Defining objectives is important for everyone as they seek to achieve certain goals in their personal or professional lives. For people with MS who have experienced a relapse (a “flare-up” or “attack”), setting goals is especially important. Setting goals after a relapse is the key to taking those incremental steps than can lead back to better health and a more active life.
As you are taking steps to recover from an MS relapse, you are more likely to be successful in achieving your objectives if you set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself. Often it is helpful to first set long-term goals, but then break them into short-term goals that are easier to achieve, so that you can start seeing results sooner. The concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals, which was first introduced in 1981 and later expanded on, can be helpful in defining and achieving specific goals for yourself as you continue to recover from your relapse.
Example: “Return to work part-time (3 days per week).”
Example: Have a journal in which you keep track of how many times you participated in the activity you’ve chosen as a goal in a specific time frame.
Example: If the goals you set are too far out of your reach, you may get discouraged early and give up on your plan.
Example: If you had to take time off from work during your relapse, gradually returning to work would be a relevant goal.
Example: “Return to work part-time (3 days per week) in 6 months.” To achieve this goal, consider starting small, and working towards that goal little by little. If your employer is flexible, you could work 1 day per week for the first month. Then, increase that time incrementally.
At the outset, it is important to pinpoint any obstacles that may prevent you from achieving your goal. For example, you may experience fatigue on some days, and you may not be able to do the task that you set out to do.
Identify some adjustments you can make in order to compensate for or overcome these obstacles and still attain your goals. For example, if you experience fatigue, reschedule or reduce the frequency of any planned physical activity until your fatigue lessens, or make arrangements for a companion to support you.