A DIY Approach To Managing Chronic Illness
When it comes to managing chronic illness, even having the best health care and access to treatment will only go so far. There’s still work that you need to do on your own, but even making a few small changes can result in a big impact.
Think of it like hiring a personal trainer. Even if you head to the gym to meet your trainer five days a week, that hard work won’t lead to the results you want if your diet consists of pizza and ice cream.
It’s important to remember that your chronic illness doesn’t control you. There are many things you can do on your own to minimize symptoms and work towards having the best outcomes possible.
Be involved in your treatment: Some people are more comfortable letting their physician make the tough decisions about treatment, but it’s important that you play just as much of a role. Explore all of your care options, ask questions and don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable with the directions your treatment is going in.
Eat well: You wouldn’t put regular gas in a car that requires diesel, so why do the equivalent with your body? A poor diet can lead to feelings of lethargy that can negatively impact your mental and physical state. Be conscious of your daily food intake. It might even be worth considering seeing a nutritionist to find out if any specific foods can either exacerbate or reduce your symptoms.
Get lots of rest: We should all be aiming to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, but some chronic illnesses actually cause sleep problems. Some ways to help promote adequate sleep are setting a routine of waking up and going to bed at the same time, avoiding drinks before bed that contain coffee, and turning off all bright lights (like a television) an hour before bedtime.
Minimize stress: It’s well-documented that stress can lead to a lowered immune system, which in turn can trigger symptoms related to your illness. Try to remove any unnecessarily stressful situations and people from your life, as well as obligations that you feel are sapping your energy.
Stay connected: Emotional support from family and friends can go a long way with improving your mental outlook while managing your illness. Communicate directly and openly with loved ones about your chronic illness and ask for their support.
Seek support: On days where you’re not feeling as strong, don’t be afraid to ask family or friends to help with simple errands like cooking or picking up groceries. There’s also emotional support available in the form of in-person and online support groups, as well as regular sessions with a therapist.
Be grateful: Things can always be better, but they can always be worse. It’s important to turn your attention away from what you don’t have and focus on the things you do.
Add exercise: Regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health. Strength training can enable you to more easily manage daily tasks, while flexibility exercises can help you reduce the risk of falls and boost your range of motions. Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise routine to find out what exercises are safe and if you should take any precautions.