Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Why it Should Be a Priority
If there is nothing else you learn about chronic illness today, it should be this: your mental health is extremely important and needs to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, with chronic illnesses or pain, your physical health is often the star of the show, but your mental health takes a lot of the damage. This is because chronic illnesses can cause grief, anxiety, stress, depression, and so much more. Make sure you are making your mental health a priority for full wellness when you have a chronic illness.
Chronic Illness Sufferers Are at a Higher Risk of Mental Illness
As someone with a chronic illness, regardless of what illness you have, you are going to be at a higher risk for mental illness. It is a lot for you to go through mentally, from the constant pain you might experience, to coping with how different your life becomes. Many people with a chronic illness notice they soon experience signs of stress, worsened anxiety, and depression. You might get burnout from how much your lifestyle is affected by the chronic illness, and you may find that you get emotionally detached and no longer want to see anyone, as a sign of your depression.
Signs Your Mental Health is Suffering
Not sure if what you are experiencing is related to your mental health or not? Here are some signs you definitely don’t want to ignore.
- You completely isolate yourself, and no longer talk to or see other people
- You feel like your life is now pointless and you are hopeless about the future
- You give up on your doctors being able to treat or manage your illness
- You have no pleasure in the things that once brought you joy
- You struggle with focus and concentration
- Your sleeping habits are drastically different
- You are agitated and have frequent mood swings
- You avoid public places because of your anxiety
Coping Skills for Chronic Illness
If you are relatively new to having a chronic illness, or it has simply transformed to something more severe recently, you may be having trouble coping. These tips will help you navigate this new life you have, and help you deal with all the changes.
1. Learn More About the Realities of Your Chronic Condition
After you are diagnosed with your chronic illness, learn as much about it as you can. This is a really important first step to coming terms with it and learning how to cope. If you sit in denial for too long or don’t know what to expect, it is going to take a lot longer to learn acceptance and important coping skills. This might look like asking your doctor as many questions as you have, talking to a specialist about your diagnosis, doing your own research, talking to people you know with this same chronic illness. It is also a good time to join a support group with others who have this or similar chronic illnesses.
2. Manage Your Physical Symptoms, Don’t Try to Cure Them
Since you have a chronic condition, it means there is not a cure, and your life is spent managing it and trying to prevent the harder side effects. To cope with your illness, change your mindset from trying to cure your physical ailments to just managing them and staying as comfortable as possible. A lot of having a chronic illness is learning how to adapt to it. Starting new routines, managing your pain and other symptoms, scheduling in doctor’s appointments, and adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate any physical changes you experience.
3. Look for Signs of Emotional or Mental Health Changes
Your emotional and mental health is going to change quite a bit after you are diagnosed with a chronic illness. This differs for everyone, depending what you have, your pain tolerance, how much it affects your daily life, and your mental health prior to being diagnosed. But it is important to always keep an eye on signs of your mental health declining so you can get ahead of it and get the right amount of support before it gets worse.
4. Have a Contingency Plan
You should always have a contingency plan for your chronic illness. This means you have options for just about everything that might come up, such as bad days when you have a lot of pain or exhaustion, when you need to turn down friends or cancel plans, when you can’t get your work done. This might be a plan for what to do if you can’t get your kids to school or are unable to make it to a doctor’s appointment without assistance, or having to reschedule your work to be done on a different day.
5. Make Your Mental Health a Priority
You should always make your mental health a priority whenever you notice signs of emotional suffering, burnout, depression, or anxiety. This can be even harder when you have a chronic condition because it takes so much time and energy focusing on your physical health, that your mental wellbeing is often pushed aside. Get help now when you start noticing your mental health suffering. Talk to your doctor and get a therapist who can help you with the emotional support side of your chronic illness. It is also a good time to build your support system of friends and family members who can be there when you need them.
Managing Your Emotional Health on a Regular Basis
Remember that your emotional and mental health are always going to be at risk, so you should always make managing them a priority. This includes getting enough rest when you need it, asking others for help, and getting outside as much as you can. Make sure you are still eating enough and getting regular exercise when possible.
If you are looking for more tips and support, join me over on my group page, The Village – A Natural HEALing Community, to get tons of information and tips to help you take your HEALTHY EATING and ACTIVE LIVING to the next level. HEAL GOOD. FEEL GOOD. DO GOOD.