Being diagnosed with a life-limiting illness is a terrifying experience. It takes a while to wrap your head around it and let it all sink in. While dealing with a chronic illness, dark clouds of anxiety and depression also reduce your quality of life.
But once you had the time to understand the situation, you need to figure out how to cope with the chronic illness. Gradually, you have to fight the mental, physical, and emotional struggles that come with a long-term illness.
Hence, we have compiled ten practical ways to learn to cope with chronic illness and depression. Towards the end of this blog post, you will find the factors that truly pave the way for your recovery – things that make a huge difference.
It will, for sure, take some practice, time, trial and error. But we suggest saving this blog, to come back again, and read it as many times as it must become a part of your attitude towards life.
Now, let’s begin our coping strategies:
1. Go Easy on Yourself
The fast-paced nature of life in the 21st century demands high stress and little sleep. When you’re given a chronic illness diagnosis, you suddenly have to apply the brakes – something that you couldn’t have even imagined.
This is why it’s important to remind you that it’s okay to shift gears while dealing with a chronic illness and slow down a little. Such is the experience of Amy Phillips, a chronic illness survivor and now a writer/editor.
She explains how difficult it was for her to go from an ardent runner to a confused and terrified patient. Amy allowed herself time to heal and eventually overcame her fear.
2. Be Honest About Your Feelings
Keeping your emotions bottled up inside while dealing with something so challenging is never a good idea. You don’t have to put up a brave face for your family and friends. Instead, it’s important to share how you feel and open up a little.
Learning how to cope with a chronic illness also necessitates being honest with yourself. Even though keeping a positive view on things in the face of adversity is essential, so is discussing your fear and troubles with your loved ones or a support group.
3. Make Time for Meditation
Understandably, chronic disease diagnosis causes vast mental turmoil. If left unnoticed or untreated, this mental upheaval can lead to depression. And it’s tough to get yourself out of depression.
One of the best ways to combat dreary moods is meditation. Breathing is where your complete focus should be. In the beginning, practicing it won’t be easy. Don’t try to fight off your thoughts – positive or negative.
Instead, allow them to pass over and get your focus back to your breathing. This is how you will eventually learn to clear your mind.
4. Create a Team of Health Providers
While dealing with a chronic illness, you will need an entire team that comprises doctors, nurses, and nutritionists. Depending on their expertise, some may advise a proper exercise routine, while others may help you quit smoking if needed.
Diet is another crucial recovery factor for which you would need expert medical advice.
5. Modify Your Lifestyle Habits
Perhaps, prior to your diagnosis, you didn’t have the luxury of time to make healthy lifestyle changes. Whether it was late night shifts or tight deadlines, something or the other came in your way. But when life gives you a setback, it’s high time to evaluate your lifestyle patterns.
For coping with chronic illness and depression, you need to eat healthier, exercise more, lose weight, and quit smoking or drinking alcohol. Most people tend to undermine the importance of lifestyle changes while trying to recover from the long-term disease.
However, it’s a grave mistake. Successful chronic care management must include making healthy lifestyle changes.
6. Participate Actively in Chronic Care Management
When understanding how to deal with an incurable disease, you need to be more proactive in your care. That means never hesitating to ask questions with your healthcare providers. Apart from that, try to educate yourself on your condition to manage it better.
Ask your doctor or nurse for reliable sources of information for more in-depth research.
7. Stay Updated on Important Information
This coping strategy is somewhat related to the previous one. Staying updated on the latest medical information about your condition requires you to participate actively in chronic care management.
The correct data and decisions will have a positive impact on your health outcomes.
8. Prioritize Medication Management
When you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, you are prescribed multiple medications. If not scheduled and appropriately managed, you can take the wrong medication or inaccurate dose or take the right medicine at the wrong time.
Most chronic care management services like that of APN help you manage your medications. If need be, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
9. Regain Your Sense of Control
While it’s not in your power to control every little thing, it’s essential to have some sense of control in your life while dealing with a chronic illness. Remember that your thoughts do have the power to influence your decisions which would ultimately impact your health.
So, when your entire focus is on getting better, you will take actions that improve your health, such as exercising, taking medicines on time, going to appointments, and so on. Eventually, it will lower your feelings of distress and boost your self-worth.
10. Practice Mindfulness
Elevated stress levels are a natural consequence of coping with a life-limiting health condition. Not to mention the fact that you do have physical pain that you got to fight daily.
However, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness techniques helps you cope with this physical and mental stress. Research has confirmed its effectiveness in dealing with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other long-term health issues.
Below, we have explained other vital factors that will help you recover faster:
What’s the Reason for Disparity in Outcomes for Patients Post Diagnosis?
According to psychologist Vicki Helgeson, once a person is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, their chances of getting any better depends a lot on them rather than doctors.
If you show up at every appointment, keep yourself physically active, monitor your diet, and take proper medication, your condition is likely to improve both physically and psychologically. On the contrary, some people slip into depression which further deteriorates their condition.
It depends on how you view any life event. While some people see opportunities in hardships, others see roadblocks. In Dr. Helgeson’s experience, a few patients are even thankful for this experience because it made them see a life beyond their wildest imaginations.
A man who suffered a heart attack saw an opportunity to spend more time with family instead of burning the midnight oil now and then. A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness finally left her toxic relationship once it hit with reality.
The change of perception is why the outcome is different for different people diagnosed with a chronic disease.
What Would Truly Make a Difference?
After years of research, psychologist Vicki Helgeson has concluded that it’s ultimately good relationships that truly determine your outcome. While dealing with a chronic illness, you should have at least one friend, family member, or partner who understands you.
If not, you can always find support groups to communicate with people who have been diagnosed with similar or other chronic diseases. In other words, a strong social network bodes well for your physical as well as mental health.
Good relationships make a difference in the following ways:
- They encourage you to live a healthier life and adhere to medications
- They constantly motivate you
- They listen to your problems carefully and give you actionable advice
According to Dr. Helgeson, your mortality is more likely to decrease if you have a close network of people you can depend on.
Don’t Miss the Joy of ‘Present’
When you come face-to-face with life-altering challenges like being diagnosed with a chronic illness, it’s easy to get caught up in the worries of the future. Even in healthier human beings, worry drains them of their life force.
It takes practice but try to accept the circumstances you cannot change.
While learning how to deal with an incurable disease, it’s essential to focus on things you can change. If you have to reminisce the past, cherish the good memories and not the awful ones.
And if you have to ponder upon the future, try to think about beating the illness and improving your longevity. Whatever time we have on this planet, we should not spend any second trying to control circumstances we cannot change.
But you do have the power to overcome your anxiety and fear of the unknown.
All you have to do is:
Live in the moment!