It seems that right now everyone is adjusting to a new normal. Whether that be living with a chronic illness, experiencing anxiety due to the global pandemic we are in, or losing a loved one – it’s crucial to recognize these changes and adapt to them in a healthy way.
Here are 6 ways to make the most of any situation you’re going through right now and how to adapt in these trying times.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes.” – Walt Disney
Remember when you were young, you’d fantasize about all the things you would do when you were grown up: becoming a doctor or a rockstar, traveling the world, getting married and having kids.
Some of those dreams may be shattered when you get diagnosed with chronic illness.
Suddenly, the life you’d envisioned for yourself is gone. Sometimes there’s little chance of your dreams ever becoming reality. I mean, how can you finish your studies, work a demanding job or raise a family when just getting through the day is a huge challenge?
It’s a heartbreaking feeling to have your deepest desires go unmet. When there’s a gap between what you’d do if only your body would cooperate and what you can actually do, you may experience an inner conflict between accepting your new reality and still trying to shoot for the moon.
Because even the sickest of us still have goals and dreams we wish to fulfill. Living means more than simply surviving. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when our basic needs like food, shelter and safety are met, we all long to belong and be loved, to cultivate self-esteem and self-respect, and finally to reach self-actualisation. We want to give meaning to our lives, even in the most harrowing circumstances.
But when you’re chronically ill and struggle to do the simplest things, pursuing your dreams and achieving your goals is not as easy as “you can do anything as long as you want it badly enough“. Of course determination, hard work and commitment are key, and there are plenty of stories out there of people accomplishing greatness despite their limitations. But sometimes all the persistence in the world just isn’t enough – at least not right now.
Despite my reservations about some motivational slogans, I’m a fierce believer in hope and going after your dreams. Whether you want to finish your studies, find a loving partner or pursue your passions, here are some realistic ideas to help you set and reach new goals when you have a chronic illness.
A year ago I wrote a blog post about why acceptance is not the same as giving up. Facing today’s reality doesn’t mean you give up hope for tomorrow. It just means you make the best of the given situation in this moment, instead of trying to change something that cannot be changed right now.
But the question remains: how do you start accepting that you’re chronically ill and may never get fully better again? How do you wrap your mind around the fact that your body, your life, your future are forever changed?
It’s a cliche, but acceptance takes time. It’s a gradual process that has its ups and downs. Emotions may stir up (again) when you enter a new phase in life or a new stage of your illness.
In his bestselling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra writes:
‘Acceptance simply means that you make a commitment: “Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur.” (…) You can wish for things in the future to be different, but in this moment you have to accept things as they are.(…) Having accepted this circumstance, this event, this problem, responsibility then means the ability to have a creative response to the situation as it is now.’
Accepting chronic illness goes hand in hand with coping; learning how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings. It’s also about partly letting go of the person you thought you were and the life you had envisioned, and make the best of the new reality you’re handed.
How do you do that? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some psychological strategies to help you.
When you live with limitations, you’ll inevitably disappoint yourself or others because you can’t live up to (your own) expectations.
Canceling a meeting at the last minute due to a crippling flare-up, not being able to do your ‘fair share’ around the house or having to say ‘no’ to your kids when they want to play with you, the list of things people with chronic illness can feel guilty about is long and diverse.
And even though it’s not your fault you can’t do things because you’re too sick, that doesn’t mean you don’t beat yourself up over letting people down.
But instead of apologizing all the time, there’s a way to express your ‘spoonie guilt’ in a more positive way: by saying ‘thank you’ instead of ‘I’m sorry’.
My first ebook, How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery, is available in the new webshop now!
It’s a 200 – page guide for people with chronic illness or injury, for those who want to rebuild their health after a long sickbed, serious operation or life-altering accident.
Because being chronically ill or injured can turn your life upside down. And the situation becomes even more unsettling when doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you. When modern medicine doesn’t have a cure for the pain you experience every day. When at best you’re given pills and therapy to help manage your symptoms, not cure them.
I’ve been there, for many, many years.
I’ve been through the tiring and heart-wrenching process of endless doctors visits and second-opinions, living with a chronic disease that has no remedy, turning to every complimentary therapy imaginable in the hopes of finding comfort or relief.
Diagnosed with juvenile rheumatism, fibromyalgia and ME/CFS during my early teens, I was housebound and unable to do the simplest things for the longest time. Going through the process of fighting illness and acceptance for over 15 years, I learned many things.
Here are the most important lessons that the road to ‘recovery’ has taught me.
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