Coping With Chronic Illness: 6 Ways You Can Stay Effective
If you suffer from any type of chronic illness, then you know that your body can play a strong role when it comes to the plans you make for yourself. It can also feel as though your decisions are not always your own to make.
You might find yourself falling out of routine or worrying about the possibility of an acute attack. There’ll be missed deadlines, appointments, and weekend plans. With disappointment after disappointment, it’s easy to let the condition take hold of your schedule, ambitions, mood, and even goals.
This, however, doesn’t always have to happen.
After years of dealing with chronic migraine, I’ve learned to employ five positive habits that have helped me be more in control of migraine. My chronic illness no longer has control over me and my effectiveness as a professional, friend, and partner has greatly increased.
Keeping these positive habits has helped keep my migraine attacks at bay and adopting them into your life may bring you similar relief. Here are a few of my practices that helped me in coping with chronic illness.
Making time for myself to be alone is still a major challenge, especially when the world is quite literally at my fingertips – thanks to technology.
It’s easy to experience FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) when you disconnect but I’ve found the payoffs to be worth it.
Giving myself ten minutes of quiet time in the morning rather than immediately plugging in and overloading on content allows my mind to stay in control and focused throughout the day.
Eat clean at least 80% of the time
Although junk foods are tempting, the ingredients in many processed foods can be a recipe for disaster.
One wrong bite and I could be sent into hours of agony with a debilitating migraine attack.
Finding and eating real foods might be more challenging than you think at first. In reality, however, they are those foods that don’t require labels and frequently kept in the fresh food section.
Vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed foods can leave you feeling much better. Even though they aren’t always what you’re craving, your mind and body will thank you later.
Exercise at least 3 to 4 times per week
This has been one of my secret weapons. It was critically important in my recovery from chronic migraine.
There is no question that we were designed to move. We need to exercise.
Everyday isn’t realistic for most, so try 3 to 4 times at week for 30 minutes. The benefits that exercise has on the body are profound. It reduces our sensitivity to pain and releases our natural feel-good chemicals in the brain which give us a greater sense of well being and happiness.
The trick is to start small and build up gradually. Don’t start from scratch and then try running 5 miles. That’s only going to result in injury. Be sensible and start by walking outdoors for a few minutes each day and build from there.
Limit the amount of time you work in a day
Work, and how much we work, can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health. Even if it’s something you love, stress can quickly follow and it’s important to not allow it to have a lasting effect on your day.
Know when to step back, close the laptop, and stop working.
Take regular breaks throughout the day. When you break for lunch, try to have lunch away from your desk.
Remember, our work should be sustainable.
Get consistent, restful sleep each night
I’ve found this habit to be the most effective in preventing migraine but it’s also the easiest to break.
There’s always one more episode to watch or one more photo to scroll past.
To avoid distractions, I set an alarm 15 minutes before I want to be in bed with the lights out. Using this alarm as a reminder to start powering down for the day helps to prepare my mind for sleep.
I know that in the morning, I’ll be happier and more prepared for the coming day, physically and mentally.
Keep a daily diary
A daily diary lets you form a habit. It lets you discover patterns that you wouldn’t otherwise find and make connections that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
It only needs take 30 seconds each morning or night, but it will quickly become the most valuable 30 seconds of your day once you know what to record.
Depending on your health condition, you should record how well you’re feeling that day. Write down your symptoms, treatment (including your dose), any triggers and protectors you’ve experienced.
For your convenience, you can also create a graph or chart. It might be in Excel, Google Sheets or an app specific to your condition.
Make a habit out of it and stick with it for at least 3 weeks straight no matter what. Just chart your stats, then thank me later.
What you’ll learn about yourself will surprise you.
Not only have these habits brought me greater peace and control in my relationship with migraine, they’ve also allowed me to effectively work for myself and at my own blog. It’s improved my quality of life and if you can stick with it at least for a few weeks, I’m confident you’ll see a few improvements yourself.
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Carl Cincinnato is the founder of the Annual Migraine World Summit. The largest patient conference in the world where migraine patients can learn from 36 world leading experts, doctors and specialists. It's available online and free from April 23 - 29. For more info visit www.migraineworldsummit.com