Everyone with a chronic illness has heard their condition described as a “battle” or a “fight,” as though it is a challenge to be overcome. Even we describe it that way sometimes, with ourselves as warriors taking on the chronic illnesses which impact our lives. It’s easy to see why this terminology has made its way into the everyday language of lupus, arthritis and many other chronic illnesses. After all, there are times where it feels like our bodies are waging a war against us.
However, it isn’t good for our physical or mental health to always see chronic illness as a negative. Rather than viewing it as an enemy that needs to be attacked, why not see it as a dance partner you need to work with? Adopting a positive mindset will have a positive impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Here are five easy ways you can work in partnership with your chronic illness.
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Recording what you are thankful for is a wonderful way of reminding yourself that your illness is just one aspect of your life. From the little moment that raised a smile to the random act of kindness that changed your day for the better, keeping a gratitude journal will encourage you to see the positivity that is all around you. It is also a lovely, joyful item to look back at on the days when you aren’t feeling your best.
2. Know Your Own Normal
A key part of working in partnership with your chronic illness is knowing your body. What is normal for you is not necessarily normal for someone else, even if they have the same condition. You may find it helpful to keep a health diary to monitor any patterns, such as whether flare ups happen after eating certain foods or at a particular time during your menstrual cycle. Records of fluctuations in your condition can also help your healthcare team decide how to manage your chronic illness, so you may find it useful to take your diary to medical appointments.
3. Value Rest
Busyness is celebrated in society and, although there is joy to be had from an active work and social life, it is just as important to place value on rest. Aches, pains and other physical manifestations of chronic illness are your body’s way of telling you to slow down, so listen to what it needs when you can. Schedule quiet days where your body can recuperate, especially if you have been particularly busy or are feeling run down. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.
4. Celebrate Small Successes
It’s natural to have big dreams but celebrating small successes is equally important. Perhaps you found the energy to wash your hair for the first time in a week — well done! Maybe you cooked a meal from scratch or managed to complete a yoga session — congratulations! Everything you do is an achievement and, especially on the days where you are unwell, deserves to be applauded. Be proud of what you are capable of and the brilliant things your body allows you to do. You are amazing — go you!
5. Acknowledge the Highs and Lows of Chronic Illness
When you have a chronic illness, some days will be easier than others. The highs and lows can be difficult to navigate, especially when you long for a predictable life. Accepting that the bad days will pass and be replaced by better times will enable you to look forward to what lies ahead. It is normal to feel down when you are unwell, so take time to acknowledge the emotion but then look forward to the brighter days on your horizon.
Working in harmony with your body has many benefits and hopefully this has made you realize life doesn’t need to be a constant fight between you and your chronic illness. Sometimes it can be a beautiful pas de deux and you can enjoy the dance.
Katey Lovell is an author of romantic fiction and freelance writer. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2014, she became committed to using time management strategies to enable her to live the life she wanted. Katey lives in Sheffield, UK, with her husband, son and beloved animals — Reggie the doxiepoo and a sassy grey cat called Leia. You can find her on Twitter @Katey_Lovell.