"Comparison is the death of Joy." Mark Twain
2020 has come to an end and let's be honest, no one is too upset about that. In this new year it's time to look ahead and think; how can we make 2021 better for ourselves, living with kidney disease (CKD)?
As someone with kidney failure over 20 years I’m no stranger to setting resolutions while living with CKD. Big resolutions filled with enthusiasm and hope for the year ahead. Of course, the universe steps in with other ideas and my hopes and aspirations can fall by the wayside (often as early as February!)
My first bit of advice therefore is:
“Don’t set yourself up to fail, because life is hard enough!”
When thinking about resolutions, look at them in the first person and then remember, you are the first person, the most important person. Never benchmark, compare or rate yourself against others.
The #1 goal at the end of the year must always be; a better version of yourself!
If you're comparing yourself against a millionaire's daughter or son whose social media pages look like they came out of “HELLO” magazine then health, happiness, and everything you associate it with, will be elusive.
I’m not talking about aspirational resolutions like running a marathon or climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest every week. I’m thinking along the lines of 'real life' improvements that if, at the end of 2021, you have achieved what you write down you would be proud and happy at your achievements.
For myself, instead of setting the big goals and resolutions, I strive to set smaller, more achievable resolutions.
Small positive changes, carried out over time, have proven far more successful in regaining control of your health and your life, whether on dialysis or with a transplant.
Below are some of my suggestions and advice. Use them to get you thinking, both short term and long term, about your life, your health and your future.
- Firstly, one of your resolutions should be to better understand kidney disease and the issues surrounding it. Learn about the challenges and “pain points” of the disease so you will be better equipped to deal with them should they arise in your life. Listen to fellow patients on a similar journey, become a member of a patient organisation and learn from people you can trust. Finally your healthcare team genuinely want the best for you so ask them questions.
- The definition of a resolution is not just to give up something. It can also mean to start something new! So stop looking to see what you can give up (if you have CKD, you're already giving up plenty) and think in terms of what you can start? What new habit can you begin, what pastime, either social or sporty, can you look to begin? What about cooking a new healthy recipe every week or becoming a plant owner? What online course can you look to for help and inspiration? (For an example visit https://darrencawley.com/academy/from-victimhood-to-resilience/)
- Seek out positive role models. This can be a difficult resolution, however, removing the people that cause you stress and replacing them with role models more aligned with your health and wellbeing can be a powerful and positive change to your life. Don't compare yourself to those you look up to, learn from their positive example.
- Always a worthy goal is to become more organised. With CKD you often have many balls in the air, so to say. Greater structure to your life helps, especially forward planning in terms of medical appointments, meal planning and even batch cooking is useful for when tiredness hits. The simple act of preparing and organising medications in advance helps save time and keep you on track.
- A less concrete resolution but certainly something worth thinking on is the idea of 'Changing your personal story'. When diagnosed with kidney disease you often feel like a victim. It’s an understandable emotion. Nobody asks for such a disease. However after many years living with kidney failure I can look back and see the many gifts I have received through having the disease. Resilience probably being top of the list. Living many years on dialysis, getting and losing a transplant and of course the dreaded duo of ‘drugs & diet’ have certainly been challenging. But, I'm still here and I’ve never been happier. I’m looking to the future with purpose and excitement. The journey you take with kidney disease will be full of pot-holes but you will become a strong, resilient person, capable of taking on any challenge life throws at you. Start to see yourself and your journey in this light and the year ahead will be brighter.
- Have you tried using a journal or diary? These have become very popular activities, and rightly so. Keeping track of your life is important. With CKD you need to keep an eye, not just on your physical health, but your mental and emotional health too. This can form a terrific habit for health and wellbeing. Including daily gratitude (a daily list of 3 things you are grateful for) is great for enforcing a positive mindset, and a to-do list can keep you on track to follow through on your goals and resolutions. P.S. Keep a list of questions for your healthcare team here also, so you wont forget anything at your next appointment!
- Are you sleeping enough? One of my resolutions last year was to look more closely at my sleep. I currently have a transplant and I also have 2 small children. Through using a “smart watch” I discovered I was sleeping approximately 6 hours on average a night. This wasn't enough for me and was the reason I was experiencing tiredness. Children can be challenging but life back on dialysis, with children, would be even more challenging! Gaining this information, and understanding the importance of getting enough sleep, I began going to bed earlier and taking 20min naps during the day. Sometimes being aware of something can really help you deal with it.
- Set your work and career goals. Due to CKD you need to look to the future and think long and hard about your current career path. Is it suitable for the life you lead, and will lead, with this illness? Be open-minded. It Is important to begin thinking in terms of "working smart, not hard", because your body will be going through enough challenges.
Remember we all struggle, we all fail, and no-one is perfect. We are all looking to stay on the road to health, happiness and success in life. Use your resolutions to help you make little changes that will bring you further along that road. Your goals and resolutions are signposts to create the life you want and the person you wish to become.
My suggestions are merely to be thought provoking and I hope they get you thinking about how small positive changes can lead to bigger and better things
No matter what, don't compare yourself to others. Be the leading character in your own 'movie'.
Finally, I genuinely would love to hear about your resolutions and goals for 2021 especially if, like me, you have kidney disease.
Let's strive to make 2021 our year!