Coping with Chronic Illness

Uncategorized July 20, 2020 Viv C

A chronic illness diagnosis can cause many disruptions in life: independence, activity level, physical appearance, finances to name a few. The adjustment can be difficult and challenging in many ways, but there are powerful coping tools to provide help with the new journey.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition have symptoms of depression.” You are not alone and there are many resources and outlets available to help, including, but not limited to, some of the below suggestions.

Your loved ones want to help, so it can be productive to be open with how you’re feeling and what you need in the moment. Often times, those closest to you want to help but don’t know how. Open communication can decrease frustration and allow your loved ones to help you in the best way for you.

Accept and feel all of your emotions, even the “negative” ones. Check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling and why and then give yourself permission to sit with those feelings while you process. Be kind and patient with yourself, as there is no rule book or “right way” to cope.

An extremely powerful tool and outlet can be:

  • Counseling
  • Therapy
  • Support groups

Any of these avenues create safe spaces to share and explore how you’re feeling while navigating your chronic illness and creating healthy coping mechanisms. If you’re interested in counseling, Psychology Today can help you find qualified, licensed psychotherapists and mental health counselors.

 

Exercises & Practices

In general, life can feel overwhelming. To add coping with a chronic illness on top of all of other’s life stressors can feel heavy. Adopting some practices throughout the day to slow things down, gain perspective, and prioritize can be helpful.

Meditating is a powerful tool to become more attentive to the present, while becoming mentally clear and emotionally calm. Harvard University discusses the physiological benefits of meditation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (helps us recover from stress) and quieting the sympathetic nervous system (prepares body to react to stress).

Another tool to cope with chronic illness is to increase physical activity, as permitted. Healthline confirms the release of endorphins or “feel good hormones” after exercise. While dependent on how you feel physically from your chronic illness, even low impact exercises, such as walking or stretching, can make a difference.

Journaling can be another outlet to helping cope with chronic illness. Journaling is a safe space to step back and evaluate your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. According to Psychology Today, journaling facilitates exploring solutions, converts negative energy into positivity and growth, lowers your emotional reactivity to others, helps see other people’s perspective, and makes you feel more humane.

Lastly, a renowned researcher, Dr. Brené Brown says that practicing gratitude makes us “more willing to slow down and really be thankful for the joyful moments.” She goes on to share that people who are the most resilient and “have the capacity to lean fully into joy have one variable in common: they practice gratitude”.

The above are merely suggestions to trial and see what works best for you. Everyone is is different and there is no one-size-fits-all to coping with chronic illness. Be true and kind to yourself and honor whatever it is that you need.