Life with a chronic illness is like driving down a mountain road. You drive carefully, fearful of losing control and veering over the edge. Raise your hand if your life is marked by ‘careful’ habits to accommodate the monster that has invaded your life?
Maybe, you have a special bag that you never leave home without. When I worked full time as a teacher, my care kit included pain meds (of course), an extension cord, adapter and heater pad, gloves, socks and a blankie to cope with my low tolerance for cold.
Of course, we spoonies, do have to be careful. But at what cost? We’ve swapped the sweetness of spontaneity for the shield of safety. I want to share a few simple ways to spice up your life so you can thrive rather than survive.
First, you need to come face to face with the enemy in your body and accept it. You have a simple choice to make – yield to it or conquer it as best you can. This is not easy but it’s the first step to living life on your own terms.
So the next time you’re invited to a weekend away with friends, don’t automatically decline. You may do it out of consideration for your friends who may not know how to cope if you may get sick and need urgent medical attention. I urge you. Take the necessary medical precautions and go have a good time. It will give you a much needed break from the suffocating comfort net of home.
2. Date Yourself
Do you ever feel stifled by the rigid routine you follow day in and day out? Perhaps you’ve started to adopt a routine that never varies from one day to the next. Maybe you find that it is mind numbingly boring and you yearn to do something different, something that’s not so fixed.
Ever thought of Me-Dates? To do something fun by yourself away from home. Because you may want and need a ‘date’ when your friends are at work or unavailable. Plan daily, weekly or monthly ‘ get out of home’ dates. But, suss out the venues carefully so that you can make a quick exit if you need to.
The possibilities are endless:
- Coffee dates
- Photo exhibitions
- Taking a caricature drawing or cooking class
Depending on how ill you are, this may be hard to organize. But enlist the help of your support network and just do it. But, what if you’re forced to self isolate for health reasons, how do you date yourself then?
Take advantage of virtual tours. Take a peep into Buckingham Palace or browse the French classic painters at The Louvre. Even better, take a white water rafting adventure or go skiing in Switzerland. Read 10 virtual tours of the world’s most famous landmarks for more information. Do some research and find a few virtual tours that appeal to you.
Go on, take the risk. I guarantee that the experience will be life-changing.
3. Don’t Quit Your Job
There is no date stamp or time line with a chronic illness. You know, right off the bat, that there is no cure and that you simply have to live with it. When you’re newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may be tempted to quit your job and just ‘enjoy whatever time you have left’ at home.
I know I did. At the time of my diagnosis, my son was just 2 1/2 years old. All I wanted was to just feast on our precious moments together without work getting in the way. But my doctors encouraged me to work as long as I could. I’m so glad I heeded their advice. Have you ever heard that work is therapeutic? Well, here’s why.
Reporting for work daily allows you to shift your focus from your health issues to the tasks of your job. It gives you a sense of purpose as you have the chance to dress and get made up to show up for work. The opportunity to socialize with your coworkers also helps you to forget about your illness for a while.
The other big plus is that you may be part of the company’s health insurance program which will go a long way to helping with your medical bills. So, my advice, work as long as you’re able to without risking your health.
4. Get Creative
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror on a good day? Maybe, your hair, make-up and outfit are all en pointe and you look and feel like a million dollars. But you, and only you, know the anxiety and stress you live with courtesy of your chronic illness.
A simple way to cope is to get creative. According to this post on Forbes,
“engaging in creative behaviors (even just coloring in those trendy adult coloring books) improves brain function, mental health, and physical health.”
Start a craft, design book covers, write poetry or paint but just get your creative juices flowing. Creating something beautiful is an uplifting and joyous experience.
I know how wonderful that feels since I started my blog when my chronic condition made it impossible for me to continue working. It has infused my life with meaning and purpose and has been the best thing I have ever done. It definitely takes my mind off the pain and inflammation of frequent flares.
5. Be Positive
Research is clear about the health benefits of a positive mindset. So go ahead and create a positive mood board to bolster you on your down days:
Think of a mood board as a kind of wish list. Place items on it that inspire positivity. Some ideas are:
- Inspirational quotes
- Bucket list pictures
- Encouraging words and phrases
An inspirational mood board is a powerful tool to lift your spirits on the bleakest of day. Check out this YouTube video on how to create a mood board in Canva:
So, there you have it. Five practical ways to live an amazing life in spite of the chronic illness you live with.
*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.
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