Setting Goals With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Setting goals is easy— it's attaining them that's hard. When you have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it can seem impossible.

The specific challenges that make goals difficult for us include low energy, fatigue, and forgetfulness (brain fog). Some of us have symptoms all the time, which makes it hard to do anything, ever. Others of us have roller coaster symptoms, with brief periods of productivity followed by a crash and doing absolutely nothing. Throw a lifestyle change into the mix—it's not going to be easy.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. A goal can give your life new focus, and achieving a goal is good for you. You know that feeling of accomplishment? It comes from a burst of norepinephrine in your brain, and since we usually have sluggish activity of that neurotransmitter, it can actually be therapeutic.

Of course, when chronic illness already has you feeling lousy, you don't need failure to add to the pile of negative emotions. That's why it's especially important for us to pick realistic goals.

Here's how to approach goal-setting.

Woman writing in a notebook
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Choose a Small, Attainable Goal With a Short Time Frame

Problem Goal: I want to lose 80 pounds in the next year.

Why It's a Problem: Too big a goal for most people, and it allows you to procrastinate because you have a whole year.

Better Goal: I want to lose 5 pounds every month this year.

Build in Some Leeway

Reason: You may have times that are worse than what you're used to when you're not able to work toward your goals. We have to expect setbacks.

Even Better Goal: I want to lose an average of 5 pounds every month this year. So if you don't lose anything in March, for example, you know you have to work a little harder for a few months to get your average back on track.

Write Down Your Goal

Reason: Experts on goal setting say it's proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Especially if you're forgetful, it helps to post them where you'll see them frequently.

Re-Evaluate Now and Then

Reason: It may be that you've set too ambitious a goal for yourself, or that an unexpected event changes your goals or your ability to reach them. For example, if you're working hard on losing weight and then find out you're gluten intolerant, the demands of radically changing your diet and counting calories might be too much. Consider setting a new goal.

Identify Obstacles and Find Solutions

Reason: What's kept you from reaching this goal in the past? What problems can you foresee this time? How can you solve those problems? Coming up with solutions now can help you get past obstacles a lot more easily.

A Word From Verywell

When things aren't going well, the most important thing is to forgive yourself. You're human, and you're a human facing extraordinary challenges. Recognize that getting through the day is an accomplishment for you, and just do what you can.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chu L, Valencia IJ, Garvert DW, Montoya JG. Onset patterns and course of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndromeFront Pediatr. 2019;7:12. doi:10.3389/fped.2019.00012

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.