When living with a chronic illness, such as lupus, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer, everyday life can get overwhelming. Constant pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and limited mobility are just a few of the many effects a chronic illness can create.
While the toll on your emotional wellness can be harsh, there are several things you can do for you to help you cope with the experience. We encourage our clients/patients to consider giving themselves these three gifts:
Gift #1: Give yourself the opportunity to receive support.
Oftentimes, it can be difficult to ask for help and seek support, and the result is isolation and loneliness. Seeking out support can help us connect to others, feel supported and understood, and also receive helpful tips.
Many hospitals and organizations offer diagnosis-specific support groups. There are also many opportunities on the Internet through specific websites and social media that can provide a safe place to connect and discuss the many facets of living with chronic illness.
Gift #2: Remember to breathe.
It is our natural response to pain and stress to hold tension in our bodies. When we hold tension, we tend to take small, shallow breaths, which does not allow for our bodies to relax. Taking several deep breaths, and learning a few effective breathing exercises, can physically calm the body, while also stimulating a reaction in the brain that also assists in relaxing our minds. Deep breathing exercises can also help reduce stress and pain.
Gift #3: Take control of what you can.
When coping with chronic illness, it is easy to fall into feeling helpless and victimized. Acknowledging the things you can do versus the things you cannot, can remind you that in reality, you still have some level of control over how you experience life.
Therapy can be a great option to help discover your strengths as well as assist in developing a mindset where you feel powerful and positive, despite your diagnosis. The more control you feel, the less power the illness has on your mental and physical self. And, remember, there are many different types of therapies and therapists that can align with your specific wants and needs.
It is important to remember that at a time when you may feel lost, frustrated and alone, you are one of your best resources, and you are worth fighting for.