We can't control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to things.
This is truer now more than ever with the rise in chronic illnesses worldwide. One in three people are expected to have a chronic illness at some point in their lives.
Chronic illnesses bring on new challenges daily, with many people learning life skills they never thought they would need to know. For me personally, it's been learning how to properly manage pain and keep myself as healthy as possible without draining my bank account or breaking myself even further (or both). Like most people who live with chronic pain and illness, I don't want pity, I don't want to be treated differently. But I do want people to understand the difficulties I face on a daily basis and what they can do to help me in my day-to-day life.
I'm going to share some helpful tips with you that may not come naturally when it seems like just about everything in your life has been turned upside down:
1) Being realistic about what you can do:
Chances are if you've been pretty active your entire life and now suddenly can't get out of bed because something hurts too much, you'll be pretty frustrated. You were at least half way decent at math in school right? So why not use that knowledge to figure out how many hours you have left to spend doing things throughout the day? We all have 24 hours in a day, which isn't much when faced with chronic illness. Why not break down your time into hours? If you have 8 hours to do stuff, why waste 4 of them sleeping when you could use it for something else? It's time to get creative with the activities you can do now.
2) Have a "honey-do" list:
This is where you can get creative! If you know your loved one with chronic illness doesn't feel comfortable asking for help, come up with things that they want help with instead. For example, if someone hates shopping then ask them if you can order items for them online (make sure that shipping options allow time for the package to arrive before you need it) or even bring home small items like snacks or beverages while you're out running other errands. If you think outside the box, there are always ways to help out!
3) Manage your time:
It's easy to get overwhelmed when you're routinely doing things that take twice as long (or more) than they did before having a chronic illness. Here's what I do to make that easier on me: I try not to plan super busy days because of this. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I'll pick one or two activities for the day and focus on those instead of trying to fit four or five in at once. That way if something takes longer than expected then I'm okay with canceling something else for the day instead of becoming even more stressed out about everything.
4) Educate yourself:
Some people find it difficult to get out of the house so they turn to online resources. Whether you have chronic pain, IBS, food allergies, etc., there are plenty of websites out there that can help guide you through things safely and effectively. For example, Facebook groups are a great way to meet other patients in similar situations who might be able to provide support if your friends and family cannot.
5) Support groups:
I know what you're thinking... another group? What am I supposed to do with TWO groups? Here's the thing about support groups though; these tend to be smaller (sometimes even pretty intimate), which means they are easier for someone like me who has trouble keeping up with larger numbers one group. Even if my symptoms are triggered by mental stress, I know that the people in my support group only ever want to help me. When you feel like you're drowning, it's important to find someone who is willing to throw you a life-preserver instead of push you under further.
Speaking of this, I built a community on Facebook that's focused on debt, money, and chronic illness.
6) Face difficult tasks earlier:
If there are certain things that typically cause your symptoms to spike for whatever reason, try tackling them first before anything else. For example, if visiting the doctor or grocery shopping usually leaves you beyond exhausted then do those activities while you still have energy left over for other things before your symptoms get worse. Personally, I'm not very good at this because I'm so unwell most days but when I can manage it this helps keep my symptoms from getting worse or flaring up.
7) Prioritize self-care: This is a big one for me because I have a really hard time doing anything for myself when I'm sick. It's like as soon as my pain flares up, all motivation and desire to do anything other than lay in bed goes out the window.
So what have I started doing instead? If I can't take a bath or shower because of pain levels one day, sometimes just brushing my teeth feels good enough. Or if I'm too tired to go anywhere but don't want to stay home alone either, calling a friend over for a movie date works just as well! Don't wait until you're feeling better before exercising or eating healthier because that might not happen any time soon.
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