Having a chronic illness is an extra burden to bear, but you can still thrive and flourish with a fulfilled and abundant life.
The vast majority of us experience a minor illness every now and then, but when you’re living with a chronic illness, it may become hard to keep your spirits up. You might encounter difficulties doing the things you once found satisfying and enjoyable, and it may even be a chore just getting up in the morning.
The diagnosis of a chronic illness can be an isolating time. This is because the symptoms are often invisible or not apparent to others, and treatment can be long-term or even lifelong. However, it is possible to thrive with chronic illness through the use of community, self-care, and good coping skills.
Do you feel like your days are filled with worry and pain?
Are you struggling to keep life as normal as possible for yourself and those around you?
Are you thinking that the only way to get a break from this chronic illness is to take a break from life?
If so, then it’s time for a change.
With chronic illnesses, pain and fatigue are common but that doesn’t make them any less tough to manage. Being mindful and present can help but sometimes it is hard to know where to start or how to add that into your routine.
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How to Thrive With Chronic Illness
We all want to be accepted and loved for who we are, but when we develop a chronic illness, it is hard to maintain our identity. It is not often easy to be patient with ourselves. When people ask us how we are doing, most of the time they don’t want to hear that we’re struggling or that we’re not feeling well. We need to tell them that too though because if they don’t know, how can they help?
It takes a lot of strength and courage to stay positive in the face of tough times. For those people who have no experience with long-term sickness, it can be difficult for them to understand what’s happening inside your body – all the pain, fatigue, and frustration you feel every day.
1. Locate Your Triggers
When looking for a place to begin, start by finding what triggers your pain. Coming up with an action plan to keep you ahead of your symptoms should be your biggest focus when battling an ailment.
Chronic illness flareups can be triggered by a variety of factors, though stress is one of the most common triggers. It has been found that stress can have an effect on immunity, inflammation, and the gut. Additionally, high levels of chronic stress are linked to physical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Heat, over-exertion, weather changes, and certain types of food are other common triggers.
The first step is to identify what triggers your symptoms, then you can devise ways to avoid it in the future. I recommend keeping a Chronic Pain Tracker. By following your symptoms, you’ll notice trigger patterns and learn what to avoid. This info will also be valuable to share with your health care provider to discuss the best way to treat your chronic pain symptoms.
2. Connect With Others
Another thing you can do once you have identified some triggers is to search online with your findings and see if others have recommendations for you. You’ll discover you aren’t the only one dealing with these issues.
You will find different support groups discussing your specific chronic illness on social media. Facebook has many searchable support groups on just about any topic. Twitter and Instagram may also be helpful. By connecting with a virtual support group, you are able to learn from the experience of your group members, not to mention these groups give you the anonymity to ask questions that you may have a difficult time discussing face to face.
You will benefit greatly by being part of a huge support system that is always there to help. Before you know it, you may even be the one sharing your knowledge and experience with newcomers.
3. Keep Moving
Exercise has been proven to provide a wide range of health benefits for those with chronic conditions. It can improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. And low-impact exercise is a great option for reducing and controlling pain levels. You don’t have to be a marathon runner or weightlifter to benefit from exercise. Start with something as simple as walking and build from there.
So many low-impact exercises can be performed right in the comfort of your own home, such as practicing yoga, stretching, or light Pilates routines. Give it a try by pressing play on the video below.
Meditation is a technique and practice that can be used to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve concentration. It has also been shown to reduce pain and encourage healing, therefore helping sufferers of chronic pain and discomfort.
When you become mindful, you’ll be paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This practice has been shown to decrease repetitive thinking and reactivity and also improves emotional flexibility and acceptance of unpleasant sensations.
There are different forms of meditation, and it does involve a bit of discipline. If you are interested in learning more about the practice and how it may benefit you, I highly recommend How To Meditate for Beginners.
5. Get Quality Sleep
We’ve all been told how important sleep is for us, but sometimes chronic illnesses can make it difficult to get the rest you need. In order to give your body the rest it deserves, make certain bedtime feels as comfortable as possible. You can do this by surrounding yourself with calming colors, decorations, or anything else that relaxes you.
If you struggle to get a good night’s rest, see my post Improve Midlife Sleep, where you’ll find 9 easy to follow ways to fall asleep that really work.
6. Be Candid
If you are employed, speak with your boss openly. Let him/her know what you are dealing with. It is important to be upfront, at least with the HR department, before your symptoms worsen. By disclosing your condition, it may be easier to avoid certain tasks that would cause over-exertion. They may have suggestions for a routine or schedule that will better suit your needs. If there are accommodations that may make things easier for you, take advantage of them.
7. Seek Assistance
Therapy is a crucial and important part of being able to deal with chronic illness. It is the only way to have a conversation about how you feel, what you are struggling with, and what you need. And it’s not just for the newly diagnosed either. Counseling can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression in a safe setting where they provide comfort and understanding. Other benefits include an increase in self-confidence, decreased feelings of anger or irritability, and an improved sense of self-control or empowerment.
You can now receive therapy from a licensed professional without ever leaving your home, making it extremely convenient for chronic illness sufferers. Learn more about how to get started with online therapy here.
There’s no denying that living with chronic illness can be overwhelming. How you choose to react to your diagnosis and symptoms makes a big difference. Choose to thrive by learning more about your diagnosis and trying different self-management options for your condition. This will help prepare you for any challenges that lay ahead and teach you how to communicate more effectively with your health care team as you journey through chronic illness together.
Resources to Help You Thrive Through Chronic Illness
Tracking your pain symptoms is a powerful tool for chronic illness. It helps you to take control of your discomfort by showing you patterns and triggers, which aid in making informed choices about treatments.
Be your best self and understand how to navigate the muddy waters of chronic complex illness. Ilana Jacqueline writes about living and managing life with the extra burden of illness, providing helpful tips and discussion points. It’s a real, honest, and peppered with humor look at chronic illness.