Suffering with new symptoms, with worsening symptoms, a diagnosis, new treatment, struggling through the day….it can all get overwhelming…fear, helplessness, despair…strong words but unfortunately the decline of our health can hit us really hard. In order to cope, get by and move forward, some introspection on how you are going to respond and react to what comes up and how to deal with these feelings is really important in order to stay afloat. Using some of the following strategies will give a good foundation to enable sufferers to maximise quality of day to day life.
1. Get knowledgeable. It’s vital to not just rely on what your doctor has to say. Do your own research – online, books, seek out other practitioners. Learn what’s really going on with your body, how it functions and all about your condition. Learn what the medication does. Get to know exactly what supplements you should be taking and why. Get to know what you shouldn’t be doing. Remember that knowledge is power but it must be the right knowledge! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with too much information, try to build some awareness of focussing on what’s important.
2. Accept “failure.” Know and accept that you will have bad days, or weeks. Avoid any desire for perfection in how you manage your condition. Accept that even though you are aiming to overcome and that you may find relief and make progress, sometimes there will be a blip. Accept that you will drop into fear or worry every now and again, ensure you’ve got a strategy to lift yourself out. Suffering with a chronic condition brings unexpected trials that can take a lot to deal with, it’s ok to not be perfect.
3. Know your reason why. Why do you need to be strong, to manage this, to be your best, to be as healthy as you can be? Why MUST you do this? Figure out some reason and purpose and it will drive you to do what’s important each day. Maybe its your children, family, partner. Maybe it’s to do your job. Maybe it’s your desires for your future. Tap into whatever means something to you. Once you are doing that you will be motivated to take the regular daily actions that will make life with your condition better.
4. Decide to be in control. Become your own manager. Be aware that you need to become adaptable and flexible, that you are now a problem solver. Decide to take on a new level of day to day life management that you may not of required before you developed a chronic condition. Pay attention to scheduling. Take whatever steps you need to in order to manage your daily life in terms of following your treatment plan and staying on track. Know your capabilities and limitations and schedule a routine of tasks, activities and suitable rest.
5. Manage your mood. Your mental and emotional state directs your approach, your outlook, your response to what the day is bringing, so make it work for you, maximise your capabilities and your potential. This is affected through what you’re doing physically, how you move, how you breathe, your posture etc. And it is affected by what you are doing mentally, what you are focussing on, your self talk, the questions you are unconsciously asking yourself all the time that determine how you respond to any situation.
6. Seek specialist help. If it’s something that you feel inclined to try, it could be valuable to make use of a specialist in some field of therapeutic service. Hypnotherapy, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), acupuncture, aromatherapy. The list could go on and on. It could be something that actively engages your unconscious mind to influence how your mind works or it could be just something relaxing and de-stressing that really makes a positive impact on how you cope with your condition.
7. Get spiritual. Engaging in some sort of regular spiritual practice or having some type of spiritual belief can help us to stay on an even keel when coping with illness and encourage healing. It could be religious, it could be meditation, it could be personal reflection, it could be time spent in nature, it could be reading spiritual texts, whatever is right for the individual. Daily spiritual practice can increase gratitude, optimism, positivity, clarity and compassion. It can be uplifting and generate meaning and purpose.
8. Pick your self care habits. Know what works for you in making your condition manageable and make sure you’re doing that each day. Consider the 80-20 principle, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So 20% of all the things you are doing to try to manage your condition, maximise your health, get through your days etc. are producing 80% of the positive results. Maybe it’s your supplements, preparing nourishing food, relaxation time, exercises, a daily walk, some sort of therapeutic practice etc. Whatever makes the difference to you, dial in on the most important habits for your self care and make them the most important achievements of your day. If you have a bad day you can then take heart from knowing you’ve done the most important thing. As a side note it is worth mentioning that there may be something important that will tank your health and well being that you really must avoid each day too.
9. Practice some form of self help. Maybe you already have something that works for you, if not try exploring some of the methods and practices of self improvement that enable us to cope better or empower ourselves. It could be some type of visualisation techniques or mindfullness practice. There are treatments that work on our psychology in the form of self administered therapeutic healing tools that assist us with clearing limiting beliefs and letting go of damaging feelings and emotions such as Emotional Freedom Techniques and the Sedona Method.
10. Choose your people. Know who is important to how you are doing and feeling. Turn to those you trust. Know who you need to avoid. Spend time with those who lift you up, not drag you down. Focus on relationships that empower you, let go of relationships that stress you. Be clear in letting people know what you need and don’t need from them, develop assertiveness if necessary. Join a suitable support group if you like. Make connections with the right people.
I hope there’s something in these strategy ideas that will be of interest and use to you in taking control of your health and healing. Adopting some of these approaches is an important part of the overall health management process for sufferers of chronic illness. Maintaining quality of life and some level of vitality is possible, but it requires looking beyond just diagnosis and treatment, to a wider, bigger picture view.