Serious illness is a difficult journey. It compromises our lives well beyond the physical symptoms of the disease. Simply put, life is not the same. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s important to realize that you are not powerless. When you find ways to take back life, you can win over letting the illness control what is possible. In this blog we share 5 ways how to live better with a serious illness, we hope it empowers you to live better.
- You Are Not Your Illness. Living with a serious or life limiting illness can be overwhelming. It’s easy to let it completely take over our lives, be ever present in our thoughts. We are likely to feel emotions more deeply than we may have before. Or have thoughts that are new and unsettling. You may think that the illness has changed your personality or your very being. Don’t let your feelings make you feel that you are becoming less of a person then you were or that you are no longer you but your medical condition. Remember, these feelings are not only normal but situational. Without the illness, these feelings, thoughts and concerns would not exist. The illness has not truly changed your personality, you’re simply responding to the situation you now live with. The real you is still here. Be gentle with yourself, know that over time you will adapt. You will begin to feel like yourself again as you learn how to fit the illness into your life.
- Find Small Victories. Your illness may decrease your ability to participate in activities as fully as you did before. You may feel like it robs you of much of the joy that was once in your life. Don’t let it. Find ways to still live as fully as possible and win those small victories. You may need to alter activities, but you can still do what once mattered to you. If you are unable to hike like you once loved to do in your local park, then go there for a picnic. If you once loved to swim in the ocean then sit at the edge of the surf. The sun, sound and beauty are still there – still attainable. Go for the small victories – they will help you feel empowered over your illness and can dramatically improve your state of mind.
- Don’t Let Fear Win. Fear is a normal part of being diagnosed with a serious illness. It’s not that you’re not brave enough or strong enough, fear is a normal response. It’s easy to become lost in worries of ‘what if’. But fear robs us of our today. Ask yourself if whatever you’re worrying about is happening right now at this very moment? Focus on living in the present. If your fear becomes overwhelming or it starts to control your life then it may be time to seek professional support. Ask your physicians to recommend a therapist. Many cancer hospitals have therapists on staff who are 100 percent focused on helping those living with serious illness. Seeking support will help you learn ways to cope and help you feel less isolated in your illness. Realize you are not alone, these therapists exist because those with serious illness need support. Allowing yourself to get support is part of coping with your illness.
- Decrease The Stress. It may be impossible to avoid feeling stressed, but stress can contribute to or even exacerbate health problems. Learning and practicing stress management techniques can help improve your overall wellbeing. When feeling stressed talking to a friend can help, they can provide comfort and help you feel supported. Other techniques to break the stress include: going for a walk, listening to music, getting outside in nature, adopting a relaxation practice like meditation or yoga. Also try to stay as active as possible. Being active can help you feel more relaxed and positive.
- Reach Out To Others. You may feel like people will see you as a burden, or less of a person if you share your true feelings about your illness. Keeping your feelings bottled up or putting on a brave face is not good for your mental health when facing the stress of a serious medical condition. Gaining social support is critical to your wellbeing. Choosing who to confide in and how much to share is a very personal choice. But your friends will feel honored you chose to confide in them and will welcome the opportunity to lend support. Gaining support from friends can have a huge impact on your mental health. Sharing with friends can give you a sense of comfort and much needed emotional support. Illness is more difficult faced alone. If you decide to share, be sure to let your friends know clear parameters about what they are allowed to say, or share with others.
Let Us Uplift You. UpliftedCare brings an extra layer of support to individuals living with serious illness and to their families. We focus on easing pain, controlling symptoms and reducing the burdens of illness. Together we can help you regain control and feel empowered because each day is about your choice to live more fully.
If you are a caregiver, remember, taking care of yourself is crucial. Here are Health Tips for Caregivers.