Adapting to Limitations: A New Year’s Resolution for Rare Disease Patients

December 11, 2016

by Joan Friedlander

When people first hire me to coach them, before we do anything, we establish intended outcomes for our working relationship. It’s important to the coaching dynamic, and it gives us a reference point for the coaching engagement. Typically, I work with clients to establish twelve month plans that include both business and personal objectives. When someone is severely ill however, and work isn’t part of the current equation, the entire focus is on restoring their self-esteem, and creating practical plans for improving physical strength and emotional stability. This way we develop a set of foundational practices that can continue to support them when they’re ready to go back to work.

Since this is the time of year when people take stock, I wanted to share with you the “Wellness Plan” one client created when she was out on long-term disability. Her sole focus was the restoration of her physical and emotional health. She resolved to be an increasingly active participant in her life.

To start, she created three high-end objectives and then identified specific parameters to further define those objectives, as follows:

Objective 1: Become The Healthiest Person I Can Be

  • Take good care of myself. Stay mindful about what I need to kindly say or do, and about how I can best help myself.
  • Never give up. Stay informed about my illness; pursue respectful professional treatment, and new and alternative therapies.
  • Learn what works. Experiment with exercise, diet and medical treatments. Remember, this is a process.

Objective 2: Develop Realistic Expectations About Each Aspect Of My Life, Especially With Regard To My Interactions With Other People

  • Respect where I am now. Live authentically and without judgment, especially regarding myself.
  • Expand my capacity for relating with others. Recognize that social interactions use a lot of my resources. Look for ways to engage with people who respect my energetic limitations. (This is so important!)
  • Budget my resources. Stay attuned to my energy vs. my overhead (which she identified as “required recuperation”). Understand my strengths and how I can best use them. What is a healthy use of my energy? What drains my energy?

Objective 3: Life A Life I Love

  • Live in the present moment. Avoid comparisons, forgive and don’t hold grudges. Show affection and appreciation when moved to.
  • Do things I love doing. Focus on activities that are interesting to my mind and relaxing to my body.
  • Step out of my comfort zone. Strike forward-reaching balances between independence/dependence, risk/safety, and success/failure.
  • Find a way to share my gifts, on small and large scales. Start by living well with my illness.

She then developed an activity plan that would support her intentions. For example, for her first objective, “Become the healthiest person I can be,” she identified the following actions:

  • Engage in mild exercise 4 times a week and spend time outdoors each day
  • Plan my diet strategically
  • Follow-up with Dr. X, (a specialist she had been avoiding)

From there we created her “Visual Workflow Planner” to schedule the regularly recurring activities, anchoring them in time and space until they became second nature.

If you are inspired by my client’s approach and want to create your own “Wellness Recovery Plan” I encourage you to identify three objectives and only look out three months into the future (instead of a full twelve months). This is a good time-frame within which to establish new habits, and to evaluate your results so that you can either continue on or modify your plan. In the words of my client, please do remember, “This is a process!”

If you were to create such a plan for yourself, what might your three high-end objectives be? Comment and share so we can learn and grow with each other.


Joan Friedlander is the author of Business from Bed: the 6-Step Comeback Plan to Get Yourself Working again after a Health Crisis. Joan is an expert in working and living with a chronic illness. Through writing and coaching, she guides those who are required to reassess their direction in life – and business – in the wake of a health setback. For more tips from Joan, and to subscribe to her newsletter, Capacity Matters, visit

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