While many problems today have solutions, some unfortunate circumstances don’t. Many incurable diseases are manageable with how advanced the health sector is today. There is still, however, a small proportion that cannot be treated completely. Manageable or not, being diagnosed with a chronic illness is a rollercoaster of emotions.
Living with a chronic illness is like dealing with a second full-time job; it requires a great deal of time and energy and takes a negative toll on your emotional well-being. Some people can respond to such situations better than others because of their psychological resilience; it is all a game of strong mental health.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve resilience and prepare for a better response for those who find it difficult to overcome hurdles in life. It isn’t bound to be a downhill track once you have been given the devastating news of a chronic illness. The following are some very useful tips that will help you bounce back, regain hope, and respond to the situation much more calmly:
- Familiarize yourself with the problem
Uncertainty is frightening. Problems like mesothelioma or other kinds of cancers are complex and dynamic. Your healthcare providers are prepared to brief you through all the details, but the patients often refuse to explore this information. With strong denial often coloring their thinking, it is natural to want nothing to do with the problem.
However, familiarizing yourself with the problem will help you feel empowered. This will also guide you to making the right choices that could have a life-altering impact on you and your loved ones.
You can find important information with your healthcare providers or other sources like the internet. At mesotheliomaveterans.org, for instance, you can find reliable information that will help guide your decisions.
- Allow yourself to feel every emotion
It is unhealthy to repress a certain emotional response and not let it surface. Pushing a feeling out of your mind is ineffective in the long run; it only fosters the problem. Unfortunately, for many, the first response is denial and repression. It is better to let yourself feel whatever you feel so that you can then let it go.
As appealing as it might be to push your head under the sand, don’t. Let yourself live through the emotion, and it will ultimately pass. Remind yourself that there isn’t a ‘right’ way you should be responding. Don’t be burdened by how you think you ‘should’ respond.
Common responses are anger, frustration, grief, helplessness, regret, and worry. These emotions might not be received well by your loved ones but don’t let others dictate you and make you suppress your emotions.
- Let yourself be open to change
Often, patients are unable to get used to the change that will inevitably come with a chronic illness diagnosis, and this resistance only aggravates the problem. Change is bound to happen; as much as you want to keep your previous routine, activity levels, social relationships, and hobbies be prepared to make some adjustments.
With an open mindset and mental readiness to adjust to the unexpected diagnosis, you can better cope with the problem. Being open to change lets you look at the bright side, even in the face of hardships and make the most of what you have.
- Be open to all the support you can get
Research has proven that people with social support have better health, faster recovery, and fewer psychological problems. They can respond better to chronic illnesses, injuries, and debilitating health concerns.
An illness can make you dependent on others in many ways, and it becomes very hard to accept this fact for people who aren’t used to it. Chronic illnesses are harder for those who take pride in being self-sufficient and independent. However, remember that besides physical support, it helps to have someone listen to your problems and be there when you feel like venting out. It doesn’t make you any weaker.
- Face your emotions
Unfortunately, many children are taught from childhood to repress and bottle up their emotions. Doing so is praised as being strong-willed. This is particularly true for boys in patriarchal societies. However, bottling up emotions only fuels them until, one day, it explodes inappropriately. Practice letting yourself feel each emotion in your body, acknowledge the physiological responses, and live through it instead of denying it.
The next time you feel frightened, anxious, or frustrated, take note of the changes in your body; perhaps your muscles tense, your stomach clenches, or your body starts to tremble. Doing so makes you feel free from the emotion quickly, and you realize that it isn’t that hard to go through after all.
This technique helps you acknowledge that emotions come and go, and even the bad ones ultimately subside.
- Practice stress management
Stress is the most common response to the news of a chronic illness diagnosis. Long-term stress is problematic, so you must do something about it. Prolonged stress can cause tension headaches, muscle tension, memory impairment, and concentration problems, digestive complications, sleep disturbances, and increased risk of heart disease, blood pressure problems, and stroke.
To manage your stress, learn strategies like deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness. All these techniques have proven effectiveness and are known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and help you feel more relaxed.
- Maintain a gratitude journal
It is easy to overlook our numerous other blessings when faced with a difficult situation. It is natural for our minds to take greater note of stressful and negative life events than positive ones. Gratitude doesn’t diminish the problem or minimize the pain but makes it more bearable.
Gratitude journaling will help you shift focus from the pain to the positive aspects of life. Research has proven that gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression following a chronic illness diagnosis. Gratitude enhances sleep, reduces pain, lowers stress, improves mood, and boosts relationships.
You should begin by taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to list just three things you are grateful for. Gradually increase the number, and you will see that it is now much easier to look at the positive elements in life.
There is no denying the fact that a chronic illness diagnosis can wreak havoc on one’s life and well-being. However, the consequences don’t always have to be as devastating as they might seem. There are ways to maintain your positivity and cope with the illness with resilience. Familiarize yourself with the problem, feel every emotion, accept all the support you can, exercise stress management strategies, and work on a gratitude journal. This might not eliminate the problem, but it will make it much easier to deal with.