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Dealing with a chronic illness is a daily struggle and some days are better than others. Even when you know what to expect (symptoms that you deal with regularly), you rarely know when they'll appear. And it can often be at the most inconvenient times.
That can lead to frustration and even depression, because you don’t feel in control and struggle with guilt that you can’t do all the things you used to. At least not as easily.
Over my seven years of living with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism), I’ve learned that the key to dealing with the emotional aspects is to maintain a positive attitude. It isn’t always easy, but unlike physical symptoms, your attitude is something you have complete control over.
Making a conscious decision to see and focus on the good in your situation and accept the challenges as they come makes things much easier. Having a positive attitude toward everything helps in many ways. It helps you to take charge of your circumstances and make the most of them. It gives you control over your day and your attitude.
Here are some ways that a positive attitude helps me cope with the emotional aspects of living with a chronic illness:
For each thing that you can’t do in a day, there are probably at least five others that you can. Instead of getting down about the one thing, focus on the five. Be grateful for the things you can handle and know that you will get to the others eventually.
It’s like seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. Keeping your mind on the positive shows you the good things instead of keeping you dwelling on the negative.
Having a chronic illness means you won’t be able to control how you feel every day. But there are things that you can control, such as what you eat, what level of activity you can handle each day and your attitude through it all.
Eating healthy pays many benefits in the long run. Paying attention to your diet and eating healthy foods fuels your body and will give you more energy to get through your day.
Knowing your limits as far as physical activity also prevents you from overdoing it and potentially setting yourself back. Learn to pace yourself each day because being physically drained also puts stress on your emotions.
No matter how your day goes, you can control how you handle it. Being kind to yourself goes a long way in keeping your emotions steady and calm.
Why can’t I do things like I used to? What is wrong with me? These and many other questions used to run through my mind each day, leading to frustration. But then I learned not to give in to them.
It’s not your fault that you have a chronic illness. Don’t get down on yourself or cast blame. Give yourself a break and accept that your life is different. Taking the pressure off yourself allows you to find new ways to cope with your illness and move forward.
It can be difficult to escape thoughts of chronic illness, even for a little while because so many aspects of your day-to-day life are impacted by it. Purposely making time for things that bring you joy will help you to step outside of yourself and just relax each day.
Find something you like to do. Escape in a book or a movie. Take a walk and surround yourself with the beauty of nature. Listen to music that makes you happy. Call your best friend and just laugh with her.
It is vitally important to find outlets that will make you happy. Laugh and relax a bit each day to help you recharge your batteries and find some peace.
One of the best ways to handle chronic illness is to reach out and connect with other people like you. How do they handle it? Maybe you’ll meet someone with a success story that will inspire you to keep going and push through the bad days more easily.
You can look for support groups in your area and also online. There are many outlets available for people these days to share experiences and encourage each other.
If you can’t find one that fits your needs, you can start one of your own! We often have no idea what the people around us are going through until we reach out and share our story.
Have you ever heard of the saying that the best way to forget your own problems is to help someone else? It’s true. Helping others draws us out of ourselves and gives us a new perspective.
I learned this when I helped a co-worker who was newly diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Reaching out to her and being able to help showed me a new way to make a positive impact in someone else’s life and my own as well.
One of the best ways to cope positively to having a chronic illness is to use your experiences to help others. If you like to write, you can start a blog or write a book about how you handle things. If you’re a teacher, you could teach a class. Or you can find volunteer opportunities in your area or online for ways to reach out and give back. Helping others often gives us back more than we realize.
Living with chronic illness is a daily challenge. But it is also an opportunity to see how strong you really are and to find the good in your situation. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it and offer help to others when you can. Keeping a positive attitude focused on hope can carry you through day by day.