This is a collaborative article
Suffering from an injury, splitting headache or a sore belly is not easy. However, these common ailments and illnesses tend not to last long, and despite your discomfort, at least you have the knowledge that there is an end in sight.
However, when you have a long-term condition, things are a little different. Something like high blood pressure, for example, or diabetes, are chronic conditions – perhaps lasting for the rest of your life – that require constant management. There’s conditions like arthritis, too, or osteoporosis – and lest we forget about life-changing injuries.
It can be tough to get a handle on these chronic conditions when you are just at the beginning of your new journey – a journey you didn’t want or expect. The trouble is, the slower you take charge and start managing those problems, the worse it will be. With this in mind, here’s how you can help yourself cope with long-term health conditions.
First and foremost, listen to your doctor and medical team. The more you know about your medical condition, the better equipped you will be about the challenges that lie ahead. Take a notepad and pen if you are worried about forgetting things, get as much down as possible on paper.
Invest in yourself
Next, have some belief – and determination. The reality is that any long-term health condition is going to lead to considerable lifestyle changes. Stop smoking, lose some weight, exercise more – you know the deal. Sure, there may not be things that you can do like you used to, but find the right exercises and eat more nutritious food and you will be able to manage your symptoms much better.
Make things easy for yourself
That said, you don’t want to push yourself too far. Take help when it’s offered, and try and get to know your limits. Coordinate your care as best as possible – use your GP to put all the different pieces together for you in your care plan. Look for a Repeat NHS Prescription Online Service so you never run out of your key meds, too. And plan your life so that you have plenty of time to do fun things as well as the usual stresses and strains of the modern lifestyle.
This point is vital – keep yourself aware of your mental condition. Depression is a serious risk for anyone who is suffering from long-term illness, and a third of those suffering from a chronic condition often report dark and down moods. It can have a serious impact, so be very careful. Not only will your mood suffer greatly but depression can keep you from taking proper medication, seeing your doctor, and also pursuing healthy – and vital – habits.
A lot of people with chronic conditions hate the fact that they are ill – and they see themselves as a burden. It’s important that you don’t let these feelings overcome your own voice, however. Many people with long-term illnesses have a tendency to keep things to themselves, and stop asking for help – even when they need it the most.
Join a community
Doctors, nurses, therapists and your close family and friends will be a huge help to you over the coming years. However, they won’t have all the answers that you seek. Learn to reach out to communities and support groups in your area – there is likely to be a thriving group of people that have the same things as you. Ultimately, if you want the real stories behind your condition, you will hear it from those that share it with you – not necessarily a medical professional who only knows what they have learned in their careers.
Watch out for your emotions
Finally, finding out your have a chronic health condition can have a considerably disruptive impact on your emotions – and, therefore, your relationships. You may feel more stresses, grief stricken, angry, scared or anxious. It’s totally normal, of course, but you also need to learn to handle those emotions. Exercise and stretching can help you improve your moods. Listening to music is effective, too. It’s a good idea to ensure that you schedule time to yourself and have the ability to take a break when you need it. Self-care is an important aspect of managing your illness, so be sure to look after number one.
Finding out you have a chronic illness will impact your life. But it’s how you handle and manage your condition that will make a difference. Learn about your illness, be proactive, and face your fears. Make time for yourself, and accept help when it is offered. Good luck – things will get better!