Staying positive with a chronic illness

Living with a chronic illness can be difficult enough without the mental health struggles that can arise alongside it. People can tell you to be positive about it all they want, but the harsh reality is that it’s difficult to deal with a chronic illness every day, and each day throws up a different hurdle for you to deal with. And a lot of people just don’t understand how draining it can be.

While managing a chronic illness, the biggest thing to learn is how to keep strong, and how to keep your head up on the darkest of days. Here are some tips for tackling those days head on:

  1. Try not to isolate yourself

Easier said than done! But it’s important that you try your best to keep going as you would on a day when you feel okay. Isolating yourself due to chronic illness means letting the illness win, and giving it control over your life. Sending a message to a friend to tell them how you feel or inviting a family member over for coffee are simple ways to still practice self-care and look after yourself, but make sure that you get some human interaction and a sense of normality about your day so as not to let the illness isolate you.

  1. Get dressed

As amazing as it can be having a duvet day or being snuggled up in your pyjamas all day, sometimes the best way to feel awake and alive is to just have a wash and get dressed. It’s funny how such a small thing can make such a huge difference to your positivity levels. Also, something to try next time you need to leave the house when you’re not feeling it – dress up slightly more than usual. Maybe put on your favourite t-shirt that makes you feel a bit sparkly, it can make the world of difference and improve your mood by making you feel like the boss of your illness.

  1. Eat a healthy diet

I know that when I’m feeling ill I crave all the junk food, but we all know this is not the way to put our body back on the right track. We get from our bodies what we put in, so if we constantly eat poorly it’s going to show in our energy levels and our general wellbeing. We need to give ourselves the best chance possible to feeling good by consuming the nutrition our bodies need. And while this may be different depending on what is happening in your body at any given time and what chronic illness you have, it’s important to understand your body and really get under the skin as to what your body requires on any given day.  

  1. Understand that it’s temporary

It can be so easy to catastrophize whatever symptoms you’re experiencing, but it’s also important to understand that these symptoms likely will not last forever. Remember that not every day will be easy, and life is full of testing times. But it’s also full of happy times and you’re here to live life to the full. While you’re experiencing symptoms is the perfect time to remember that the pain will not be there forever, and fluctuation is completely normal. You may feel that it’s unfair that you have to deal with the inconvenience of a chronic illness while some others have perfectly functioning bodies, but what you have been through will have taught you so much about your own strength, and that is what makes you unique.

  1. Give yourself a break

You’re not going to be on your best form every single day, and it’s a process of highs and lows that you will need to work through. So stop giving yourself such a hard time over something which is out of your control! The people who love you will understand the rollercoaster you’re on, and want to love and support you, but you have to be mindful to do the same and look after yourself.

  1. Practice gratitude

A simple way to do this is to keep a notepad by your bed, and just before you go to bed take a moment to reflect on the day. Try not to focus on any negative, and instead focus of what positives can be taken from the challenges of that particular day. It could just be that you’re grateful that the sun has made an appearance, or grateful for having your favourite cereal for breakfast that morning. It’s all about appreciating the small things which can get easily overlooked and taking joy in those smaller moments.

  1. Do something you love

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the in’s and out’s of living with a chronic illness and neglecting actually living your life to the fullest. Try and find something you enjoy doing, whether that be a sport, sewing, reading, cooking, literally anything! Just make sure you make time for yourself to do an activity that brings you happiness and can take your mind off the daily struggles, even if it’s just for half an hour. It will make the world of difference to your mindset and make you feel a lot more positive.

These are a few suggestions of things that I find help me when I’m in need of some positivity. Please bear in mind that I am not a medical professional, and this is purely my own opinion, but hopefully these tips can help you when you need it. Let me know if you have any other useful tips and tricks we can share!

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