Roughly half of the people around you are living with chronic illnesses. Perhaps you are one of them. Like everything else in life, you can choose to suffer with your condition, or you can learn to live with it gracefully. I say “choose” because your attitude about your condition is a choice – it’s something you can change – and your attitude determines how well or poorly you will live with it.
With that in mind, here are 7 things that influence how gracefully you handle your condition.
1. Be empowered.
People often feel victimized by illness. A common first reaction to a diagnosis of a condition that will likely become chronic is “Why me?” Instead, ask “Why not me?” Your illness is not a punishment, it is not something that is being done to you. You are not a victim. You are the hero of your life’s story. Every hero is faced with challenges and setbacks. Empower yourself by viewing your illness as a challenge in your quest for health.
2. What’s the lesson?
People who find meaning in the events of their lives are happier and more resilient. Happiness and resiliency are factors that lead to good health. Ask yourself what you are learning by having this experience (of being ill). Challenge yourself to find something, one thing, about it that is positive. How can you build on that?
A hero on a quest becomes very focused. You will also need to stay focused as you pursue your quest. Simplify your life as much as possible. Make a list of what’s important to you. These are your values. Prioritize your commitments according to your values. Reduce your exposure to stimulation (from radio, TV, computers/smart phones, etc), say no to activities and relationships that are too taxing. Reserve your time and energy for the people and things that make you feel good.
4. De-stress with Gratitude and Exercise
Quests are stressful. So much so that the stress can cause us to question the value of the quest, and cause us to lose hope. Loss of hope leads to the victimization mindset. Exercise is a well-researched form of stress relief. Find something you like to do and start with whatever you can manage – even 1 minute is better than nothing. Build slowly. Savor the sense of accomplishment as you go from 1 minute to 2, to 10, to 30.
Remind yourself of the good things in your life and focus on the gratitude you feel because of them. Oprah credits much of the success she has experienced to a regular practice of gratitude. Studies have shown gratitude has the power to transform your life.
Breath is life. Like exercise and gratitude, the simple act of breathing can invoke changes in your body’s chemistry (the relaxation response). These changes have positive effects on pain and fatigue – symptoms that are common with chronic illnesses.
6. Pursue happiness
Happiness isn’t something that just happens; it’s something you create. You create it through the myriad of decisions you make every day, and the attitudes you adopt towards the events in your life. Make the pursuit of happiness a strategic part of your self-care.
7. “Let go and let God”
This phrase is a summary of the ideas in the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
You are not responsible for everything. You cannot control everything. Remind yourself of these facts and find peace of mind in knowing you are doing the best you can.