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Living with a chronic illness isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you’re consigned to a life of sadness, disappointment, and hopelessness. Whether you were born with a chronic condition or diagnosed later in life, it’s entirely possible to thrive when you have a chronic illness. Joy and optimism can help you build the future you desire and even help you manage your health more effectively.
The key is to devote as much time to cultivating your mental health as you do to nurturing your physical well-being.
The Impact of Chronic Illness on Relationships
When you consider the profound impact that a chronic illness can have on your daily life, it’s perhaps not surprising that it can take a significant toll on your mental health. You may feel as if your life revolves around doctors’ appointments, medication, therapy, and simply contending with symptoms of your illness, such as pain and fatigue.
You may feel isolated from and misunderstood by those once closest to you. You may find yourself having to turn down invitations to social gatherings and family events. You may have to leave festivities early or cancel plans at the last minute due to your condition. All this can leave you feeling disconnected from friends and loved ones, further increasing your risk of depression and other mental health conditions.
However, your social life and relationships do not have to be stolen by your illness. If you communicate openly with your loved ones about your needs, then you can work together to formulate a plan that nurtures your health, accommodates your physical needs, and protects and preserves the bond you share with your friends and family.
Not every relationship can withstand the realities of a chronic illness, and letting go of these can be deeply painful. In the end, though, this experience provides a rare and invaluable opportunity to strengthen those connections that are truly worthwhile, while letting go of those that aren’t. Ultimately, this means that what you are left with are those friend and family relationships that nourish and sustain you.
Cultivating a Caring Team
In addition to renegotiating relationships, it’s also critical that you cultivate a healthcare team that supports your mental and physical health. Because living with a chronic health condition inevitably entails a great deal of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, it’s imperative to enlist the help of mental healthcare providers.
However, it’s crucial to find the right kind of provider (or providers) for your unique needs. A certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, for example, is specifically trained in both the physiological and psychological aspects of patient care. They will not only likely possess significant knowledge of your health condition but they will also empathize with and help you work through its mental health impacts.
You may also choose to speak with a therapist or psychiatrist, in addition to working with the healthcare professionals who help you manage your condition. No matter what, though, be sure to look for professionals who are as empathetic as they are knowledgeable.
The Importance of Daily Self-Care
One of the most difficult aspects of living with a chronic illness is that you never catch a break. You can’t take a day off from your condition. After a while, you can simply become burnt out, depleted, and depressed. You simply may not want to deal with it, but giving up isn’t an option.
That’s why daily self-care is so critical for both your physical and mental well-being. For instance, incorporating meditation into your daily schedule may not only help reduce pain and fatigue, but it can also help you find your focus, motivation, and sense of optimism again. This can make it even easier to enjoy other restorative activities, such as spending time in nature or engaging in your favorite hobby.
Another highly beneficial activity for boosting your mood while you’re managing your health is daily journaling. Spending just a few minutes in the morning listing the things you are grateful for or jotting down uplifting affirmations can help you start the day in a more positive frame of mind.
Likewise, writing down your thoughts and feelings throughout the day or before you go to sleep at night enables you to purge and process negative emotions. This can help you feel less anxious, which, in turn, can decrease your risk of depression.
You have to consider your chronic illness in your daily life, but it doesn’t have to rob you of your peace and joy. It is possible to live a vibrant, satisfying, and serene life in the face of a chronic health condition. The key is to attend to your mental well-being just as assiduously as you do to your physical health. This includes renegotiating your relationships, cultivating a skilled and empathic healthcare team, and practicing daily self-care.
Are you tending to your mental health AND your physical health? Do you have a supportive healthcare team?
This is a guest post from Luke Smith. Luke is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but relationship topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.
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