If you are living with a chronic health condition, this one’s for you. It’s tough, I see you and I hear you. Your challenges are real and your feelings matter. It’s likely reassuring to know you are not alone because…
…in 2018, a national health survey indicated that just under half (47.3%) of Australians had one or more chronic health conditions. Chronic health conditions are complex. They range from minor to debilitating and from restrictive in nature to potentially life threatening.
Regardless of where your condition sits on the spectrum, there will be no doubt as to the impact it has on your mental health. With this in mind, below you will find 6 strategies to living well with a chronic health condition. These strategies will help you better cope both on a day to day basis and in a long term sense.
Be patient with yourself
Whether your chronic health condition is a new diagnosis or something you’ve lived with for years, it’s important to give yourself some grace, some permission. It takes time to learn and to adapt. It takes time to find what works and it takes time to accept what is. In many cases there is no definitive ‘start’ and ‘end’ date so remember you aren’t “behind” or “late” you’re travelling this journey at YOUR pace. Learning how to ride the emotional roller coaster of chronic health really does take patience. Yes, it will be easier on some days, we are only human. Patience is definitely a virtue no matter what you’re dealing with in life.
When it comes to living with a chronic health diagnosis, knowledge equals personal power. It almost goes without saying. If you are informed and as up to date with your knowledge as possible you are able to play a more active and assertive role in the determination of your treatment and management plans. This in turn allows you to feel more in control of your situation and empowered to tackle it head on.
Something that might help is to keep a diary of your journey where you can scribble down notes, findings, feedback and questions to ask in your next appointment. Never feel that doing this means you are “pushy” or “forceful”, this is an exercise in personal EMPOWERMENT. The more you ask the more you know… the more you know the more you can do. Remember, if you find the task of getting educated overwhelming or distressing, ask someone for help. Maybe you have a friend, parent or sibling who could take on this role for you?
Recognise that everyone has a bad day
This may seem difficult to begin with but it’s really important to try and maintain perspective. Life is made of up good and bad days, for us all, chronic health or no chronic health. Bad days just look different for different people. If things are getting you down try to focus on tomorrow being another day. Try to also remember that the hard days make you appreciate the good days even more.
Show yourself kindness, acknowledge that this is just bad day, do what you need to get through it and then look forward to tomorrow. If you’re having a particularly challenging day make sure you incorporate some fun or relaxation… something that will shift your focus and ease the emotional load just a little. Things to try are, well, whatever you enjoy doing… tv, music, calling a friend, journaling. Find your ‘thing’ and do it regularly! Never be afraid to reach out to someone if the bad days aren’t easing up.
Acknowledge your feelings as valid
If you’re angry, OWN IT. Sad, OWN IT. Overwhelmed, OWN IT.
When you identify, acknowledge and take ownership of your feelings you give them permission. You tell them they are ok and that they matter. Consider these feelings as messengers trying to tell you something. For most people (with or without a chronic health story) trouble starts when they try to suppress or completely deny these feelings. When your thoughts, words and actions don’t align you are vulnerable to imbalance which can trigger meltdowns. Instead, something that often helps is to talk to the feeling. Step outside of ‘you with a chronic health diagnosis’ and sit with YOU and you’ll likely find that the feelings start to carry less weight or pack less punch. Above all, it’s vital that you find healthy outlets for any health related anger or frustration.
Be selective with your use of language
For many people words like “victim”, “sufferer” or “struggling” are thrown around frequently. But the problem with language like this is that is can lead to feelings of hopelessness and, ultimately, complete emotional overwhelm. We may not realise it at first but these words are extremely disempowering and they often keep people stuck. They hold people back and trap them in a vortex of despair. Remember, your condition is only one part of your life. It is not you and you are not it. It is something you live with, it is not YOU. Choosing positive, empowering language wherever possible will inspire hope and provide comfort, particularly on the hard days.
Try not to lose hope
Whoever you are and whatever you’re living with please try not to lose hope. Hope is what keeps our fire burning. It gets us out of bed in the morning and sees us on our way… to whatever and wherever that is. Hope itself can single-handedly save lives.
When it comes to healthcare in modern day Australia we are extremely fortunate in many ways. Our system, whilst it is by no means perfect, is far more advanced than many others around the world. We are lucky to have some of the brightest academics constantly creating new and improved medications, medical aids, therapeutic tools and often even cures, for many conditions and diseases. Over the span of a lifetime anything can be achieved. Anything is possible. Lives CAN and ARE being changed for the better.
So there you have it, 6 ways to living well with a chronic health condition. I hope these tips help you or someone you love. Feel free to share this article using the links below and of course, remember to reach out if you feel lost or overwhelmed. It would be my pleasure to help you forward in your journey to better mental health. My services are available Australia wide. x
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!