Four Tips for Coping with a Chronic Illness

By Jodee Redmond from In The Cloud Copy

Living with a chronic disease is a very stressful situation. It affects a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Chronic illnesses often cause people living with them to feel a number of emotions including sadness, anger, anxiety, grief, and even guilt. These are challenging to deal with when combined with the physical symptoms of the disease itself.

No Way to Prepare for Long-term Sickness

A chronic illness is one that lasts for three months or more. They often interfere with the affected person’s independence and can limit their participation in daily activities.

This situation isn’t something that anyone can prepare for. You expect that if you get sick that you will be able to go to the doctor, get some type of treatment and recover from your illness within a reasonable amount of time. With a chronic illness, there is no foreseeable point where you will “get better.” In some instances, the best that your healthcare team can offer is to treat symptoms to lessen their impact on your daily life since no cure is available.

Tips for Coping with a Chronic Illness

Since a chronic illness can be so difficult to live with, it is important to develop some good coping skills. The following tips are designed to help you live well, in spite of having a chronic illness.

1. Change your Expectations for Yourself

It isn’t fair or realistic to compare your previous energy levels to your current ones. Too often, people living with a chronic condition feel as though they have to continue in a “business as usual” manner when those expectations are no longer realistic. It’s not easy to admit to ourselves that we need to change our expectations for ourselves, but it is a necessary part of accepting the disease.

2. Expect to Have Good and Bad Days

Many chronic illnesses can be unpredictable. Some days will be good ones, when you feel relatively well. It may be tempting to try to push yourself to do more when you are having a good day or even a few good days, to “take advantage” of them. Unfortunately, you may end up overextending yourself if you do this. The results can be exhaustion or a flare-up of symptoms (including increased pain).

On bad days, use comfort measures that will relieve your symptoms. Wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothing. Try to rest as much as you can. Use hot or cold compresses and arrange extra pillows on your bed as needed.

3. Remind Yourself that Many Factors are Out of Your Control

There are several factors at play when you have a chronic illness. You want to get better but due to the nature of your health condition, it simply isn’t possible. There isn’t any “magic” pill, diet or therapy that you can try that will change this fact. This is something that’s out of your control.

On the other hand, you do have control over whether you will take your medications as directed and if you will try to get some exercise and eat well. These are factors that you can control. They have a direct effect on how you feel and how well you deal with your chronic health issue.

4. Get Support from Family and Friends Who Understand

It may be difficult for many of your family members and friends to understand your condition. They may be waiting for you to ask for help or not really be sure exactly how to support you.

Do ask for help when you need it. Be specific about the kind of help that you need, whether it’s some assistance with grocery shopping, help to get to appointments, or simply someone to listen when you’re feeling low or frustrated. Taking this step will clarify the type of help you want from the people closest to you and make it more likely that you will get the support you need when you need it.

The four tips listed above are suggestions to help you cope with the reality of a chronic illness. They can make the difference between just getting through the days and living as well as possible in spite of your diagnosis.

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