Maintain a happier attitude towards chronic illness

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can often mean an abrupt shift into the unknown and the way we usually function.  As both time and the illness progresses, so does our lifestyle and mindsets.

During this transition from the life we know, we often question our ability, become moody and anxious.

This is enough to leave anyone in a place of despair and this alone, forms a major contributor to long-term depression.

Managing a chronic illness puts you at a 25% to 33% higher risk of developing chronic depression as opposed to the average healthy individual, whose risk is at 10% to 25%, says Mariska van Aswegen, a representative of Pharma Dynamics.

A large part of life’s outcomes stems from your attitude and mindset towards it. If we can start by maintaining a positive outlook on all things, then it is already half the battle won.

It’s important to have a healthy acceptance of the lifestyle changes your condition requires. It also requires confidence in your ability to work within these constraints.

With a demand for antidepressants at a staggering 39% in South Africa, according to a Pharma Dynamics press release, we take a look at how to positively deal with an adapting lifestyle of chronic illness.

If nothing else, do not lose your hope, love and joy of life.

•    Before anything else, be accepting. A chronic illness is a long-lasting condition that can be controlled even if there is no cure.  Healthline also expresses the importance of adapting a healthy acceptance in the changes your condition requires. The sooner you accept this, the better it will become. Because if you cannot fight or flee then go with it.

•    Be forgiving yourself and others. We tend to blame ourselves and those around us for what is happening to us. Learn to accept it and don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t manage to do as much as you used to. 

•    Know what you’re dealing with. Van Aswegen makes a good point when saying that the more you learn about the illness, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself. Because the more you know, the better prepared you can be for what’s to come. 

•    Maintain a healthy diet. As it goes: a healthy body, a healthy mind.  Add plenty more produce, whole grain and fish to your diets. According to an online medical journal, the typical high carb and meat Western diet is associated with higher rates of depression. Of course, we do advise that you consult your doctor before changing your diet.

•    Growth through positive community. As long as you’re alive, you’ll continue to grow. It’s easy to isolate yourself when feeling low but this only leads to a deeper state of sadness.  Our most important growth happens through community. So gladly welcome those who come to you with genuine and positive support. Don’t give up, you’re not dead yet!

•    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Yes, you can do it on your own but you shouldn’t have to. Accept the help of those around you because it only makes things easier. A journey is always better when you have company so you might as well allow them to be guides.

•    Find new opportunities in your new reality. Adjusting to a new reality can be stressful. This is especially so when you’ve set certain future plans and goals.  See how you can adjust them to accommodate your new reality and be confident in your ability to work within these constraints.
•    Vent and take stock of your life. Anger, hurt, and mind banter is only natural. It adds no benefit but it happens. When coping becomes overwhelming, find a good way to vent. Speak to a therapist, if not a friend. Keep a journal and take stock of what is happening in your life by writing down your thoughts and feelings. Try physiotherapy or yoga to lose the stress and tension build up in your muscles.

•     Psychotherapy techniques can benefit those with depression. Van Aswegen  suggests that cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches patients how to deflect negative thoughts, become more aware of symptoms and identify relationships and situations or other factors that worsen depression. This may help you to gain a better perspective in making the necessary adaptations to a happier, better lifestyle.

If you’d like to speak to a trained counsellor contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

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