In the midst of preparing for the second and third Joint Decisions programs, I am struck again by the sheer volume of information and research, and the number of decisions that have to be made when managing RA and other chronic illnesses.
The second Joint decisions conversation with Dr. Callis and Matt Iseman focused on treatment options, and the science behind the most common medications. It was wonderfully informative, but at the end of the day, these decisions are made between the patient and the physician – and often the patient has to make the choices. And this happens at a time when you are tired, in pain, overwhelmed, and probably fed up with the whole process. What the chat pointed to are the array of options – and the trial and error that often goes with getting the treatment “just right.”
The next conversation will also hold an incredible amount of information about insurance coverage – another huge area for research and choices.
I want to take a moment to remember a few things with you about how to handle information overload.
Take your time.
There is no need to rush through and feel this has to be figured out this minute. Break your research time into small chunks. Do it when you are most rested – and don’t get lost in it. Take a breath.
Get some outside help.
This is not the time to feel you have to learn everything you need to know by yourself. Ask a friend to listen to you sort through options. Get a tech savvy relative to do some digging. Pay a college kid to amass research if you need a lot of background. Ask the office administrator or the nurse at the doctor’s office for background or places to get information you need. Don’t do this all by yourself.
So, while you are taking your time, and doing your research, there is an impulse to put off a decision or to wait a while longer. Some people don’t want to do research or make choices because they feel so overwhelmed. They freeze and let everything pile up. This makes it worse. Give yourself small and realistic deadlines – and then you know it will be done.
Decision Fatigue is real.
Don’t decide everything at once. Studies show that having to make a lot of decisions burns through your energy, and the more you make in one period of time, the less effective the decision. So, find a time during the day that is best for you, and only make one or two. Then give yourself a rest.
Be compassionate with yourself.
This is the most important piece I want to emphasize. There is so much technical and personal stuff you never wanted to learn or deal with. It is a job to deal with chronic illness, when you have other jobs that you actually chose and want to do.
It’s not easy, or fun to deal with types of medications, costs, side effects, ways to administer, and then finding that you have to tweak and re-tweak what you are doing. It is mind numbing to wade through insurance information and decide what type of plan, and follow through on claims, and re-file when things are rejected. Another full time job.
So begin from a place of compassion. Side with yourself like you would with a best friend. Allow a time for whining or being sad or mad before you get on with it. Because you do get on with the work. But it’s ok to allow a space to resent and resist.
Give yourself time and space to breathe in compassion, and breathe out anger and pain and sadness. Breathe in again, and feel yourself giving yourself a pat on the back for handling so much, a blessing for your fortitude and grit.
You are already handling it. You are amazing.