This Year, I’m Learning to Slow Down and Set Realistic Goals

Our worth isn't measured by how hard we push ourselves

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on universal, conscious, and subconscious levels. However, those of us with chronic and rare diseases like pulmonary hypertension (PH) often push our bodies too hard. That’s why this year, I’m setting a goal to be more realistic.

Almost 18 years after my PH diagnosis, I’m still guilty of pushing my frail body overboard. Unfortunately, it gets to a point where my body says, “Jen, you can’t keep doing this.” Although if you ask Manny, my husband of 30 years, he might disagree. I am learning to listen more often.

What holiday?

My alarm was buzzing on the Tuesday morning after Christmas. I jumped up startled as I glanced at the clock with my eyes half-open. It was almost 8 a.m. and I was going to be late for work. Then, I remembered it was the holiday break. To be certain, I checked our company’s messaging platform.

Despite being on vacation, I continued to roll out of bed and do my usual morning routine. Later in the day, I checked my Mac for various tasks and emails. What part of the word “vacation” did I not understand? It seems I can’t “just relax” for long periods — unless my body fights against me, that is.

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Learning to do less

Many of us are taught that our value is tied to our production. But we simply can’t keep that pace up. That’s why this year, I aim to do less. Yep, you heard me — less, not more!

Don’t get me wrong, I plan to work on ways I can improve without torturing the body that continues to get me through my daily PH struggles. I know it will be challenging, but my body is worth it.

Doing what makes us feel good

When my aim is to enjoy more rides on my Aventon e-bike, I should expect that I won’t be able to ride on some days, and that’s OK. We must allow ourselves grace.

Chilling on the couch, wearing oxygen, and recharging is sometimes necessary. Our bodies will thank us when we aren’t pushing them beyond their ability. Catch up on those Netflix binges you’ve been looking forward to, or perhaps a comedy that makes you laugh.

Our pain tolerance is different

Chest pains, palpitations, and shortness of breath are common PH symptoms. I know, for example, that I can tolerate a pain level of six or under, but when it creeps up, I give in and take my medications for chronic pain. Each of us is different, so we must learn about our bodies and their so-called norms, or baselines.

My pain specialist and my husband both struggle with me because sometimes I don’t want to take my pain medications because I think I can’t be productive. But I vow to rest and allow the medications to provide some relief. Then I can recharge and do less while enjoying our special moments together.

Setting simple, realistic goals

These simple goals may seem minor to some, but they are realistic. They are things I know I must work on so that my body will continue to be the PHighting machine it’s been for the past 18 years. When we set more realistic goals for our bodies, we don’t set ourselves up for failure.

While learning to do less and be still, we start seeing the bigger picture. It allows us to grow in ways we never knew were possible.

During this new year, may you learn that less is more and find the confidence to let go when you need to. May you also discover acceptance of things that are out of your control, the gratitude that opens your heart, and the strength and resilience to help you meet the daily challenges of PH or other rare diseases.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Pamela Muell avatar

Pamela Muell

This hits home for me,I am always pushing myself because that was how I was raised.I was on two different pain medications and I talked to my pain management doctor about stopping one of them.I now take just the one.I am on four medications for depression and two for anxiety plus the heart,diuretic,diabetes,pulmonary and sleep.I have seven different doctors and I was recently diagnosed with CLL and HHT.My husband was hit with a very aggresive lymphoma last March,2022.He went through the treatments and was told he is in remission the first of September 2022.I was his only caregiver and that just about did me in,I feel so burned out and exhausted these days.I often wonder how much longer I can keep going like this.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Pamela, It sounds like you have pushed your body too much. Please know that you must take care of yourself before you can care for others, like your husband. I'm grateful to hear that he is now in remission. Maybe now he can help take care of you.

Do you have days where you rest and do nothing else? You have so much going on with your health conditions; no wonder you feel burned out and overwhelmed. Are there any local groups that can offer free seniors services like light housekeeping and cooking for you and your husband? Do you have friends and family close for support? I'm concerned that you are pushing your body too hard. I agree that as a woman taught to work hard and keep going, I struggle to take rest periods and slow things down.

We would love to have you join the PH News forums. I am one of the moderators there. Here is a link, and you can create an account quickly and participate in the conversation. Our members are patients and caregivers alike who struggle at times with burnout. Here's the link below.

PH News Forums

Thanks for taking the time to read my column n and share your experiences. I look forward to chatting with you some more. Take care, my PHriend.

All the best,


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