Carda Health: The Best Way to Manage Chronic Illness
Managing chronic illness can feel like an uphill battle — and that’s before you even get started. The first few months or even years of living with a chronic illness can be especially challenging. Constant bodily changes, limitations in your activities, and financial strain can all take a toll. But not to worry: You’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), as many as 80 percent of people dealing with chronic illness cite their personal relationships as their primary source of support.
Fortunately, these relationships also offer tremendous benefits. A study in the journal Social Science & Medicine suggests that people with chronic illnesses who have supportive friends and family members are more optimistic, feel fewer symptoms of depression, and have lower stress levels. They’re also more likely to adhere to their treatment regimens and take medications as prescribed.
On the other hand, chronic illness can also make it challenging to maintain personal relationships. When you’re constantly fatigued, it can be difficult to spend time with friends and family. You might also be afraid that you’ll negatively affect your friends and loved ones if you’re not feeling well.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case — and there are actually a few ways that you can manage chronic illness so that it doesn’t take a toll on your relationships. Let’s take a look at how.
Learn about your condition
The very first step to living well with chronic illness is understanding your condition. You should have a basic knowledge of what treatments are best for you, what types of foods you should eat, and how much activity you can handle. If your condition is manageable, then it may be helpful to take baby steps in getting back into a social life.
Start gradually by calling an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while and invite them out for coffee or lunch. If they live nearby, then invite them over for dinner so that you don’t have to cook too much.If your condition is more severe, then it might be better if you spend less time with others as that will allow you to make the most of the time when you are feeling well enough to socialize.
Make the most of your time with friends and family
The time you spend with friends and family is essential to your well-being. This is especially true if you have a chronic illness. In order to make the most of this time, it’s important to set aside at least one day a week when you can devote your energy to them. For example, if you only have Friday mornings off from work, schedule a date with a friend for that morning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If there are certain activities that are too strenuous for you, then enlist a friend or family member’s help in doing them — whether it’s helping with house chores or running errands. You should also be open about your limitations with loved ones so they know what kind of care they should provide. Plus, it might help to avoid doing things like excessive cooking and cleaning which take more energy than usual as well as socializing at crowded places where germs are more likely to spread.
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Network with other people living with a chronic illness
An important way to maintain personal relationships is to network with other people living with a chronic illness. If you have a social media account, you can join an online community of others living with the same condition. For example, if you’re living with Crohn’s Disease, you can use Facebook to connect with others who are dealing with the same condition. This will give you a sense of camaraderie and help ease your sense of isolation.
Similarly, there are also local support groups for people who live with chronic illness. These groups provide additional opportunities for both emotional and practical support from people who are familiar with what it’s like to live successfully — or at least as successfully as possible — while managing chronic illness.
Be honest about how you feel
One of the most important things you can do to manage your chronic illness is to be honest about how you feel, both physically and emotionally. It’s natural for people with chronic illnesses to want to keep their symptoms to themselves at first, but this can end up hurting your relationships and make them more difficult. When you don’t share how you feel with those around you, it can be hard for them to offer support because they don’t know what you need.
It might also lead those close to you to feel neglected and unimportant. In fact, a study in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior found that people living with chronic illness often have higher levels of loneliness than those without an illness.
So, be honest about what your needs are — and don’t hold back on sharing how you feel. When it comes down to it, developing open and honest relationships is one of the best ways to help manage chronic illness while still maintaining strong personal ties.
Keep an open dialogue with your loved ones
It’s easy to worry that your friends and family won’t understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. But this isn’t the case at all.
In fact, if you find yourself in a frustrating situation, reach out to your loved ones for support. They might be able to offer some valuable insight or advice on how you can manage your condition. It doesn’t matter how many days in between conversations are either — it’s always good to keep an open dialogue with close friends and family members about your condition. This will help them better understand what you’re going through and how they can best support you just by being there for you.
Living with a chronic illness can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. We are here to provide the education you need to manage your condition, share your story and connect with others who understand.
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