Today I wanted to talk about living with a chronic illness and give you 4 useful tips that can help. Before I dive straight into it, a quick stat! It is estimated that globally, approximately one in three of all adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions . So you are not alone!
Tip number 1
Don’t beat yourself up for not getting done the things you want to get done. How many times have you beat yourself up for not accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish and that leads you down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts such as: “I’m useless” “why can’t I get things done like this person or that person”, “I’m never going to achieve my goals”, “why am I even bothering”, “I’ve lost trust in myself”, “I am never going to change my life”.
Comparing and doubting
You are mindful of others who have no issues getting their stuff done and desperately crave their physical and mental energy. “Why can’t I be like them”? you might say to yourself.
You start doubting what you’re doing, or you begin questioning your abilities. Maybe you want to start or develop a business, or you want to climb the career ladder at work, or you’re worried that you’ll lose your job, or you’re trying to find work during these highly stressful and unstable times?
When your illness takes over you physically, it also affects you emotionally and this is when you can become extremely self-critical because you feel like you’re letting yourself down.
You are number one.
Well let me tell something right now. You are number one. You didn’t ask for this chronic illness, you didn’t intend to have a chronic illness, this illness happened to you.
You didn’t choose it. If you can’t get stuff done, you know what, it’s ok. There’s always tomorrow or the next day, or the next day after that.
And if not then, then the week after that. You can only do, what you can only do.
Tip number 2
There’s that great line isn’t there “ Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change“. I think when we talk about acceptance, I think we have to be clear about it’s definition.
Accepting the things we can’t change, this is not a case of being ecstatically happy about the things we can’t change, but it’s about finding peace with it.
Surrender doesn’t mean give up
It’s about surrendering to it and again when I say surrendering to it, that shouldn’t mean that we bow down to it, or we let it defeat us, but that we accept the limitations that we have in our lives.
Most of us have limitations in our lives. You know on the surface, the word limitations can be perceived as negative, but it is my belief that acknowledging that we do have limitations in life can be deemed in a positive light and that you focus on your strengths and your achievements, whilst being mindful of what you can do and what you can’t do.
And I think this is so prevalent when talking about chronic illness, because it is vital for us to have realistic expectations of ourselves and to recognise when we are pushing ourselves too hard.
By being fully in touch with our strengths and weaknesses, we are focusing on what’s best for us. So acceptance=self worth.
Tip Number 3
So one thing is for sure, you are going to have challenging days and you are powerless over that, but on those really tough days, that is when you have to really step up the self care and compassion towards yourself, because it is so easy to forget about your self care, especially when you’re feeling physically lousy.
How can you help yourself?
If you know that’s the case, then you need to have a self-care checklist written down somewhere, or maybe on your phone, or in a notebook or a sheet of paper, essentially anything that can serve as a reminder.
So for example: Is it important that you start the day with a nutritious breakfast, that contains the right amount of essential protein?
Do you need to eat a mid afternoon snack to keep your blood-sugars up? Do you need to keep a bottle of water close by to keep yourself hydrated?
Do you meditate or practice deep breathing or Yoga? Do you need to take a 15 minute powernap?
Do you need to just lie down and relax? If you’re at work, can you slip away during lunchtime and go and sit in a park?
Can you cook a nice meal for yourself, or for you and your family? Can you lose yourself in a book? Can you get out in nature?
Getting out in nature is such a tonic, mentally and physically. Can you chat with a family member or a friend? Can you listen to an inspiring podcast, or something that makes you laugh?
Can you escape in a movie or tv show? Can you take a bath, maybe with bath bombs, scented candles or Epsom salts?
Do you like puzzles or board games? Maybe cat videos make you smile?
I just want you to have a self-care checklist of feel good activities, where you can recharge your mind and body and create some space from the physical challenges that affect you during the day.
Tip number 4
The Power of your language
When you’re feeling physically awful, It would be completely unrealistic to expect you to be ultra positive and happy, but at the same time, it’s really useful to look at the language we use on a daily basis.
Let’s look at some examples. So let’s say you go to bed. You fall asleep pretty easily, you wake up at 2 am or 3 am, but you get back to sleep.
You then wake up again at maybe 5 am, but then you get back to sleep again; overall you get around 6 -7 hours quality sleep, notwithstanding the interruptions.
How do you respond?
So if somebody asked you how your night was, how would you respond? For some of you, you may be tempted to say that you had a bad night, (because you woke up several times), but others might say that they had a good night and not even mention the fact that they woke up several times, because their perception was that they had 6-7 hours sleep.
What about a typical family day out on a Sunday? For half the day, everyone got on famously and the day flowed, but for the other half of the day, a few arguments ensued, maybe one argument got particularly stressful.
If someone asked you how your Sunday was, how would you respond? Would you focus on the part that went well, or the part that didn’t go so well?
Let’s say you spent half the day physically suffering, but the other half feeling good? If someone were to ask you how you felt physically that day, would you focus on the good part, or the part where you struggled?
The language you use is so key to your mental health and indeed how you see the world and everything that you go through in life.
It can be really beneficial to talk to somebody about how you feel. I am an empathetic counsellor who will help you to navigate your journey with chronic illness and can give you some useful techniques to cope.
Contact me for your free video/telephone call.