Updated: Oct 18
When a medical diagnosis can be a life altering experience, explore how to enhance your emotional and mental well-being while coping with chronic illness.
For many individuals having a chronic illness may make you more vulnerable to mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, and stress. When you are trying to manage chronic pain or trying to cope with a chronic illness, feelings of sadness or anxiety can show up since it may feel like you don’t have control over your physical and emotional well-being.
Despite the fact that many people coping with chronic illness are also managing a mental concern, it doesn't mean that it's easy to deal with or that there is only one way to manage your situation. In the article below, we have shared some tips for coping with chronic illness, so you can maintain emotional well-being and foster self compassion and kindness.
Maintain a Strong Daily Routine
Chronic illness can affect our lives and our routines. Many things that once were “normal'' now may feel out of reach. However establishing a daily routine can help you maintain some sort of normalcy even if that routine might look different that what it use to.
When establishing a daily routine it is important to tune into your body and your emotions and have realistic expectations for what you’re able to do. Small but effective practices in your daily routine, can help you build self efficacy and acceptance of what you’re coping with. Some ideas may be going for a walk every morning with your dog, journaling, or practicing mindfulness.
Whatever it is, it can be helpful to start small and as you are able, incorporate more challenging tasks into your routine. There is a correlation between maintaining a daily routine and improvement in your mental health. At times it can be an anchor that you can rely upon when things feel stormy in your life.
Build and Call Upon Your Social Network
Chronic illness may cause social isolation and you may feel like you’re having difficulty maintaining your relationships with your friends and family. However it is important to recognize that you are not alone, and that reaching out to your community can positively impact your mental health.
If you feel like you lack a strong social network, it may be beneficial to find a support group related to your chronic illness. Social media has its own challenges, however one of the benefits is the opportunity to connect online with other individuals who are also experiencing your condition. Finding a community of individuals coping with chronic illness can also validate your feelings and normalize your experience.
Identify Your Core Values
At times chronic illness may feel like it’s taking over your identity, and thus it is important to recognize that it is a part of your life, however it is not all of it. Many people with chronic illness may experience symptoms similar to grief regarding the future they had imagined or what they previously were able to do. Clarifying your core values and what is most important to you can provide you with an opportunity to be intentional with your actions. Despite having a chronic illness, people can still choose small committed actions that are in alignment with their values so they can live a life that is fulfilling.
Start a Mindfulness Practice for Chronic Pain
Daily mindfulness practice can be helpful for folks with chronic pain or other chronic illnesses because it helps people feel more grounded in the present moment. Many people who experience chronic pain want to avoid their experience and understandably so. However, by bringing mindful awareness to their experience without judgment, and tuning into their physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings, people can create a moment of choice to act in alignment with their values. Mindfulness allows people to deepen their self awareness and also practice self compassion regarding their situation. It is important to note that a mindfulness practice can be short and sweet. Even five minutes daily will make a significant difference in your mental health status.
Get Out Into Nature and Sunlight
Coping with chronic pain or illness is HARD. For many people their lives and routines have changed. It may be difficult to do simple tasks which can leave you feeling exhausted. However, connecting with nature can help boost your mental health.
If you’re able, it can be beneficial to go for a walk in the sunlight so you can get your daily dose of Vitamin D (many Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient). Being outside and being in nature can improve our mental well-being while also providing a calming effect to our system.
Start a Journaling Practice
It can be difficult to talk about your chronic illness and what you’re going through with friends and family members. Many people who have a chronic illness worry about feeling like a burden and want to maintain some of their autonomy despite their condition. As a result, starting a journal practice and having a safe space to externalize your thoughts and emotions can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to write or where to start, it can be helpful to find prompts online or even choosing one core value to write about and how you want to cultivate more of that value in your life.
Find an Experienced Chronic Illness Therapist to Speak to
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed when coping with a chronic condition, then it can be very helpful to find a licensed psychotherapist who can help you deal with this difficult time in your life.
A therapist has lots of experience dealing with many other individuals who are coping with chronic pain or various chronic illnesses. They can support you and your emotional well-being during this challenging time.
Coping With Chronic Illness - You Are Not Alone in This Journey
If your emotional well-being or mental health seems to be suffering due to this chronic illness, then it's time you got help.
Coping with chronic illness is made much easier when you have an experienced psychotherapist by your side. Set up a chronic illness counseling session today and see how you can deal better with anxiety, stress, or depression related to health concerns.
***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.