How to Start the Year Strong if you Are Living With a Chronic Illness
By Irene S. Roth
Many of us live with some type of chronic illness which can make our lives feel like an uphill battle. It can also be hard to start a new year strong if we feel depleted of energy and in pain often.
Yet, chronic illness is prevalent in our society today, given our aging population. There doesn’t seem to be a lot we can do about it either, except manage our lives healthily. When we get diagnosed with a chronic illness, we will probably never be completely free from it. But there are ways to mitigate the pain, fatigue, and other debilitating features of the illness.
Many common diseases are chronic illnesses. Here is a short list: heart disease, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, liver disease, colitis, IBS, and many more. So, there are a lot of chronically ill individuals in need of advice on how to live a healthy life.
What makes these diseases chronic? One of the chief defining features of chronic illness, as opposed to acute illness, is that there is nothing that can be done to cure the chronic illness. The only thing we can do is to minimize the negative affects of the illness on our everyday lives through effective self-management strategies.
What makes chronic illness so hard to cope with is the continuous nature of the symptoms and challenges that result. With acute types of illnesses, we may need to have a surgical procedure or take a few medications, and our life returns to normal. But with chronic illness, we will never get back to normal.
However, the purpose of this article is not to dwell on the negative aspects of chronic illness. Instead, I will argue that we can all live well with chronic illness by changing our mindset and developing a few healthy habits. And there isn’t a better time to start a few new habits than in January, is there?
I’ll be the first to admit, living well with a chronic illness is difficult. It can take a lot of practice and effort. However, by effectively managing our pain levels and cultivating the right attitude, we can learn to cope with any chronic illness.
Here are a few things we can easily incorporate into our daily life that should make a big difference to how we are living with our chronic condition.
- Try to incorporate new ways of thinking. Instead of focusing on all the negative things in our life, try focusing on what’s working. We are all far too negative with ourselves and we don’t cut ourselves enough slack.
- We must learn to live differently. We shouldn’t fill our day with endless activity. Instead, we must take our time and make space to pace ourselves and listen to our body. If we’re feeling tired, we should take some time to rest and recuperate.
- Ask for help and delegate. Many of us continue to do things that may hurt us in the long run, such as lifting heavy groceries or doing hours of housework.
- Practice self-care. Take some time to just relax. Make a cup of warm coca, put on a warm robe and fluffy slippers, and sit in a favorite recliner and read. Or take a nap.
By incorporating these tips into our life, we will start the year off strong. We will also honor what our body and energy levels are asking of us.
It may seem honorable to keep on pushing past our pain levels and fatigue. However, this can be destructive, and it may set us up for even more pain and disability. Therefore, it’s essential that we listen to our body.
In the process, we will rise to our everyday challenges of living with a chronic illness by revising our attitude in favor of a more positive approach and managing our symptoms as they arise. Further, we will live in a way that is cohesive with our disabilities and pain levels on a particular day. These are certainly ways to start the year strong.
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