After diagnosis with a chronic illness, it can sometimes be a struggle to continue to perform daily tasks. From the pain that accompanies the disease to the potential range of emotions after diagnosis, it can be challenging to participate in and conduct normal daily activities, work, play and spend time with loved ones and those in your community. Learning proper pain management techniques for your illness can help you thrive emotionally, physically, and financially. While every patient will have a different treatment plan, there are some time-tested lifestyle changes you can implement to aid in managing your chronic illness.
1. Utilize Resources to help manage your Chronic Illness
Many resources are available to help you navigate the multitude of challenges one faces when managing a chronic illness. These resources can empower you to take on a more prominent role in your care. Self-management is essential in the continued quality of life after diagnosis. Associations such as the MS society have resources and information to help those newly diagnosed or those just facing new challenges.
One perfect example of a helpful resource relates to a diagnosis of arthritis. To promote this positive self-management, The Arthritis Foundation has developed a resource called the Health Tracker, which allows individuals to gather the information that can prove vital to one’s ongoing care decisions. This Health Tracker aids in managing a variety of metrics, such as pain levels, continued ability to perform daily living activities, sleep and eating patterns, and emotional health.
2. Know What to Avoid
The Mayo Clinic has made several time-tested recommendations for managing pain associated with chronic illness, including what not to do. For example, managing one’s weight remains a significant determinant in improvement after diagnosing a chronic disease. Depending on the patient, trying to pursue weight loss can positively impact one’s illness. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic recommends that active smokers seek smoking cessation resources, as smoking causes stress to one’s connective tissues. They also recommend pursuing mental health care after diagnosis with a chronic illness to avoid intense focus on the negative aspects of one’s condition. These thoughts can increase one’s pain and subsequent risk of disability.
3. Get Active to help fight your Illness
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Physical state that “activity is a simple and effective, non-drug way to relieve [chronic] pain.” Exercise helps decrease overall pain levels, enhance mood, and boost the quality of life and range of movement. There are many ways to exercise, like aerobic activities (including swimming, running, and walking) and anaerobic activities. There are also exercises to strengthen muscles, such as weightlifting. Flexibility exercises like yoga and stretching are perfect for managing pain without causing further damage to the body.
4. Embrace Your Emotions
Managing the pain that accompanies a chronic illness can significantly impact one’s overall behavior and mood. This is normal. However, it is only normal to an extent. If the negative feelings become overwhelming, it’s vital to identify a healthy, positive outlet for those emotions. The Mayo Clinic outlines a variety of therapies shown to help in chronic illness management:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (a type of therapy that combines behavior modification and talk therapy to adjust one’s thoughts and actions gradually)
- Relaxation therapy (this can include yoga, deep breathing, meditation, and walks–author’s note: maybe pet therapy)
- Acupuncture (an ancient form of Eastern Medicine that aids in managing chronic pain)
- Massages (these can help alleviate pain and stiffness temporarily and improve mood)
Although these methods may seem more physical than mental, when one takes time to prioritize relaxation and thorough self-care, there will almost certainly be a boost in overall mood.
How Can In-Home Care Help?
It might seem a daunting task to stay optimistic about living with the pain associated with a chronic illness but know that you are not alone. If you are struggling, Bluebird Health is here to help with unparalleled home health, home care, and hospice services.