Coping with chronic illness or caring for someone who has a chronic illness, can take its toll you on emotionally and physically. For many, the journey back to health is long and painfully slow with no end is site. My heart goes out to you, as I too, have been struggling with this issue for the last 5 years.
I wanted to share some things that have and continue to help me. Not everything may resonate with you, so take what applies and put the rest aside. I also realize some days you just feel like shit emotionally and or physically and no words or actions will help, just crawling into bed and shutting the world out may what you need to do to cope! I get it. Be authentic to you.
Laugh. If you are as old as I am, you have heard of Norman Cousins, “The Man who laughed in the face of Death”. He was given a few months to live and ended up living 26 years longer. If you have never heard of him, do a google search and you can read about how he laughed his way back to health. I don’t know about you but I love Kristen Wigg, the famous actress and comedian, from SNL. She has been a huge outlet for me to get my laughing in! I you tube her greatest SNL skits and just laugh, try it, it works.
Laughing increases your immune system, by increasing the activity and level of natural killer cells. Natural Killer cells attack viral infected cells and some types of tumor and cancer cells. Laughing boosts your IgA, gamma interferon and your T cells. In short, it is a drug free way to boost your immune system, and increase your feel good hormones. It’s a win win.
Bathe. Take a bath or shower, and stay physically clean. Yes, even if you never the leave the house or wear real clothes, because of your illness, take the time to clean your body. Warm water can help ease tension in your muscles, and aching joints. Adding essential oils, and Epson salts to baths can also aid in body pain. If you are not a bath person, the pressure of the shower on your joints may be relaxing coupled with the steam and healing ions that water puts out.
When I was at my worst, taking a bath was one of the only things I could get done in a day, and it did help. So take a bath or shower because it helps your emotional wellbeing, and friends and family may be more open to spending time with you if you smell good. And while you’re at it change your clothes daily. Even if you are changing into another pair of pajamas make the effort to change. It’s a small act that can have a big impact.
Move. Chronic illness and pain may have you feeling that you are permanently stuck in your bed, the couch or that recliner that you have been spending most of your time in. Sometimes you need a change of scenery to get you in a better mental space. If you are able to drive, then try taking a short trip to run and errand or get a cup of coffee close to your home. If you are not able to drive, see if a friend or family member can take you out just for a little while to get some air and a change of scenery. If both these options seem daunting then try setting yourself up in a different room. Try moving from your bedroom to the living room or vice a versa. Just physically get up and move to another space.
When your body is just too tired and the thought of “trying to think positive” just isn’t working, moving your physical body can lighten your mood.
If you can, take a walk outside or if that doesn’t work put on some music and dance in your kitchen. Whatever works for you, just take the time to move every day.
Journal. When battling a chronic illness you will go through a plethora of emotions. You may feel that you will never get better. Wonder if this is good as it gets. You may feel depressed, angry, exhausted and lonely all at the same time. The truth is being present with the feelings you have can be overwhelming. Journaling is a good, safe outlet for you to let some of these emotions out of your body on to the paper. Honestly, it doesn’t have to make sense, be in paragraph form or be grammatically correct! You don’t even have to read what you wrote, HA! I have found this extremely helpful for me in different times in my life. I usually don’t go back and look at what I wrote for months later. It’s a great peak into your soul and see how far you have come. No one has to read your thoughts EVER, unless you choose to. Journaling is for you and only you and if you choose to share it with someone or burn the pages is up to you, but the act of writing out your feelings can be very healing.
Feed your body. So I know how hard this one can be, because you already feel pretty lousy and you don’t want to think about cooking, let alone cooking healthy and organic. Some days it takes all of your energy to think about what you can eat that doesn’t require any effort to make or clean up, so that can of soup and a box of crackers seem like a good meal. Look that is ok, if that is where you are on that specific day, I have been there. On the days you feel more inspired make an effort to feed your body nourishing foods. Different illnesses may require you to add in or take away certain foods to keep inflammation down. Food can be used as medicine. It can feed the soul and give a great source of vitamins and nutrients that help you heal. Sugar and processed foods create inflammation and decrease the efficiency of our white blood cells. White blood cells help us fight off infections. Try adding more alkaline rich foods and decreasing and eventually eliminating all processed foods. Your body will thank you for this small but very powerful change. I have added a link to my favorite acid alkaline chart. This will help you identify what foods are alkaline and which ones are acidic. Acidic foods create inflammation and pain in the body and its best when we keep this to a minimum.
Just remember you are NOT alone. Life is a journey of ups and downs and making small changes to keep you feeling comfortable and grounded until you reach that next step is sometimes the best thing that we can do.