This article is written by Frankie Wallace.
Dealing with a chronic illness often comes with several challenges and obstacles. However, one of the issues that doesn’t get enough attention is how difficult it can be to socialize and maintain some sense of social normalcy. Between fluctuating issues that your body has to deal with to mental hurdles that cause you to cancel plans, it’s not easy to keep up an in-person social life when you’re trying to manage an illness.
Thankfully, it’s also not impossible.
While we’re lucky to live in a time that makes it easy to connect with people online to combat loneliness, it’s not the same as interacting face-to-face. While you should absolutely take advantage of technology in your everyday communication, it’s important to connect in person with people you love, too.
With that in mind, let’s cover a few tips for socializing in person that will make it easier to put yourself out there while managing your condition.
Surround Yourself with Support
Many people who are chronically ill don’t know how they’ll feel on a day-to-day basis. Maybe you’ll make plans with someone on a day when you’re feeling good, but when the day of those plans arrives you can hardly get out of bed. You should never feel guilty for having to back out from a social situation because of your illness or because of your mental well-being. If you struggle with guilt, keep some of the following tips in mind to make it easier to cancel:
● Apologize if it’s late notice
● Tell the truth
● Honor yourself
● Recognize your ability to say “no”
When you surround yourself with the right people, they won’t mind when you have to cancel plans – especially when you’re truthful about your reasons. Having a support system is crucial.
If you want to assuage any guilt and you still want to connect with your support system, you can always utilize social media. However, keep in mind that excessive usage can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. Consider talking on the phone, using FaceTime, or even writing letters to those in your inner circle to stay connected, even if you can’t spend time together in person.
Share Hobbies with Others
If you’re ready to socialize in person, it’s okay to start small. You might even want to start in the comfort of your own home, involving friends or family members in different activities you enjoy. That could include things like:
● Playing video games
● Playing board games
● Watching a movie
● Sharing a meal
Once you’re ready to spend more time outside the house, don’t feel like you have to overexert yourself. Chances are, you’re probably not going to be up for a five-mile hike with your closest friends on a random Saturday morning.
Instead, find hobbies you enjoy and consider how they can translate to socializing with others. If you like cooking at home, for example, take a cooking class once a week or go to a new restaurant each week with your friends to sample new cuisine. If you want to get more physical activity, know your limits and find something you can enjoy that also challenges you. Things like yoga classes or swimming lessons will allow you to stay active and interact with others at the same time.
Make Yourself a Priority
Continuing to care for your mental and physical health as you try to socialize should always be your top priority. From a physical standpoint, that means not pushing yourself too far. While it’s okay to work through challenges and get stronger, you know your body better than anyone. If you’re experiencing a “bad day,” physically, don’t force yourself to go out. Consider using heuristics to determine what you should do. For example, you might be willing to push through certain symptoms but not others.
If you do decide to go out and socialize, be prepared. Bring along any aids you might need to get through the event and be sure to bring your medications with you if you’ll be gone at the time you usually take them and make sure you set alarms to help you take them at the right times. Maintaining your routine, especially when it comes to your health, will make it easier to be around others and will help you to feel your best while you’re out. Setting an alarm or reminder on your phone for medication will make it easier to stick to your schedule.
It’s also important to prioritize your mental health. Don’t feel obligated to say “yes” to every invitation. Burnout is a very real thing, especially when you’re dealing with a chronic illness. Your mental well-being should always come first, so consider how a specific social event might make you feel. If you’re already anxious about it or you know it will wear you out, don’t force yourself to attend.
When you make yourself a priority, you’ll pick and choose social settings that matter the most. Utilizing that mindset with the other tips listed here will make it easier to connect with people in person while successfully navigating some of the hurdles that come with being connect with people in person while successfully navigating some of the hurdles that come with being chronically ill.
Tell me, what’s your success strategy for socializing in person when you’re chronically ill?
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