Coping with a chronic condition can be challenging. If you have a long-term illness, you will likely need ongoing medical care and interventions. You may find that your illness impacts your daily activities, limiting your mobility, and increasing the difficulty in doing everything from getting dressed to driving, and preventing you from doing many of the things you once enjoyed.
But having chronic illnesses and conditions can also take its toll on your mental health and emotional well-being. You may experience stress, pain and fatigue that leave you feeling anxious, exhausted and defeated. A serious disease or condition can also alter your physical appearance, depleting your usual self-confidence and leading you to avoid social situations. Those suffering from chronic conditions may become depressed and angry, and your altered moods may affect your family and those close to you.
Practicing self-care is critically important for those with serious long-term medical issues. Self-care interventions, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), “are tools that support the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” Most self-care involves steps you can take to minimize stress, keep your mood up and outlook positive, and help you feel better in general.
Here are eight easy ways to practice self-care.
Make sure you eat a healthy diet. Nourishing your body with critical nutrients can help you deal with chronic pain, increase energy and boost brain power. Consult with your physician for tips on optimizing your diet.
Get regular exercise. Gentle exercises can be great for your body – and your outlook. Your doctor can suggest appropriate exercises and help you develop an exercise plan that works for you.
Meet with friends often. Some individuals stop going out with friends when they become ill, and tend to self-isolate. However, having a chronic illness or condition doesn’t mean you have to abandon your social life. Reach out to friends if only to meet for a cup of coffee or to have them stop by.
Get good sleep. An important part of self-care is ensuring you get enough good sleep every night, which can help your body heal and help you keep a positive outlook. Talk with your doctor about the optimum amount of sleep you need. Your doctor can also work with you to develop solutions for frequent waking or difficulty falling asleep.
Keep up with your personal hygiene routine. When you have a chronic or debilitating illness, you may find your personal hygiene habits are falling by the wayside. Depression, stress and the pain associated with your condition can make activities like showering, brushing your teeth and doing laundry seem unimportant. Maintaining good hygiene is a great way to care for yourself while helping you feel better, too.
Rest when you need to take a break. Our lives are typically very busy with all sorts of activities. When you have a serious illness, you may become fatigued or exhausted more easily than ever before. Taking time out for a nap, or simply sitting down and reading a good book can help rejuvenate your body and mood.
Reach out for help. Many of us don’t like to ask for help. We feel like we can do everything on our own. But when you have a chronic illness, you may need some assistance in your daily activities. Reach out to family members and friends who may be willing to help drive you to a doctor’s appointment, do your grocery shopping or make meals. Asking for help is a sign of strength – not an indication of weakness – and actually a way to care for your well-being.
Take your meds. It goes without saying that you need to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor if you have a chronic illness, but think of it as a way you’re taking care of yourself. Consider working with a pill pack pharmacy, like PersonalRX, that delivers your medications every month in convenient, customized dose packs that make taking the right meds at the right time easy.
Self-Care when you have a chronic illness is a delicate balancing act. Being independent, as much as possible, is a core aspect of your mental well-being. But being open to help from others can help ease the daily stresses and make every day, even with an illness, worth living.