Staying upbeat can be tough when you are living with a chronic illness. Here are some research proven ways to stay positive even when your body lets you down
Hello! It has been a little bit since I have posted, life has been busy, especially with the holidays. I have been a contributing writer for a new website created by the Living Without publishers called My Life with Food Allergies and wanted to share my latest article about staying positive when you have a chronic illness.
I am not usually very transparent or personal in this blog – I am a very guarded person by nature so it’s hard for me to open up sometimes, but my desire is to help people, so here goes. 🙂 Writing this article really hit home for me and took me a while to write since I was having some personal struggles over the last 2 months (actually the last year). Staying positive when you have health issues can be really tough. I have had digestive problems for years, but no one can figure out what was wrong. This year I got the IBS diagnosis, not technically a “disease” or chronic illness, but still frustrating. I am not even convinced that is what’s wrong with me, but having a “label” for a health problem can be a little comforting.
Seasonal allergies last spring and summer wiped me out and were much worse last year than in the past, and the allergy shots I started getting only made it worse. Yikes! Talk about having zero energy. I was struggling to teach my fitness classes and put on some weight, so I wasn’t feeling so great about myself either. I tried training for a couple half-marathons but got tendinitis twice, setting me back for a month or 2 each time. In November I found out that I have ulcers in my bladder (I think it’s called interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome), which is aggravated by food sensitivities. I am also going to get tested for lupus since several women on my dad’s side of the family have it.
With everything going on health-wise, and then personal struggles on top of that, 2013 was an extremely difficult year for me. Depression started setting in and my motivation to do anything just wasn’t there. I wrote the article on staying positive since there are so many people like me (and many more with worse physical ailments) that need a little guidance.
There are a few things I want to add to the list below: a support system is super important, and so is faith. Family and friends that understand what you are going through is so important!! And if you don’t feel like you have a good support network, it’s okay to find a counselor to talk to. Getting stuff out of your head can be a big relief.
Faith is also important, more than anything else on the list. If you don’t have hope in a better future, and faith that things will work out, then life loses it’s zest and everything becomes gray. My faith is in God, I know that He will carry me through anything that comes my way, no matter what it is.
I am so glad that 2013 is gone, and I am determined to make 2014 a better year by staying positive and letting go of trivial things. I’m crying a bit while I write this since last year was difficult, but if it helps someone, even just one person, then it’s all worth it to me even if it’s uncomfortable. Thank you everyone for your support of The Fit Cookie, too. It has been wonderful writing, baking, and helping people 🙂
If you are living with a chronic illness or battling health issues on a daily basis, you are not alone: according to Psychiatry Times, 1 in 10 Americans (or 25 million people) have chronic illnesses that severely limit their daily activities. Dealing with physical ailments and food allergies in the long term can be mentally and emotionally draining, and people who have chronic illnesses are more prone to depression and anxiety.
Not to worry! You can stay mentally and physically strong by using some of these research proven methods for staying mentally healthy. While it’s important to note that none of these things will provide a “cure”, but they can certainly improve your outlook on life.
- Be Grateful
- Battling chronic illness can be a mental and physical burden, but make sure to take time each day to take stock of the amazing things in your life: your family, friends, the ability to move and breathe, etc. One study confirmed the connection between gratitude and better mental health: creating a habit of seeing the positive things in life promotes psychological well-being. No matter how tough life gets, you can find something to be thankful for. And never forget that you can be a blessing to someone else! Start a thankfulness journal and start recording your thoughts.
- Move Your Body
- Exercise has been proven time and time again as a powerful method of managing chronic illness and mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, raises body temperature, and blocks certain chemicals attributed to depression. For the best health benefits (physical and mental), trying moving daily for at least 30 minutes. It can be something as simple as taking a walk, just be sure to consult your physician before starting any new exercise program!
- Nourish Your Body
- It is crucial to keep your body fueled with the proper nutrients to stay in good physical and mental health. Proper diet has huge implications for staying mentally sound! This can be super challenging, especially with food allergies. The key is making the best possible choices each moment and eating the best you Nothing will ever be perfect, so don’t beat yourself up trying to get your diet 100% all the time. What other people consider healthy may not be right (or safe) for your body, so don’t worry too much about “fitting in” to any particular diet label. Do what is best for your body.
- Take it Outside
- Getting outside on a daily (or even weekly) basis can make a big impact on your mental health and mood. A recent study conducted by the University of Glasgow shows that regular outdoor activity can potentially cut mental health problems by half when compared to similar activities in a non-natural environment like a gym. Green colors, fresh air, moving water, and sunlight are all natural mood and energy boosters.
- Help Others
- Taking time to volunteer can help divert mental energy away from your own current struggles toward others who are in need. Shifting focus to others helps build community awareness, a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and can change our personal perceptions about our own problems. Bringing some joy to others makes your own burdens seem less worrisome. If you are skeptical, consider a multitude of research that shows people who volunteer (especially older adults) show improved physical and mental health as well as satisfaction in life
Do you have ways you stay positive? Please share them with others!
 MentalHealth.org, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/D/diet/
 Glasgow University, http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2012/june/headline_236113_en.html
 National Service, http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf