Chronic illness sucks, and more often than not there is little we can do to make our lives better. All we have are the small things, a comfy blanket, warm slippers, Netflix. But, the reality is that there are some big things that we can do (often) to help improve our lives both in the short-term and in the long-run.
The five items below are very small things, that add up to big things IF you do them regularly, and than can provide better living with chronic illness.
1 . Make time For yourself – There is a direct correlation between stress and pain, so it’s important to make time to de-stress. I know it’s difficult but even taking just 20 minutes for yourself each day can make a big difference. Take time to relax in a warm bath, or just sit and meditate, do a little yoga, journal, pray. Whatever it is that allows you to relax and center yourself, do it.
You’ll find that taking little time to focus and relax will increase your productivity throughout the day, and lower your stress.
2. Accept your reality– When you live with chronic illness it can be tough to accept reality, especially when that reality is something like Fibromyalgia that leaves you constantly wondering if that’s really ALL it is. But, when we finally stop fighting it and just accept our reality and stop fighting it there’s a lot less stress to deal with. We create so much stress by fighting what is real instead of accepting it.
3 . Be grateful – Once we accept our reality we have to learn to be grateful for what it has given us. Being sick sucks, I won’t ever deny that, but I will say that being sick has taught me a great deal, and it has given me a new purpose in life, and made me who I am.
I wrote a letter to Fibromyalgia a while back thanking if for all that it has given me. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate Fibro and I’d rather not have it, but since I’m here, I may as well try to look for the positives.
4 . Forgive often and fully – Holding a grudge creates stress, it focuses our minds on the negative and sends us down a spiral of pessimistic thinking. Forgiving someone (including ourselves) doesn’t mean we forget how they hurt us or ever let them hurt us again, but it does mean that we stop focusing on it and that we let it go.
I’ve had to let go of several grudges in the last few years, one that I’d been holding onto for a decade; when I did I felt so much better. I no longer had to waste energy on avoiding someone or having negative thoughts when their name came up, I just let it go.
5 . Focus only on what you CAN change – When we are sick it’s so easy to get hung up on finding a new diagnosis that might sound better or give us other options. We get hung up on so many things that we can’t change, like what other people think, or how others act.
We can’t change other people, and we can’t change where we are, but we can change where we’ll be and how we respond to other people. If someone reacts towards you in a negative way choose not to let it get to you, just walk away.
If someone refuses to accept your illness and how it impacts life then walk away, don’t let them continue to add negativity to your life. And, yes we can change where we’ll be later. Stop looking for a better diagnosis and start looking for better solutions, better treatments, better options to treat the symptoms that you have; consider diet and lifestyle changes that may improve how you feel.
I will say that I honestly struggle with each of these, some more than others, and each at different times, but they all plague me. I share these as much to remind myself as to help you. I’d love to know your thoughts on these, and whether you struggle with them, too (I’d like to know I’m not alone, who doesn’t?). Please share your thoughts in the comments below.