Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mission 2011: Mary Poppins and the Symptom Log

Screenshot of Julie Andrews from the trailer f...Image via Wikipedia
About half-way through the month of January, I had a "light bulb" moment. I realized that I overlooked a topic that would have been the logical start for my Mission 2011. In hindsight, I probably should have kicked things off by charting my symptoms and assessing my baseline, then tracking what I am doing and the resulting improvement (or lack thereof) every day.

You know that little "UGH!" noise you are making right now, either out loud or in your head? Yeah, I am making it too. That gut reaction prevented me from seeing that the only way I am going to be able to detect a
1/2 to 1% improvement each month is by charting and tracking my symptoms.

Luckily this is just month two, so I can correct my oversight and choose to tackle this topic in February.

A Spoonful of Sugar

But before I dive into a pile of forms and papers, it's time to address my internal reluctance to wholly embrace this practice. After all, we can all agree that not wanting to do something makes it much harder to get that something done, even when we recognize it ultimately benefits us.

Time to cue Mary Poppins and let her remind us that, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Lucky for you, I have two spoonfuls of sugar to share.

1) See the Benefits

I think my friend Felicia Fibro makes this point for me brilliantly. In her post Fibro Feelings - Sunny Day, she talks about a recent bout of insomnia. She recognized that it was something new and different in her routine. Initially she couldn't quite figure out what was causing it, but then she looked at her symptom logs and discovered that she had experienced insomnia at the same time last year. With this new clue, she was able to recognize that anticipation of the annual party she and her Helpful Hubby throw at the beginning of February was causing her insomnia.

Armed with this knowledge, she decided to start planning earlier, writing down list of things to be done and then using a calendar to plan out the timing. With everything out of her head and on paper, she hoped knowing that everything was being taken care of would help her relax more and sleep better.

Felicia is a great example of a fibromyalgia scientist. In a practical application of the scientific method, she identified a problem, made some observations, analyzed her data and arrived at a conclusion that helped her improve her symptoms.

2) Reap the Rewards

O.K., so maybe calling yourself a scientist (or detective, or researcher) isn't going to motivate you or make this any easier...

So what will motivate you to do this? How about about some chocolate? Or some "me" time doing something you love but hardly ever do? How about promising yourself you'll set aside time to have fun every single day?

There is a reason that everyone from psychologists and teachers to animal trainers and parents swear by this; good old-fashioned positive reinforcement is a powerful tool to get you moving in the direction of doing something you would much rather not be doing. The bottom line is that treats motivate everyone. But here is a little secret: you need to break out the really good treats to get yourself to do the really unappealing things.

Focus on the Treats

So this week I am going to spend my time coming up with a list of rewards that will motivate me to start keeping a symptom log once again. I'm not going to even think about the logs themselves, I'm just going to dream about the treats. Well, that and I am going to tap into my inner Dana Scully and embrace how cool it is to solve mysteries using science.

Until next week, why don't you sing along with me:
A Spoonful of Sugar
Written by:
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman


In ev'ry job that must be done,

There is an element of fun.
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game...


And ev'ry task you undertake

Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see that...

A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

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Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed my post! I really do think writing down all the smaller party related things that were in my head helped me! Now that the party is over I've been adding more items to my party to-do list to help with next year's preparations. I would've never written many of these things down had I not found a connection with my insomnia. They just didn't see like big enough items to write down!.

Have fun with your "spoonfuls of sugar" and symptom tracking!

Lenka said...

I've been curious about some of the electronic symptom trackers, though they are probably not detailed enough (don't know- haven't tried them :)). I know there is one in the apple app store, and I'm sure that there are others online.

They would help keep the data and create graphs. I know the Apple one has different ratings, from happy faces to 1-10.

I'm curious again :). I might try one. Good luck!