10 Ways to Manage Stress with a Chronic Illness

1. Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques are very helpful for relaxing your mind and body. The simplest relaxation technique is deep breathing. To do this, sit in a chair or on a couch with your feet planted on the floor. Close your eyes if you would like. Begin by taking a deep breath to the count of 3 or 4, inhaling through your nose. Pause for a second and then exhale through your mouth to the count of four. While you are breathing in and out, focus on your breath and on counting. Repeat this until you feel relaxed.

2. Evaluate your priorities – We tend to have a lot going on in our lives with work, school, relationships, kids, etc. A lot of the time, our health tends to take a backseat to these other priorities. When you have a chronic illness, it is really important to make your health a top priority. Sometimes it takes evaluating the priorities in your life and figuring out how you can rearrange things, where you can ask for help, and what you can hold off on in order to make sure you are taking care of your health.

3. Participate in at least two enjoyable activities per week – It’s really easy to start feeling depressed and anxious when you have a chronic illness. To help avoid this it is important to do things you enjoy. Make it a goal to do two things you enjoy per week. That can be anything, ranging from reading a good book to taking a walk on the beach.

4. Make lists – Make a list of the things you absolutely have to do on a certain day and a list of the things you would like to do but don’t necessarily have to do. Focus on doing the things you have to do. If there is time and you have the energy, then you can start on the list of things you would like to do.

5. Enjoy the days when you feel good – Whether there are many of these days or they are far and few between, enjoy the days when you feel good and be grateful for them. It’s really easy to focus on the negative things about having a chronic illness. Instead of doing that, focus on what you can do when you feel good.

6. Be proactive with your medical treatment – Make sure you stay on top of doctor appointments and medications. That way you won’t fall behind, which will only make you more stressed out. Plan appointments far ahead of time so that you make sure to get a day and time that is convenient for you. Order prescriptions early so you aren’t rushing to the pharmacy the day you run out of medication. Make sure to report new symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible so that something can be done about it. You see where I am going with this…

7. Find social support – Whether it be with family or friends, or a support group for people with chronic illness, having support is extremely important for managing stress.

8. Exercise – Do what you can when it comes to exercise. Swimming, yoga, or even taking a short walk can do a lot for stress management. If you are having a difficult time thinking of exercises you can do, talk to your doctor and brainstorm together.

9. Make time for yourself – With everything going on in our daily lives, it is important to schedule in some “me” time. Even if it’s only a short amount of time per day.

10. Try not to put so much focus on the things that are out of your control – We only have control over so much. We do not have control over the fact that we have a chronic illness. But we do have control over what we are going to do about it. We can choose to let it affect us negatively every day, or we can choose to learn to make alterations and accept it. We can choose whether or not we are going to be on top of our medical treatment so we can get our illness under control as much as possible. We can choose to focus on the negative things about our illness, or we can choose to try and find a positive. We can let our illness become who we are or we can choose to let it be something we have.