Looking After Yourself When Dealing with Chronic Illness

For the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been feeling very well. A change in medications has left me with some side effects that have really knocked me around. It’s been tough, and it’s taken a big toll on myself and my well-being overall. If you, like me, experience chronic illness or disability, you probably know what I mean. 

When you have health issues, it’s hard to explain. I personally never feel 100%, I always have some kind of symptom, and that’s something I know about myself. However, this also makes me more in tune with myself in knowing what’s normal and what isn’t. And the last few weeks have been a bit tough. Our health, mental and physical, can tend to change and shift, and that’s okay.

When dealing with chronic illness, it can be really hard to make time for self-care, to do activities that bring you joy, to be active, to socialise, etc. Some days are bad symptom days and others we may use to catch up on the days used for rest. So, I wanted to offer some tips for those struggling with this. 

  • Plan each day 
    • Sometimes, we have to plan the day around what we can realistically do. It may be a day-to-day plan or even an hour-to-hour plan, both are valid. But don’t force yourself to do something that may be detrimental to your health. Take things slowly and one step at a time. Maybe even have a ‘low spoon day’ plan. Something that you can have in place for when you don’t feel up to doing much.
  • Be kind to yourself
    • It can be SO frustrating when our bodies or minds present challenges that stop us from doing what we want. However, unfortunately, you can’t force yourself to be well. So, instead of punishing yourself, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to rest, to do something that helps you relax, to surround yourself with kindness and love. Self-compassion is so important, especially when we’re not feeling well. 
  • Set boundaries and be clear with those around you
    • People can’t help you if you don’t tell them anything. Talk to those closest to you, let them know that things are tough. Whether you want a bit of extra support or need some space, explain that to them. It can be difficult, but being open and honest makes it so much easier for you and others to know what’s going on. Trust me, people will understand. 
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up
    • Speaking up can be terrifying. Whether talking to a medical professional about your symptoms or medications, reaching out for some extra support, or something else, it can be really scary. And, as scary as it is, it’s immensely important. Your health is important. When you feel unwell, it can have a negative impact on your quality of life, and if there’s some way to help you, it’s worth reaching out. 
  • Adapt activities
    • Personally, I enjoy reading, however, when I don’t feel well, this becomes very difficult. During my recent health issues, I thought I’d give audiobooks a try and it allowed me to do something that I enjoy again but in a way that was better for me. This might not work for all activities, but if your health has stopped you from something you enjoy, perhaps look into alternatives. 

Living with a chronic illness or disability can be a challenge. But it’s important to not beat ourselves up for struggling and show ourselves extra care. This applies to all health issues, mental and physical. If you’re having a tough day, week, month, or year, remember that, among these times, there will always be something good that happens too. Appreciate the small things, like a friend checking in, having your favourite food, or something else. 

If you’re struggling right now, be patient with yourself. Do something to bring a bit of joy to your day and show yourself some self-compassion. You deserve kindness and love. Kia kaha. 


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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