Photography credit: Frances Gunn
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Living with chronic illness is challenging, both physically and emotionally. Some days can be especially tough.
In today’s post, I am sharing 7 tips for getting through the difficult days with chronic illness.
1. Focus on the present moment
Minimising stress is really important if you are experiencing a flare up as stress will exacerbate your symptoms .
Often the biggest cause of stress is wishing for the past or worrying about the future. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past and the truth is, you don’t know what will happen in the future either.
Worrying about either of these things is– to put it bluntly– wasted energy.
I appreciate it is not easy, but the best thing you can do for yourself right now is to focus on the present moment.
Take things day by day and focus the energy you do have into things that will help you to feel as well as possible. That could be doing nothing and that’s okay.
2. Listen to your body
It’s human nature to want to ignore our symptoms and push through them. Sometimes we just want to experience ‘normal’ things or get on with life as best we can.
The problem with this approach is that pushing ourselves never works. At some point we will crash and the aftermath always feels devastating.
I empathise and understand that sometimes the only option is to push through and keep going. But, when you are able to, it is worth listening to your body and surrendering to its needs.
Prioritising rest can feel frustrating but trust that it is not time wasted. Quite the opposite.
Symptoms are unpleasant but they are your body’s way of communicating with you. A flare up is your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down.
Would you rather take the time out now to give your body what it needs? Or would you prefer to keep fighting and potentially prolong your current state of health?
There’s no right or wrong answer there but this is what I ask myself before I decide to push through or rest. Will I be able to cope with the fallout or am I better preventing it?
3. Rest as much and for as long as you need to
Speaking of rest, so many of us fight it. I know I used to.
When I crashed hard I would only allow myself a set period of time to fully rest. I think I was scared that if I stayed in bed too long I’d get worse.
With hindsight, I can now see that this was illogical. I was fighting against what my body was telling me to do.
There can definitely be a disconnect between the brain and the body. Make sure you are listening to your body over your mind when you make decisions about what to do.
I wish I had valued rest and given myself permission to rest as much as I needed to.
This can admittedly be hard to do when the medical advice often given to overcome chronic fatigue is to exercise (which, in my experience, does not work).
The truth is, if your body doesn’t have the resources to do what you are asking of it, you are fighting a losing battle.
Rest up and only start to move and do things again when you actually feel like you are able to.
For me, that really only came when I discovered the underlying cause of my fatigue and had treatment (that was right for me).
4. Tell someone how you are feeling
Having bad days is tough and it is even tougher to go through it alone. Open up to someone and share how you are feeling.
Getting the support of someone else can give you a boost when you so desperately need it. It also means you can get the help that you need so that you are able to fully rest and recover.
However, choose who you speak to wisely. You need to speak to someone who will understand and empathise with you.
If you open up to someone who doesn’t get it, then you will sadly create more stress for yourself.
I appreciate that not everybody has someone in their life that they can open up to in this way. That’s why I feel the online chronic illness community is so amazing.
There are many lovely, supportive and helpful people on social media, be it twitter or support groups.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking about your situation another great thing to do is to read blogs by people who are going through similar. It can really help to feel like you are not alone in what you are going through.
5. Pamper yourself
I use bad days as a perfect excuse to pamper myself. Whether that means simply getting into my best, comfy pyjamas or having a candlelit bubble bath, I will do anything that helps me to feel better.
I tend to make a list of things that I find enjoyable but easy to do and save those for my difficult days.
Although there have been times when all I could do was lie in a dark room and do nothing (and that’s perfectly okay to do if that’s what your body needs) if I am able to do these things it can help to lift my mood.
I am talking simple things such as colouring , drawing, listening to certain music or audiobooks. I also like to watch certain movies that require little concentration on my part.
6. Don’t beat yourself up about it
One of the most important things to remember when you are going through difficult days with chronic illness is that it is not your fault. You are dealing with challenging circumstances that are not your fault.
Although we can all fall into a negative mindset, it is grossly unfair to put yourself down, feel guilty or beat yourself up about your chronic illness.
We can be our own worst enemy at times and it can be helpful to challenge and reframe our thoughts.
For example, imagine it was your best friend or someone very close to you who was going through this. Would you be saying the same things to them as you do to yourself?
I highly doubt it. This is, therefore, a gentle reminder that you do not deserve to be told these things either.
7. Stay hydrated & eat nutrient-rich foods
I don’t know about you but when I experience challenging days with chronic illness, I can struggle to drink enough water and have a tendency to think “sod it” and eat foods I usually avoid .
I’m not someone who thinks of food in terms of “good” and “bad” as I don’t think that’s right. But, I have come to learn which foods help and which hinder me in terms of symptoms.
Over the years I’ve learned that one of the best things I can do for myself on the difficult days is to ensure that I am giving my body proper nutrition.
Eating well and drinking plenty of water sounds basic and boring. But, it honestly helps me when I feel very depleted.
I find using a refillable water helps me to keep track of how much I am drinking. I try to slowly sip water through the day and also drink herbal teas.
Preparing and freezing meals during the better days means I have healthy food readily accessible for the bad ones ( slow cookers are great for this). Which means I am setting myself up to make better choices.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If there is anything else you would add to the list, please share your thoughts down below in the comments.
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