Getting the flu or having any acute sickness is tough enough, but a chronic illness can not only be debilitating it can affect a person’s quality of life.
A chronic illness is a sickness that is ongoing; it can be a lifetime illness. Some cancers, diabetes, asthma, and mental health issues are a few of the many chronic diseases.
On top of uncertainties and ongoing health issues, chronic illness can cause anxiety and stress that crisscrosses your life in many ways. When diagnosed with one, it’s essential to have a strategy which will help you to have as normal a life as possible and give you control over your life.
Issues with Chronic Illness
When first diagnosed, it can be overwhelming which can make you feel helpless. Knowledge is empowering. So, it’s crucial when diagnosed with a chronic illness to have medical information about your condition and what you may face in your day-to-day life. When you know what you’re up against, you can prepare yourself to address issues and hopefully prevent additional distress.
Possible Impacts on Your Life
These few issues may impact your life and create stress when diagnosed with a chronic illness. Knowing them can help you find ways to handle them:
- Uncertainty or questions about your illness
- Mental and emotional health
- Dietary changes
- Medication side effects
- Pain and fatigue
- Family and friends’ reactions to the diagnosis
Emotional Health and Chronic Illness
One of the most common side effects for all chronic illnesses is emotional issues. Temporarily, negative emotions and feelings are normal. However, the National Institute of Health recommends seeking help if symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks or interfere with your ability to carry on your daily life. Some short-term normal feelings you may experience include:
- Lack of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- Fatigue, decrease in energy
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to concentrate and make decisions
- Unable to remember things
- Changes in eating habits and weight
Active Coping Strategies
Studies with women who had breast cancer found those who had a coping plan had greater peace of mind and enjoyment of life than women who did not come to terms with their diagnosis. Here are a few suggestions to help prepare you and help you create coping strategies:
- Choose a health care provider. Your relationship with your healthcare provider is paramount when coping with your illness. You need to be able to trust those taking care of you. If you don’t think your doctor is working with you or have other concerns that go unresolved, it is your right to choose a different medical provider.
- Communicate with your medical staff. Write down all the questions you have about your illness and then take them with you to your doctor’s appointment. To avoid forgetting what the doctor tells you, take notes or ask the doctor to provide written instructions.
- Learn about your illness. It’s important to learn all you can about your medical condition. However, it’s crucial that you get information from reliable sources.
- Join a support group. They can be a source in learning new coping strategies and a source of strength. Knowing that you are not alone going through this challenging time is also helpful.
- Learn to say “no.” Taking care of yourself is your priority so you may need to step away from some obligations. It’s okay and healthy to do so.
- Reach out to your network of family and friends. Don’t be hesitant or afraid to ask help. Also, participating in social activities when you feel well enough is beneficial for your mental health.
- Rest when you feel tired. Not getting enough rest can make your symptoms worse.
- Talk with family. Chronic illnesses can be stressful for the entire family. Family members can feel scared and uncertain so keeping communications open is essential. Remind your family and especially children to express their feelings and ask questions. Remind your partner to practice self-care. You also may want to consider family counseling.
Chronic illness will impact your life in multiple ways. However, acknowledging your illness, keeping conversations open, and developing ways to help manage it can make a difference in your quality of life.
- Chronic Illness & Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/chronic-illness-mental-health/index.shtml.
- Coping with a diagnosis of chronic illness. Retrieved https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx.
- Self-management: Taking Charge of Your Health. Retrieved from https://familydoctor.org/self-management-taking-charge-of-your-health/?adfree=true.