Living with a chronic illness presents many challenges, some of which go beyond caring for your health condition. Learning how to manage your condition and still live a full life can be a daunting task. However, it is one that you can accomplish. The following tips can help you live a full and rewarding life after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
Don’t Let Your Diagnosis Define You
It is very easy to live your life defined by a diagnosis. After all, you may be limited in what you can do, where you can go, and how long you can stay active. However, this is a mistake that can negatively impact your physical and emotional health.
Just like a physical trait, such as hair color or height, does not define your identity as a person, neither does your illness. Instead, it is just another factor that makes up the complete picture of you.
Sure, you may find yourself having to do things in new ways, or you might find new limitations, but that is not a defining characteristic. Instead, it is a quality you must now take into consideration when choosing what you will do and where you go. For example, someone with a chronic heart condition may want to talk to a doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Understand (and Avoid) Your Triggers
Triggers are factors that cause symptoms to appear or worsen. Unfortunately, they are a common feature of many chronic illnesses and, luckily, one that can often be controlled.
For example, while it is still largely misunderstood, MS hug triggers may include physical exertion, heat or stress. Knowing this allows you to develop a plan to anticipate and alleviate the symptom. In this case, that might include adding a daily stress management technique to your schedule or avoiding extreme heat.
It can be challenging to identify your personal triggers, so it is a good idea to keep a journal that includes activities you engage in, foods you eat, and a description of your symptoms. This information can help you get a clearer picture of the connections between your condition and what you are doing each day.
Once you have that picture, you can work to avoid your triggers. This step is important because it can help reduce the extent to which you are affected by your health condition.
Be Honest About Any Limitations
While you should not allow yourself to be defined by an illness, you must be honest about any limitations it imposes on you. Take some time to assess areas where you need to set limits and make changes. However, don’t let this process discourage you.
It can be helpful to consider admitting what you can no longer do as an opportunity to find new interests and pursuits. For example, if you previously enjoyed running but can no longer withstand the impact, you might consider taking up cycling. Today’s recumbent bikes and trikes are suitable for individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and may be an option that opens doors. Plus, they can provide an intense workout that helps support physical strength.
Build a Solid Support Team
Most anyone who has managed a chronic illness can tell you that having a support system can make all the difference in how successful you are. This group of people and organizations will provide information, assistance, and emotional support as you learn to live with your diagnosis.
Support teams can be made up of any number of people who help ensure you have the resources you need to succeed. They often include:
- Your primary care provider and specialist team
- Occupational and physical therapists
- Organizations that research and assist with your illness
- Family members
- Friends or co-workers
It is a good idea to remember that just because someone is family or a close friend does not mean they should automatically be included in your plans. If they do not help you live life to the fullest, avoid leaning on them when you need support.
Receiving a diagnosis that includes a chronic illness means you will need to build long-term strategies to maintain your health. This is possible when you understand your limitations, build a solid support system and identify your triggers. It is also helpful to remember that your diagnosis does not define you.