How Simple Goal-Setting Helped One of Our Community Members On Her Mental Health Journey

Goal-setting can be an incredibly effective tool for anyone looking to chart a path forward, create more joy in their lives, and accomplish their desires. 


And this tool can be even more crucial for those dealing with severe mental illnesses. Not only is goal-setting a means of organization and structure, but it can also make celebrations of victories even more attainable!


This month, we’re diving into how goal-setting has helped one of our community members, Dianne, who has been with us for eight years. (She just celebrated her 8-year anniversary this month!).  

Like many people with severe mental illness, Dianne has had more than one diagnosis — both Bipolar Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder with anxiety. And like so many others with SMI, her diagnosis does not define her. Instead, Dianne is focused on living a life filled with joy and connection. Goal-setting has been an important tool for sparking that joy. 


To give some background, during our intake process at Help in the Home, we discuss a person’s strengths and struggles. By doing this, we gain an understanding of what life would look like when the symptoms of their illness have less power. This becomes the basis for setting long-term goals, like traveling, joining a choir, or having friends over for a dinner party. 


Then, we break down what needs to happen on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to realize these long-term goals. This usually starts with establishing effective relationships with treatment providers, decreasing crisis, and increasing follow-through with treatment recommendations. It also means developing positive daily habits around sleep, nutrition, exercise, and time with others. 


Once a person’s customized goals are set, we review progress on a regular basis. Depending on the person and situation, this review may be weekly or monthly. 


To give you an inside look into this process, we asked Dianne herself a few questions around goal-setting, and how it has helped her in her mental health journey: 


What are some goals you’ve set for yourself? 


Some goals that I’ve achieved: 


  • To get out of bed in the morning between 6 and 7 a.m. daily without an aide
  • To reduce the hours of extra paid support I receive, by being more independent, through coping strategies and support from my friends at church and in the choir
  • I worked at Upscale Resale, Housing Unlimited, and other volunteer services


One major accomplishment I had in 2019 was to start using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) instead of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to manage my symptoms of depression. Over the past few years, my symptoms have been managed to the point that I’ve been able to enjoy traveling! Help in the Home helped me make concrete plans to manage my anxiety before and during the trips. In 2017, I went to a wedding in Connecticut, and flew to Montana to visit my son. In 2018, I attended my son’s wedding outside of Philadelphia. In 2019, I flew to California for a family reunion AND enjoyed a 5-day cruise with my partner! I also made three other trips last year to visit my son in Pennsylvania — twice by train and once by bus. 


I’m also now able to pay all of my bills and manage my appointments, using four different sources of transportation. 


Some goals I have for 2020: 


  • To be more independent
  • To do more yoga (it really calms me)
  • To learn the bus system inside and out
  • Resume volunteering when my schedule allows


What does “success” mean to you? 


Success for me means being more independent. There are times when I do not feel like a success, and I am really hard on myself. Before one of my last trips, I spent a weekend in bed — but I overcame this by talking with my sister, my son, and the staff at Help in the Home. Through those conversations and through prayer, I strengthened my determination to get better. That determination helps me do things I don’t want to do, and create even more success. 


How does HITH help you with both goal-setting, and with reaching those goals?


It’s nice to have the community: My housemate and I understand each other, and when she shares her issues with me, it helps me be more compassionate. I love walking with Eric and getting kisses on the top of the head from Joe. The staff are very supportive and do anything you need. They cheer me on when I’m struggling, and it always helps me with my goals when I do what they say to do. 


Why is goal-setting so important for people dealing with SMI? 


I keep my goals in the back of my mind. They are simple and able to be accomplished, so I have something to celebrate. 🙂  I love giving myself gold stars.


Trust us — Dianne gets a lot of gold stars! We’re so proud of all her progress, and how willing she’s been to set goals and work towards them. Travel might have made her anxious before, but she’s a regular jet-setter now! 


And Dianne is just one example of all our community members who use goal-setting to make progress on their journeys, and to create more joy in their lives. We love using this tool, and its power is truly infinite. 

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