New Year’s Revolutions: Tips for Coping with Chronic Illness

Man walking dog in fieldCountless people make New Year’s resolutions every January, but few actually follow through with them for any length of time. There are probably many reasons for that, and I think one might be the negative connotations of the term “resolution,” when it is interpreted as a promise. No one wants the pressure of a promise to change something negative about themselves. No one wants to feel as if there needs to be a resolution to be a better person, to weigh less, or to pray more. If they don’t follow through, they not only feel like they let down those they love, they disappoint themselves.

So what if we take that word and change it to revolution? Does it have a more positive spin if we interpret it as a transformation or development?

If you’re coping with a chronic illness, you have more concerns than just “resolving to be a better person.” You have medical appointments, medications, and therapies to balance on a daily basis. Making promises you can’t keep because of your health issues can leave you feeling disappointed and discouraged.

Do you want to feel physically and mentally healthier this year? If so, I challenge you to consider trying these revolutions for one month. See what happens to your mind and body.

  1. Learn more about your diagnosis. Knowledge is power and empowering! The more you know about your treatment options and prognosis, the more ways you have to improve your health. Ask questions of your health care professionals or research reputable websites.
  2. Put yourself first. It may sound selfish, but if you’re not healthy, you won’t be able to give of yourself to others. If you need to take a break, take it. Realize your limits and set boundaries with others.
  3. Comply with your treatment plan. If you’re engaged in your treatment, you’ll be more invested in it. Missing doses or appointments can increase symptoms. Be as consistent as possible.
  4. Find support. Make this the year you join a support group or seek mental health counseling, especially if you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression as it relates to your condition. Talking with others who understand what you’re going through may validate your experience and encourage you to keep moving forward.
  5. Make time to exercise. Exercise increases the heart rate and blood pressure, releasing endorphins and serotonin—the “feel-good chemicals”—in our brains. Aerobic exercise has been found to decrease depressive symptoms and to reduce disability and pain among people with chronic illness. Get moving, even if it’s a short walk or a few yoga stretches.

You don’t have to promise to apply these tips every day. Instead, resolve to make an effort on more days than not. If you don’t see a positive transformation, ask yourself why. But my guess is you will see some development in the process of accepting your diagnosis.

If you find these tips helpful, try them for another month. One step at a time.

Here’s to the improved you!

Reference:

Chapman, D., Perry, G. S., & Strine, T.W. (2005). The vital link between chronic disease and depressive disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2005/jan/04_0066.htm

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea M. Risi, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Matt

    Matt

    January 14th, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    The more that you know about what you face then I think the better prepared you will be to overcome any of the obstacles that will pop up form time to time. This is something that you definitely owe to yourself, to learn more about your illness, to not only v combat the what ifs, but to also be prepared when the time comes if you have to make some hard decisions. Education is the key to your own personal power and fight over this thing.

  • Bonny

    Bonny

    January 14th, 2016 at 1:29 PM

    I love it!
    New years REVOLUTION!

  • Sally

    Sally

    January 14th, 2016 at 4:05 PM

    I cannot stress nearly enough just how vital it is to have friends and family in your life who will mhelp you get through any challenge that you are facing . It might be tough but it is always just a little bit nicer when you have the comfort of a strong friend to lean on.

  • Thomas

    Thomas

    January 16th, 2016 at 5:03 AM

    It does sort of bug me at times when I see my dad who is supposed to be doing all of these thing to help himself and then he does none of it. As a matter of fact it is like everything that he does do goes directly against what his doctors have advised. You get to a point of being frustrated because he is not doing anything to help himself so you wonder why you should.

  • Carlund W.

    Carlund W.

    January 16th, 2016 at 4:35 PM

    Thomas, maybe you need to educate yourself more on your dad’s problems. I know years ago when I had fibro I could still do things I can’t do now. I now have chronic fatigue syndrome also along with almost all of the 200 symptoms that go along with it. It’s sometimes hard to get out of bed and face the day when you hurt so much and depression is a disease. I don’t know your dad’s problems but try and be more patient with him. I have no one that understands me, not my kids, my friends have all disappeared, I can’t plan to go out anywhere because I never know how I will feel and I hate to call some one and cancel a date with them. This is a horrible disease that progresses over time. I would give anything to do the things I did 20 years ago. I just wish more people understood. My Dr said he wish he could get all my kids (and they are grown) to come in and explain things to them. He said he wouldn’t wish this on his worst enemy.

  • Thomas

    Thomas

    January 18th, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    Oh I definitely know that being patient is not one of my strongest attributes, but when I know that I can’t be there all the time with him and that there is some stuff that he could be doing to help but doesn’t, you know, it just hurts a little. I want him to be aorund as long as possible, and well, there are things that he could be doing to help that case but will not.

  • Layne

    Layne

    January 18th, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Even in the face of serious illness it can be tempting to put the needs of others ahead of your own. I encourage you to please take this time to look out for you. What good will it do them to have you take care of all of these things and then to not be around later on when or if they need you again? Your health is prioirity number one.

  • Ricky B

    Ricky B

    January 19th, 2016 at 9:13 AM

    Another thought is that it can make things so much better if you are working with a medical team who understands your needs

  • Andrea Risi

    Andrea Risi

    January 22nd, 2016 at 2:12 PM

    Thank you for your comments! Thomas, I think many caregivers feel your pain. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to make people (your father in this case) do what you know will be good for them. It is a helpless feeling for sure! The best you can do is model healthy behavior and encourage your dad to do the same.

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