All three of these are impacted in a person’s life when living with a chronic illness. So today I’m going to give you some practical tips to help you thrive in each of these areas.
Mentally and Emotionally Thriving
Whether you have a mental illness that you’re dealing with or if you’re battling the occasional depression because of your chronic ill-health, I hope what I share here will bring encouragement to your situation.
Mental health is an interesting challenge. Let me be clear here, I’m no doctor and I don’t fully understand this problem, I only know my situation. For me, my depression was part physiological and also a by-product due to my bleak and overwhelming circumstances. Most people will be depressed from time to time in their life just because their life’s circumstances look depressing. Others deal with depression because there’s an imbalance going on in their body. Some people deal with both. For a chronically-ill person, you need to pinpoint your problem so you can figure out how to deal with this nasty culprit.
For my body, each month like clockwork I’d go into depression. “What in the world?” was often my thoughts when I’d sink in my depression. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was anything for me to be depressed by, yet I felt depressed. Later I learned that my on-going depression was related to my imbalanced hormones. I could track my monthly cycle and see that around Day 10 or 11 of my cycle I would just mentally plummet. This issue would irk me to no end! It’s one thing to not be able to control your physical body but it’s all together something different when you can’t control your mind. I had a physiological problem that I needed to fix or at least cope with.
Tip: One of the worst things you can do with depression is…nothing, because it’ll just manifest in your life and I don’t mean in a good way!
When a person’s mental perspective is not right and they are constantly living in a pit of depression and despair, they need to figure a way out of that pit. If you need to take medication, then take it. Personally, I sought alternative medicine for my mental health just to get me back in balance due to the fact that my entire endocrine system was jacked up. If you want to take a more natural approach to this problem then seek out a clinical nutritionist or a natural/holistic/alternative doctor in your area.
When my depression was so severe I’d just go into my room to be alone. I didn’t want to lash out at my family because of my frustrations, so instead I tried to protect them from the imbalance that my body was experiencing. I thought it was best if I removed myself from the situation than to do or say things I would later regret.
Tip: Be proactive in bettering your mental health regardless of the type of doctor you seek out. Find out if your depression is caused by an imbalance in your body or if it’s related to your dire circumstances.
And because my boys were very young during this time of my life; ages 1 and 3, I needed to make sure I didn’t over-commit myself which would just lead me to feeling overwhelmed. I was already living with chronic fatigue and adrenal exhaustion. So this was a daily learning experience for me.
Tip: Don’t over-commit yourself. If you already feel overwhelmed in life then you need to lessen your obligations.
If you have physical limitations in your body then try not to over do life. A sick body needs rest and lots of it. As much as we don’t enjoy taking naps and lying on the couch for another afternoon, it’s just a part of what our bodies need. Over the years I used to feel so guilty over the fact that I needed to lay down and take a break, because in my mind, I had other things to take care of.
Tip: Take it easy. Nap if you need to. Hire a house keeper if you can.
But the flip side to this is if you’re wallowing in depression because of your circumstances. If that’s the case, then you need to get up and get out and just push through. That was my gauge when my depression would set in. Once a week I usually had to get out of the house just for my own sanity regardless of my exhaustion and the pain that was throbbing in my body.
Tip: Learn to be flexible.
With a chronic illness you never know how you’re going to feel on any given day.
“It’s a plan, not a promise.” This is a statement I say often to my children. When they were really little I didn’t even bother to tell them my plans. If I woke up that day feeling great, then we did things. If I woke up feeling horrible, then we didn’t.
I also encouraged my family to do things without me when I couldn’t muster up enough strength to do some of the activities we had planned. I didn’t make them feel guilty by going places without me nor did I make them stay home with me just because I felt miserable.
Tip: Let your family live their lives in spite of your limitations. They need to get out of the house too.
Tip: Take the needed nutrients, supplements and/or medications. (Even if you are feeling better! This would often be my downfall.)
I had one doctor tell me that managing my health was a full-time job. Well, that didn’t go over too well with me. I wanted to live my life, not lose it by spending enormous amounts of my time fixing my body on a daily basis. Yes, I was in denial! 🙂
Tip: Eat right. (Yes, even if the food tastes disgusting!)
Many of our chronic conditions can be healed due to what we don’t put in our bodies.
In America, a host of chronic illnesses are self-inflicted. For example, if a person is a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a smoker, there will be ramifications to one’s health. The same is true with gluttony. If we don’t exercise self-control in our eating, it can lead to obesity which can easily cause diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a host of other chronic illnesses. Our bodies need certain nutrients to thrive, but sadly, we don’t always seek what’s best for our health until our health is failing. And let’s be honest, who in their right mind can resist a delicious chocolate brownie? 🙂 But a self-inflicted illness is the easiest to treat. Seek medical attention or find an addiction counselor so you can prevent any further damage from happening to your body.
Tip: Choose to eat whole foods over processed foods.
Organic is best but that’s not the reality for everyone’s budget. If you can’t afford organic, then purchase products that are preservative-free, artificial-flavor and artificial-color free. The more you move towards God-made food rather than man-made food, the better your body will respond. Now I know this process is hard! But my saying is this…
“When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, you’ll do whatever it takes!”
Exercising is great for your mental perspective but it’s a catch-22 for a sick person. If you exercise too much or too hard, you’ll become sicker because your immune system can’t handle the overexertion. Of course this was my journey. (Scoff) So I always had to alter my workouts. I’ve tried it all. Walking, swimming, running, the Curves circut, The Shred, P90x, and the most recent one that I’m doing now is T-Tapp. My body thrives the most with T-Tapp. You can find more about it here. (And no, I don’t get paid for endorsing it.) T-Tapp is an unusual workout program and me trying to explain it to you just won’t do it any justice. In a nutshell, it’s a workout program for those with hormone issues, lymphatic problems, lupus, fibro, chronic fatigue, etc., plus, it strengthens and tones your body. I highly encourage everyone to check it out whether you have chronic illnesses or not.
Many years ago when my ill-health journey was just beginning I felt I needed to step down from leading Bible studies at my church. I didn’t feel like I could take care of my family and lead a group at the same time. But my husband insisted I continue to minister to the women that year because he saw that I spiritually needed it. He wasn’t concerned if the home wasn’t as clean as he liked. What he was most concerned with was that I was spiritually thriving during a very bleak and depressing time of my life. He could see that my illnesses could cause me to turn inward and become depressed, therefore at his urging I remained in ministry that year.
Tip: Stay in the Word of God. The Vine is your life-line, (whether you’re physically ill or healthy!)
Tip: Stay in fellowship as much as possible.
I still went to church because my theory was… “I was in pain and exhausted whether I was at home or not.” It was always better for me to be worshiping the Lord while being sick than staying home and being sick. Of course if you have bodily fluids exiting your body that would prevent you from attending church, then please stay home! 🙂
And if my pain left me curled up in the fetal position unable to move, then I stayed home. But for the most part, I was usually in church every Sunday morning because my spirit needed to be ministered to. After church I typically had my husband take me home so I could go straight to bed. This was our pattern for years. And on some occasions to this day we still do this if my body warrants it.
Tip: Try to do something where you’re able to minister to someone else.
Using your spiritual gifts allows the Holy Spirit to manifest through you. It’s in these moments that you feel not only spiritually stronger but your eyes are on God’s kingdom and not on your suffering. This one area of my life is what has helped me to not throw habitual pity-parties for myself. It’s kept me heavenly minded.
To the supportive spouse: Encouragement in all of these areas is what’s best for your spouse to hear, rather than hearing critical or condemning words when we’re not following doctor’s orders, or our healthy diets, or when we just don’t have the mental strength to push through our pain.
Anything else you can add to this list? Please share in the comments!
Next up in this series I’m going to discuss ways to communicate with your spouse while living with chronic illnesses.
Prior posts in this series:
Live a poured out life for Christ,
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