Lifestyle Management with Chronic Illness
I don’t know about you but I love a good Infographic, so when I was contacted about sharing this one related to Lifestyle Management with Chronic Illness, I said sure why not… well, as long as you don’t mind me sharing my own thoughts about what is shared in the graphic.
- About half of adults (1 out of every 2) has a chronic illness. That means an illness that isn’t going away. Some might be invisible but some aren’t. This list includes everything from heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, to our personal favorites Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue,Endometriosis and a host of others.
- 25% of adults has 2 or more chronic illnesses. As we know all too well, once you have one chronic health problem you are that much more likely to have another – evidently about 50% more likely. That’s scary.
Keep reading below the infographic for my thoughts on each of these tips.
1. Find a TEAM of experts – Finding a group of experts is one thing, finding a team is another. I’d love to find a team of experts that actually work together and communicate withe each other about what is going on. It’s difficult to do though. What you can do, though, is if your various experts don’t communicate with each other, make sure you are doing the communicating.
2. Empower Yourself – I think that educating yourself is probably the most important thing you can do. Educate yourself about your illness. Even if your doctor only sees patients with your illness, chances are that you have other illnesses or personal factors that make you unique. You have to know what’s going on, do your own research and share what you learn with your doctor so that you can ask informed questions.
3. Create or Join a Supportive Community – that community doesn’t have to be an in-person support group. It could just be a group of friends who meet up for lunch regularly, or it might be an online community. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be strictly focused on your illness. For instance, there is an awesome community of #spoonies on Twitter. I’ve found it to be probably the most supportive with the least amount of in-fighting that I’ve seen anywhere else.
4. Start a Dialogue with your Loved Ones – This is so important. It’s easy to shut out our loved ones, to feel like they can’t understand what we are going through anyway so why bother talking to them about it. But, we need to talk to them about it so that they can help. We can’t ask for their help if we don’t tell them what we need. To tell them what we need we need to be able to express to them how we feel and what we are going through. If I’m hurting my husband needs to know. He can’t read my mind.
5. Don’t Let Your Illness Define You – When you let your entire identity be wrapped in your illness label you can so easily fall into depression. I know it’s difficult, especially in the beginning when it feels like everything you enjoy is being taken away from you. But, you have to find ways to continue to enjoy life. Find new hobbies, new things to enjoy. Continue to find ways to interact with others who share your interests and talk about those things.
6. Be Conscious of Your Diet – This is one I wish I’d not ignored for so long. Whatever your illness it can likely be made worse or improved to some degree with diet. If you know for certain that certain foods are bad for your illness, then make sure to eliminate those foods. If you have Fibromyalgia or another illness where a suggested diet isn’t as defined, then you have to do your own research. Keep track of what you eat and how you feel later, see if there are patterns. Or, consider trying the Whole 30 diet which will allow to systematically determine what foods, if any, increase your symptoms.
7. Keep Fitness Top of Mind – Allowed and needed fitness is different for each condition, but no matter your condition you do need to move to some degree. You may not need or want to join a gym. You may not be able to even walk a mile, just don’t let yourself give up on movement altogether. Understand what exercise is suggested for your illness and try to follow a regular routine of at least stretching regularly to keep your muscles lengthened and warm. Stretching will help decrease muscle tension and pain.
8. Give Yourself a Break – Definitely! Both mental and physical breaks are necessary. This means taking time to rest, but it also means not being so hard on yourself when you can’t do the things that you used to do or want to do. Getting frustrated with your limits only adds stress and increases pain.
9. Stay Organized – Mental fog is common to some degree with almost all chronic illnesses. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to keep yourself organized. Smart phoones and apps can be your best friend for keeping up with your schedule, reminding yourself to take your meds on time (most of the major drug stores have apps that will remind you to take your meds, or you can just set reminders using the alarm feature on your phone). Always have your schedule with you so that if you need to add an event you can do so with the knowledge that you aren’t double-booking.
10. Give Back – Helping others makes you feel good. Find some way to give back to others, whether it’s just being supportive online, being an ear on the phone or actually getting out and volunteering in some way (if you are able).
I hope you found these tips helpful. Do you have thoughts on any of these tips? Share them in the comments below.