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How to stay motivated with a chronic condition

We all have good and bad days, and it’s hard to stay motivated on the bad ones. It’s even harder when you have a chronic condition. 

stay motivated with a chronic condition

Part of the reason is because it’s chronic –  you can’t just ‘take a break’ when you’ve had enough. This makes staying motivated so much more important, especially when it comes to your health. It also makes it much harder.

Here are some tips for how to stay motivated with a chronic condition on the good days, and the bad.

Reward yourself

Motivation looks different for different people. Whether a reward looks like going for a run or taking a long bath, make time to treat yourself. It can be especially hard to feel motivated when you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy – and wouldn’t choose. Like injecting yourself five times a day, for example. 

Instead of focusing on the negative, try and add a fun spin to your diabetes management tasks. If you have a doctor’s appointment, meet up with a friend at your favourite restaurant afterwards and order a delicious meal. Pair your HbA1c test with a walk on the beach, or a new magazine. Instead of looking at each injection as a painful needle, say a little ‘thank you’ that you have access to life-saving insulin.

While you can’t take a break from your chronic condition, you can distract yourself, if only for a little while. 

Set smaller goals 

Having a chronic condition and maintaining your health is a marathon, not a sprint. The long-term nature of health goals can seem intimidating. If you find yourself feeling that way, break your big goals into smaller ones and take them one by one.  

These goals can be as big – or as small – as you want them to be, the only prerequisite is that they’re tangible. Don’t try to lower your HbA1c by 3% in 3 months. Aim for half a percent at a time, and celebrate each goal. We keep saying it, because it helps – set SMART goals!

Take one day at a time

You’re doing the best you can. Remember that blood glucose readings aren’t value judgements, they are data points to guide you in your diabetes management. Unexpected high or low readings don’t define you and don’t mean you’ve failed.

Tomorrow is another day and you can try again. That’s the beauty of living with diabetes – you can try again every single day.

Try to find one thing you’ve done well for your diabetes management each day. Even if you can only find one thing, and even if it’s small, focusing on the positives will help you see that you are actually doing your best.

Record your successes

It can be helpful to track your goals and record your successes. The goals you track can be personal or health-related. Include things like being a good parent, making time to catch up with a friend, exercising every day or making diabetes a priority.

We often overlook our accomplishments (big or small) and only focus on our shortcomings (big and small). On days when you’re experiencing a dip, you can refer back to this list and be motivated by the things you’ve already accomplished. 

how to stay motivated with a chronic condition

Reach out and ask for help

Lastly,  surround yourself with supportive family and friends that respect and understand your condition. Make sure you’re one of those people as well – how do you speak to yourself? It’s a challenge to be kind to yourself when you’re not feeling your best, but this is often the time you need it the most. Don’t let diabetes be a barrier to self-love.

We’re all more motivated to do the things we enjoy – and the things that give us immediate gratification. Unfortunately, diabetes goals don’t always work that way. But if you repeat the same small good habits every day, imagine where you could be a year from now?

Photo by Road Trip with Raj and Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

What to read next?

SMART goals: what they are and why you need them: By defining your goals using SMART, you can break down exactly what you’d like to accomplish, when you’d like to accomplish it and how you plan on doing it. 

The Type 1 diabetes toolkit: what you need to carry at all times.

Exercise, a little every day: your guide to exactly how to exercise with diabetes
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  1. […] How to stay motivated with a chronic condition: We all have good and bad days, and it’s hard to stay motivated on the bad ones. It’s even harder when you have a chronic condition. Here are some tips for how to stay motivated with a chronic condition on the good days, and the bad. […]

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.