Living with chronic illness deeply impacts people and doesn’t leave any area of life untouched. At times, your life may be turned upside down, and coping may seem difficult.
But life with chronic illness can still be satisfying. The most effective way to manage and reduce the impact of illness is to focus on ways to live well, even while sick.
Here are 10 ways you can live well despite chronic illness:
1. Take care of yourself first
To care for the people you love, you have to take care of yourself first. Make sure you take all your medicines, go to all your appointments, watch your diet, keep moving, stick to a sleep schedule, and follow your doctor’s advice. Taking care of yourself makes sense because it helps you feel on top of your game, enjoy life, and support the ones you love.
2. Never give up
Giving up is easy, but finding reasons to go on is hard. Find those reasons, and keep going. Remember, this is your life, and you get to make the best of what you’re handed—good or bad. Don’t let your illness walk all over you, and don’t ever give up your quest for a good quality life in spite of chronic disease.
3. Own up to your feelings
Don’t keep feelings about your illness experience bottled up. Talking is an important part of the healing process. The sooner you speak up, the sooner you can receive support from loved ones and others who understand your struggles. Hearing others share their experiences will help you better understand your own health.
4. Step out of your comfort zone
When we try to escape our comfort zones, our inner voices warn us of all the reasons why we shouldn’t. But the benefits of listening to your heart outweigh the risks of staying stuck. Step out of your comfort zone, and make goals. Create positive changes to make life fuller and more enjoyable despite chronic illness.
5. Keep busy and involved
It’s normal to want to isolate yourself, but this isn’t something you want to make a habit. Get out and enjoy life even if you are just sitting out in the sunlight or going for a short walk. Get together with friends and family, pick up the phone and talk to someone, or get a pet for company. Whatever you do, continue to reach out and keep yourself busy and involved.
6. Share your talents
Your unique skills can help others, and there is no greater reward than helping others by doing what you enjoy. Find a charity that shares your goals, or reach out to a school, community group, or hospital and contribute your talents.
7. Accept your life as it is now
When most people hear the word “acceptance,” they think of giving in, but acceptance simply means recognizing that things are as they are. Accepting your life as it is now doesn’t keep you from improving your health and working toward your dreams, while refusing to acknowledge your life as it is now prevents you from taking appropriate action. Accept illness and be at peace with your circumstances, no matter how difficult they are.
8. Be positive
Because you struggle daily with symptoms and pain, it can be tempting to give in to negative thoughts. While it is okay to acknowledge difficulties, negative feelings will only make you feel worse. Strive to be positive and notice the good moments throughout your day.
9. Look for beauty
You are sick and struggling, and little things like dragging yourself out for a walk seem hard. Sometimes, if you look for beauty, you will see it. Notice the pretty flowers when you go out for that walk you forced yourself to go on. Listen to the lovely beat of that song on the radio or the giggles of your children as they play. There is beauty all around—take notice.
Laughter can help you stay balanced during tough times, improve sleep and moods, and decrease pain and stress levels. The best part? It is natural and free. Go ahead. Laugh long and hard, and get all the health benefits that laughter offers.
There are so many other ways you can live well with illness. While you have little control of your diagnosis, you can still control your response. A chronic illness doesn’t have to keep you from feeling joyful and having a good life.