Chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, anxiety, multiple sclerosis (among others) require ongoing medical treatment and challenges. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and depressed, and that can take quite a few relationships and careers.
It is natural – and difficult! – to combat feelings of self-pity and resentment when you first learn from a chronic condition. Life is unquestionably more complicated when living with a chronic illness. The good news is that there are still many things you can do to enjoy life.
- Move to acceptance; stop thinking "Why me?" and think "What can I do now to work with the new normal of my condition?"
- Give yourself more power by learning as much as possible about your diagnosis. That can help you change your mindset, because frustration and anger give way to new adjustments in life … and give yourself time. Search for online tools and apps that can help you follow, follow or adjust medication, diet or other statistics if necessary.
- Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do. Are you fond of reading but can't do that anymore? Listen to audio books and you can still participate in your favorite book club.
- Adjust to your expectations and activities. This is part of embracing your new normal. A person who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes should check his or her blood sugar and maintain a healthy diet … but that should not stop you from enjoying food.
- Focus on your motivation: what drive you? Spending time with loved ones? Volunteer work? Grab your motivation and use it as a goal to look beyond your pain.
- Be action-oriented: take small steps. It is not easy to make an important adjustment to life. Consider joining a support group or an online community.
- PMA practice: positive mental attitude can change everything. No one is perfect, but you are here and thankful that you live. Think about the good things in your life.
- Maintain an attitude of gratitude ̵
- Consider what brings you joy and seek it out. If you enjoy walking, but now use a walker or walking stick, you are still moving forward. Don't give up – create more of what you desire.
- Don't take pleasure such as "How are you?" as an invitation for a long recitation of your condition. Find a safe and compassionate listener or two (a therapist or someone in a support group) so that those closest to you are not constantly overwhelmed by your status reports.
- Switch from complaining to accepting who you are today: Look at it with interest, not contempt. Do not talk non-stop about your ailments.
- Fight it with humor, humility and determination: laughter is the best medicine. It is great to see the humor in your condition, it is actually essential.
- Don't let the insensitivity of others drag you down: they don't know what it's like to walk in your shoes and can express impatience and a lack of empathy. That is their ignorance, not yours.
Don't let a chronic condition prevent you from leading your best life. Happiness takes work. We must choose happiness and fight for it. Our physical limitations and medical conditions limit what we cannot do, but we focus on what we can do. Embrace your new reality and don't look back. We all have scars, seen and unseen. They make us who we are. But it is what you do with them that counts.
Biography : Sherry Saturno is the executive director of Gramatan Village. She has a double license as a nursing home manager and clinical social worker and holds a master's degree from the universities of Columbia and Long Island. She is a fellow at the National Academies of Practice. She is the host and producer of Reimagine Aging Podcast.
Photo: Tim Marshall for Unsplash
Looking for more information about dealing with chronic pain? View this handy guide from our archives … and let us know what works for you in the responses!