When it feels like your chronic illness is controlling your life, you might be tempted to laugh in the face of anyone who might suggest positive thinking is the answer. Chronic illnesses include things like chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and lupus (and fibromyalgia, and cancer… the list goes on). And these illnesses can be nothing short of intense.
But I want to tell you something about the struggle.
Positive thinking really can have an impact on improving your illness.
Your thoughts won’t change the outcome of your pain or the course of your illness, but they can play a major role in how you live your life through the process.
Here are 5 of my best tips to stay positive when you have a chronic illness (especially on the bad days when it seems impossible).
1. Become hyper-conscious of your own thoughts
If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten so used to your own negativity that you don’t even notice it. It’s funny because I’m the one who is always trying to lift other people’s spirits. But in my own head, I’m my worst enemy. When you’re having a rough day or moment, turn your focus inward to see whether your thoughts may be contributing to the difficulty.
Again, you aren’t going to will away an MS episode or psoriasis flare-up, but you can control the way you react. Focusing on pain only brings more pain. So if you can even make a small shift by taking your mind away from your troubles, you’re likely to feel better overall. On your worst day, better still may not be great, but it’s an improvement. We’re striving for progress.
2. Celebrate every win
You might feel silly celebrating something like tying your own shoelace, but if it’s something you’ve struggled with before, it’s a big deal. Remember that this is your journey, and your milestones should be custom-tailored to you.
If you start feeling like the wins are fleeting, or few and far between, start writing them down. Having a journal of wins can help lift your spirits when you’re having a bad day.
3. Handle your stress
Do you have control over your stress, or does it run your life? Many people in today’s society have problems managing stress because it runs so rampant. But if one thing is certain, stress isn’t going anywhere. So you have to learn handle it.
When something is stressing you out, think about whether you can change it. If the answer is no, as it is with many things related to chronic disease, let it go. If you decide you can’t change something, find a way to live with it as is. There aren’t any other options. And stressing about it isn’t going to do you any good.
4. Get informed
Knowledge is power, and it can help you feel in control. Continue to research alternative treatments and cutting-edge therapies related to your chronic illness. This will be different for everyone. For example, stem cells can help with certain chronic illnesses. And things like meditation, acupuncture and light therapy may help with others. If you don’t know where to begin, try this:
On the website, look for a section labeled “research.” This may be in the resources or learning section. These organizations often fund studies on illness treatments, and this could give you some insight on potential alternatives to your therapy. Once you find something that looks promising, talk to your doctor. While you’re there, ask him or her about any other promising alternative therapies that you might be a candidate for.
Because let’s be honest. It’s the chronic part of the illness that weighs heaviest. We can all get through a bad day, but when we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s tough to remain positive. Your research may be able to help you find hope for better days ahead.
Chronic illness aside, this life is up to you. You can spend your days cursing the heavens for your fate (we’ve all been there) or you can make the most out of the life you have. No one can make the choice for you.