HAWMC Day 26: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Chronic Illness…

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon given prompts.

Sunday 26th April: Make it a great day!

Life is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes, the type of day we have is out of our control, but other times, we can influence how our day is going.  Come up with 5 tips for changing your frame of mind when you’re having a bad day!

There is saying that says ‘Life is like a rollercoaster.’  And this saying, perfectly sums up what it is to live with a chronic illness.

Everyday there are many ups and downs as a result of our chronic illnesses.  There are plenty of ‘up’ moments, little moments that make the day worthwhile and gives us a reason to smile.  However, inevitably there are just as many ‘down’ moments, usually as a result of the onset of symptoms, and other effects that are a result of living with a chronic illness.

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It is true that we as individuals have control over how we are feeling and therefore influence how our day is going.  However, as those of living with a chronic illness will relate, often our symptoms and our long-term health condition very often dictates the type of day we are going to have.

Take yesterday, for instance, as my Mum has the week off from work, we were planning a trip to a local out-of-town shopping centre, which I was really looking forward to, especially as trips out, particularly those with Mum and Dad are rare.

However, on the morning of the planned trip, I awoke feeling exceptionally weak.  During the night, I experienced excruciating pain in my legs, and in the morning, I found that they were weak and barely strong enough to hold me up, never mind being strong enough to allow me to walk around shops for most of the morning.

Furthermore, the constant dizziness that I experience as a result of the brain stem lesion was exceptionally intense.  As a result therefore, I felt that I was too unwell to go on the planned trip, and instead spent most of the day lying on the sofa beneath my comforting duvet whilst my parents went shopping.  It was disappointing and frustrating not being able to do something that I was so looking forward to, and just one example of not being in control of our how day is going.

So, on these bad days, and the days in which we have no control over our day as a result of illness, how can we help change our frame of mind to make a bad day seem less so?  Here are 5 tips that can help change our day:

  • Practice gratitude: In my experience, using a gratitude journal and practicing gratitude can greatly help change our mindset.  In these gratitude journals it is useful to write at least 3 good things that happened to you during the day no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.  In my experience, in my doing so it helps to change your negative mindset into a positive one, and furthermore it also helps to make you appreciate the little gifts that each day delivers.2010-05-19-gratitudepic
  • Rewarding yourself: After a long day battling with symptoms such as pain, nausea, dizziness is a feat in itself! By planning to reward yourself, for getting through a difficult and stressful day, or for finishing a task despite dealing with debilitating symptoms it can help to give yourself something else to think about besides the symptoms currently being experienced.  Rewarding ourselves gives us something to look forward to despite the stresses of living with chronic illness. The reward does not need to be big or expensive; sometimes it’s finding pleasures in the little things in life.  My favourite reward?  A delicious bar of chocolate to savour at the end of the night!article-2238016-147A49E1000005DC-220_634x358
  • Listen to a favourite song and sing along!: Research has shown that listening to music that you like can actually alter your mood and alleviate feelings of depression.  Therefore, make your own ‘Feel Better’ playlist in your Mp3 player that includes songs that work for you and which lifts your mood.  Choose positive and uplifting songs that you can sing along to, such as the brilliant ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.  It could really help change the outlook for the day! 

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  • Honour yourself and your body: On these days, where we feel that we have no control, is the most important time to practice some self-care.  It is important to practice these rituals when we need it the most.  Nuture yourself by taking a warm bath, schedule a massage, cozy up with a book, or relax with a cup of tea and enjoy some quiet time.

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  • Smile!: Research has shown that in fact smiling really can turn a frown upside down.  When things seem bad smiling can actually make us feel more positive and happier about the situation, so let’s all try smiling!  And surround yourself with positive people and positive things – the positivity board that I have set up in my bedroom really does help when I am experiencing bad flares as a result of my condition.  It is a reminder that the negative situation is not permanent, it’s only temporary and as everything that is brief, it will soon pass. 
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