Essentials of Managing Your Chronic Illness

Mar 14


Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed.

Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed.

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Essentials of Managing Your Chronic Illness

Managing your illness means to take responsibility for the
actions that are necessary for you to cope and live life as
optimally as possible within the limits you are faced with.
It empowers you to improve the quality of your life, reduces
helplessness and hopelessness and promotes self-confidence
and self-esteem.

There are many steps one can take to manage their illness,
and these steps may vary greatly from week to week or from
individual to individual. But, there are several
essentials that are fundamental to any health care path
regardless of your diagnosis.

These essentials are:

1. Proper Nutrition
You are what you eat. What you eat has a profound impact on
your mental and physical health. Eating a healthy diet is
essential for optimal functioning and healing. Depending on
your particular illness, this may include incorporating new
foods into your diet or eliminating some favorites. At the
very least you should be eliminating things such as sugar,
caffeine, refined foods and unhealthy fats and replacing
these with whole foods such as vegetables, whole grains,
nuts and seeds, fruits and fresh or frozen meat and poultry.
Preferably your diet should be free of chemicals and toxins
found in the average diet such as pesticides, herbicides,
additives, dyes and preservatives. Healing can’t take place
in a body fed with unhealthy foods and neither can maximum

2. Exercise
Incorporating exercise into your life is crucial for the
mind, body and soul. The body’s natural release of
endorphins, which occurs with exercise, provides wonderful
emotional uplifts and is also a fantastic pain reliever. In
addition to reducing heart disease, building healthy bones
and muscles and managing weight, it is an excellent outlet
for relieving depression, anger, stress and anxiety and also
boosts self-esteem and self-confidence. Regular exercise
improves energy levels, help you sleep better and more
deeply, promotes healthy bowels and boosts the immune

3. Soul Nourishing
Feeding your soul healthy food is just as important as
feeding your stomach. Find ways to nourish and replenish
your soul. Participate in activities that make you feel
whole, alive and one with universe. Neglecting your soul
results in loss of joy and life fulfillment. Yoga,
meditation, prayer, communing with nature, music, art,
writing or deep meaningful relationships are some great
sources of soul food.

4. Take an Active Role in Your Health Care
You should play a central role in your health care
treatment. Instead of passive compliance with doctor’s
orders this requires a partnership with your health care
provider. You’re with your body 24 hours a day, so no one
knows how your illness or treatment approaches impact you
and your life, better than you do. Be an active participant
in treatment approaches, pursue all possible avenues,
present your physician with options.

5. Communication
Honest, direct communication with health care providers,
friends, family etc., is vital to your mental and physical
health as well as the quality of your relationships. You’ll
get the best possible care if your physician is clear about
your symptoms and how the illness and treatment impacts you.
Everyone gets their needs met more effectively when there
is understanding of one another and this can only occur with
communication. Communication prevents misunderstandings and
promotes intimacy.

6. Educate Yourself
Learn everything you possibly can about your illness and
your options. Consult with physicians, nutritionists,
alternative health providers, other individuals with your
condition, etc. Go to the library or bookstore and read
everything you can get your hands on, do research on the
Internet. Saturate your mind with knowledge about all
aspects of your condition so that you can make informed
choices. Self-knowledge restores a sense of personal power.

7. Pace Yourself
Set priorities with your time and your energy. Break down
your tasks and activities into hard and easy categories and
list them according to priority. Do the things that are
urgent or most important first and then the others when you
are capable. Break long-term goals down into several
short-term goals. Permit yourself to achieve the goal in
small steps instead of all at once. Always allow yourself
to rest when needed and give yourself permission to leave
the list unfinished. Be flexible and accept your limits.
Allow yourself time to recuperate when you have participated
in a draining activity.

8. Humor and Inspiration
Humor and inspiration are good for the soul and the immune
system and necessary to help us keep things in perspective
and out of negativity. They improve mood and make life a
little lighter and more manageable. Feed yourself with
humor and inspiration daily. Keep quotes, nature pictures
or jokes in your daily space for frequent viewing, with
things like calendars, or if you have Internet access you
can receive quotes of the day or jokes of the day delivered
to your email box. You can also watch funny films, read
cartoons or read inspirational magazines or books.

9. Nurture Primary Relationships
Everyone needs love and support and it is especially
important for those with chronic illness. It assists in the
acceptance and adjustment process, helps you cope and
relationships are what makes life worth living. There is
nothing more fulfilling than loving and being loved.
Chronic illness will undoubtedly be a strain and stress on
relationships and has the potential to erode or destroy them
if left unchecked. It will be necessary to make a conscious
effort to nourish them. Make those most important to you a
priority and reserve quality time for them. Encourage open

communication of feelings. Deal with the impact the illness
has on your relationships directly and honestly. People
have a tendency to try and spare one another’s feelings by
avoiding these types of discussions, and although you may
avoid the discomfort of the moment, in the long run this is
destructive to the relationship. Seek friends who are
supportive and understanding.

10 Reduce Stress
Life is stressful and there is no way to eliminate it, but
keeping stress to a minimum and finding ways to deal
effectively with your stress on a daily basis is essential
to preventing it from overburdening your already limited
physical and emotional capacities. Delegate
responsibilities and chores to others in your life if
possible. Shorten duration of visits and activities when
necessary. Participate in soothing, relaxing activities
like, massage, meditation, prayer and exercise. Don’t allow
yourself to get caught up in the vicious rat race of life by
trying to live up to others expectations. Most of society
lives a very unhealthy pace of life. Keep life simple;
enjoy the simple things of life.

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