Optimizing Life With a Chronic Health Problem
A staggering 45 percent of Americans deal with chronic illness. This, of course, includes diabetes. Danea Horn, a certified life coach, speaker, author, and 30-year chronic disease patient, has just released a new report: "How to Develop a Positive Attitude When You Are Coping With Illness."
"Life is not about overcoming one monumental challenge. It is a moment by moment choice to overcome again and again," says Horn, who has dealt with chronic kidney disease since a birth disorder impacted many of her body's systems.
"You will not always feel like doing what is best for yourself," Horn points out. "Do it anyway, and you'll be glad you did."
Horn proposes the following coping strategies:
Remind yourself of what is true about your situation. Many people get caught up in worst-case scenarios about the future. When you don't feel well, it's easy to assume that you will never feel better again. The Internet, despite its utility, is great at feeding these fears. Instead of looking at the bad side, step back and look at the facts of your diagnosis. Determine what is within your control, and remind yourself of what is going well in your life. Repeat this process often, continually coming back to what is true at the moment and putting fearful assumptions in check.
Find meaning in your experiences. Being diagnosed with a disease does not mean that you are cursed or unlucky. Disease is not personal. Use your diagnosis as a challenge to rediscover what is important to you, return to your values, and seek out the purpose behind your experience. You can do this through writing, talking with a trusted confidant, or silent reflection or prayer.
Develop a support system. It is human nature to want to help others, and now is the time to welcome that assistance. Supportive friends and family can provide a sounding board, help with daily tasks, or give warm hugs as requested.
Spoil yourself. Illness is life's way of asking us to care for ourselves. Put yourself at the top of your priority list and devote time to the things that make you smile, give you energy, or help you relax. Stress relief is especially important because your body needs all of its reserves to boost your immune system and keep you well. Commit to one or two daily activities that rejuvenate you, like listening to music, taking a walk, playing with a pet, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, meditating, watching something funny, or reading.
I asked Horn several questions about her personal philosophy.
How do you stay positive?
Horn: I focus on what is in my control. The gut reaction with any diagnosis is to feel like you don't have any control. While for some things that is true, there are many things that you do have control over.
The first time kidney transplant was brought up at one of my doctor's appointments, I let worry take over. I was trying to desperately control the future with numerous Internet searches that were only increasing my worry. I even began to feel more tired and out of breath. Once I recognized the pattern I had created for myself, I stepped out of my assumptions about the future, went back into the present moment, and began reminding myself of all the good things and health I still had. My stress reduced, and I began to feel better.
A few years down the road, transplant came up again, and this time I asked myself "What is in my control?" I realized that I could control my diet, exercise, and where I placed my focus. I created a new daily routine that focused on wellness and remained much more positive.
How can we take ownership of our life and health after diagnosis?
Horn: Just as I did when I learned that it was time to get on the transplant list, ask yourself, "What is in my control?" While you didn't choose to be ill, it is something that is in your life. We can be frustrated that the sky is blue, but that doesn't change its color. Ownership is accepting what is in front of us and, at the same time, taking action to create the best possible outcome.
How can we motivate ourselves to adhere to our health plan?
Horn: Know what is at stake. Good health is a great goal, but there is something even bigger that good health will bring. It may be more quality time with your family, the energy to pursue a life dream, or the ability to travel. Ask "What will I gain from maintaining my health?"
Look at all aspects of your life and values to determine what is most important to you. Keep a mental image of that motivation as you move through your day and healthcare routines. For me, it is my husband and the child I hope one day to adopt. I want as many healthy years as possible to enjoy life with them. Even though we're talking health, it is love that pushes me to take my meds, stick to my diet, and move my body.
You can read more about Danea Horn and her Creative Affirmations by following these links:
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