A diagnosis of chronic illness can hit us like a tidal wave, with fears, distress and overall anxiety. Media images of worst case scenarios flash before us. But it does not have to be that way. While it is undeniably upsetting to receive such a diagnosis, there are many ways to cope.
Learn as much as you can about your illness but force yourself to not focus on the negative. Study treatments, explore current research, find support groups. Make sure you have a doctor who is encouraging and a good match for your personality. Do you need someone warm and fuzzy or does a more business-like approach work for you? Always remember you deserve the best care available. If you do not feel you are getting it from your current health care provider, start looking for a new one.
Reassess your lifestyle and the set-up of your home. Everything should be designed to make things as simple for you as possible. Make sure your family members understand what limitations may come with your illness and how you might not be able to do all the things you did before. Work together to come up with a list of chores that still need to be done and divide the labor.
Recognize you may have to change expectations for yourself and your family and talk about it frequently to reduce any misconceptions or misunderstandings. Open and honest discussion about how things have changed and might still have to change makes the process a little easier.
Be good to yourself. Eating well, getting some exercise every day and practicing some form of daily contemplation or meditation keeps us from depleting our resources. Feed your body what it needs physically and feed your spirit what it needs spiritually.
Stay involved with positive people. Connect with friends who make you feel good about yourself. Consider taking an active part in your church or a community activity. Doing things with and for other people is an ideal way to be as healthy and productive as possible.
Make a list of your own personal stressors. Everyone has different triggers for what can send their blood pressure soaring and their spirits plummeting. Write these down and work on eliminating or altering them one by one. Enlist the help of your family or significant other as well, because chances are these things affect them also. Your inventory is likely to contain things that cannot be changed overnight, so be kind to yourself and just do what you can gradually. Sometimes simply identifying problems makes them seem more manageable.
If you find you are really struggling with anxiety and distress, reach out to a professional. You deserve to lead a satisfying life despite your illness. Discussing your concerns with someone who is experienced in dealing with grief and health issues can be reassuring and healing.
Again, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to get over the shock of your diagnosis and then steadily move forward. Applying these modest ideas can lead to a more serene and fulfilling way of life for you and your family.