person who lives with migraines, tweets to her followers to ask what they’re having for lunch. For her, lunch is “a moment to detach from work and to check in with” herself.

Cokley used to find herself skipping lunch herself. Then, she started doing this after reaching out to around 30 other disabled peers to ask if they were often skipping lunch to continue working. “Most folks gave the reason that they felt that they had not done enough, which is invariably an indictment of capitalism,” Cokley told Health.

To help make sure that you take time to eat lunch, you can add it to your to-do list, and check it off like any other responsibility.

Set Realistic Health “Goals”

Every person’s life with chronic illness or disability can look different, so different people have different health goals. Maybe it’s talking to your doctor about trying a new medication. Or taking an online class to learn more about how to actually implement self-care in your life. 

“It must be approached with knowing that chronic illness is bumpy, even if we do everything right, and to not let the guilt of that restrict our ability to achieve our goals,” Eileen Davidson, a rheumatoid arthritis patient advocate who blogs at Chronic Eileen, told Health.

And if a goal is too hard in the moment, people could always make it something they wait to tackle in 2024. 

Get Rid of a Negative Person in Your Life

While it may take some effort, surrounding yourself with peers and healthcare providers that support you is particularly helpful when living with chronic illness or disability.

Regarding healthcare providers specifically, if you've been dealing with a person who hasn't taken your care seriously or dismisses your symptoms, it may be worthwhile to put in the time to find someone who validates your concerns.

“If you have a doctor that doesn’t believe in you, maybe you find some time and energy in the next year to replace them with someone who does listen to you and center you in your care,” Cokley said. 

Find Other Chronically Ill and Disabled Peers

Dealing with frustrating symptoms can be lonely, especially as dropped COVID-19 protocols have kept many chronically ill and disabled people inside. One way to cope is to connect with other people who live with chronic illnesses and disabilities. 

“One of the most powerful things for me, which I did not realize until after, was peer support,” said Dave. “There is no break from chronic illness, but one thing you can do for yourself is to find a community.”

Peer support can be found in many different settings, including official support groups, or just finding people you like on social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram.

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