If you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can change your life. Dealing with flare-ups, activity restrictions, and pain may mean that you have to change your lifestyle and potentially even your career. But all of the lifestyle changes that come with your illness don’t need to be negative. Making positive lifestyle changes can make your day-to-day life easier, can help to relieve some of your symptoms, and can even give you a better quality of life.
Understand Your Chronic Illness To better understand the lifestyle changes that could help you live with your chronic illness, you’ll need to fully understand the illness, itself. Chronic illnesses are noncommunicable diseases that are incurable, but often manageable. These illnesses include arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, and medication can often slow their progression.
Chronic illnesses present and progress differently in different people, and it’s also possible to have multiple diagnoses, which can further complicate your care. Talk to your doctor about the specific lifestyle changes that would be beneficial to your condition. When you fully understand the challenges of your illness and how factors like stress and activity levels can affect it, you can better plan for how to live with the illness.
Consider Dietary Changes In some cases, your chronic illness can be improved by making some dietary changes. For instance, diabetics may benefit from eating a diabetes-friendly diet, which is low-carb, low on the glycemic index, and which has no added sugar.
Nutrition is closely tied to health, so changing your eating habits may reduce your symptoms. If your chronic illness results in inflammation and pain, avoiding foods that cause inflammation, like sugars, refined carbohydrates, processed meat, and alcohol, can help.
Making large diet changes is tough, so try to make changes gradually so that the process is a little easier. If your partner makes some of those dietary changes with you, it can also help, since you can eliminate “temptation items” like sugar or alcohol from your home. Be sure to always discuss dietary changes with your doctor and make sure that you’re still receiving proper nutrition from your new diet.
Explore Pain Management Techniques Many chronic illnesses result in chronic pain, too, which can be difficult to manage. Talk to your doctor about the pain management techniques available to you. Medications and medical marijuana may help with your pain relief. With your doctor’s guidance, you may need to try a few different medications and dosage levels before you find the combination that works well for you.
There are additional ways that you can manage your pain. Learning meditation or yoga can help with relaxation and pain management, and also gives you a new hobby that you can do daily. It’s also important to make lifestyle changes to reduce stress, whether that’s leaving a high-stress job or making time for stress relief techniques each day. Listen to soothing music to help relax at the end of a long day, or listen to relaxation CDs.
Exercise may also help. Exercise releases endorphins which can help with chronic pain management and improve your mood, but certain types of exercise can also aggravate a chronic illness. Low-impact forms of exercise, like swimming, are often helpful but talk to your doctor about the type and amount of exercise that may help you. Having an exercise schedule can also give you a chance to connect with friends, such as by meeting up for a walk at your local park.
Focus on Remaining Social It’s also important to focus on remaining social. Often, chronic illnesses make it difficult to go out and socialize, but scheduling small gatherings with a few close friends or family members can give you the social support and engagement that you need. Withdrawing into your home and missing out on socializing can leave you feeling lonely and depressed, so try to find a way to interact with others regularly.
An emotional support animal can also help, especially if getting out of the house is a challenge. Emotional support animals can lower blood pressure, increase your mobility, and also give your mood a boost. They offer companionship and can help to motivate you, since they’ll need some daily care and attention, too.
You may want to join a support group for people living with chronic illness. The people in these groups understand what you’re going through on a daily basis since they go through similar experiences. Support groups offer safe environments where you can talk about the stress or difficulties of living with a chronic illness, such as how to explain MS to your children and how to answer questions your kids may have about your illness. You might receive some great advice or tips that you wouldn’t have otherwise come across. If the group setting isn’t for you, consider talking to a counselor for support in the emotional challenges of living with an illness.
Living with a chronic illness is a continuous challenge, but by making some positive lifestyle changes, you can make dealing with it just a little bit easier.
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