Let’s face it. Living with a chronic illness isn’t for the faint of heart. Every day, you’re battling pain, fatigue, and uncertainty. On top of this, you have the disconcerting knowledge that, without some kind of divine intervention or miracle cure, your condition is never going away.
You likely feel afraid, angry, and even powerless. But don’t. You are far stronger than you know, and you have more help in dealing with the stress, managing the emotions, and contending with the physical effects of your illness than you may realize. Meditation, for example. It can be just the weapon you need to fight–and thrive–another day.
Living with heart problems, inflammatory bowel disease or COPD can feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. One moment you might feel hopeful and determined you’ll ‘beat this illness’, and the next you break down over the pain, symptoms and heartache you have to deal with every single day. You’re confused, overwhelmed and don’t know what will happen next.
When you feel like you’re on an rollercoaster, how can you deal with the chaos and emotional turmoil?
First of all, zoom out mentally. When you’re in the middle of a figurative looping, there’s no room for anything else in your mind but being on that rollercoaster. But if you take a step back to see the bigger picture, you can see that the end of the ride is in sight. Sure, your chronic illness won’t magically go away, but your next ups and downs may be milder and more into the future than you can tell right now. So don’t get stuck in the moment or get caught up in the day-to-day drama.
Next, pause before you act. When you’re emotional, it’s easy to get carried away and act (out) uncharacteristically. But like psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In simple words: take a moment between thinking upsetting thoughts or feeling heavy emotions, and acting upon them. Don’t make important decisions in the spur of a moment when you’re on that emotional rollercoaster.
Also, find constructive ways to deal with all those emotions. Breathing techniques can calm your nervous system, while journaling helps to put your feelings into words and reflect upon what’s happening. You could also express yourself creatively through drawing, dancing or cooking, or practice mindfulness to learn to accept your new reality. And sometimes, simply sitting with difficult feelings when they bubble up is all you need to step off that emotional rollercoaster.
Finally, engage in positive self-talk and self-compassion. Getting stuck in negative thought patterns or beating yourself up over what’s happening will only lengthen and intensify this ride.
Have a look at these 11 chaos quotes to help you cope when life feels like a rollercoaster.
Maybe you’ve heard that saying: ‘Grow through what you go through’.
In a way that’s true: every experience we have, good or bad, affects how we think, feel and act. But growth brings up images of ‘better’ or ‘more’, a process of expansion, right? So what does growth look like in the face of adversity?
According to research on post-traumatic growth, good things really can come out of a crisis. Some people who go through tough times not only manage to recover from that emotional distress, but the process of suffering can even propel them to a higher level of functioning than before. In those cases, surviving cancer, war or natural disasters can bring a new appreciation of life, strengthen relationships, increase self-esteem and make one feel more connected to humanity.
Studies show that the biggest personal growth happens following the most intense life events. Chronic illness is one of those events that can really turn your life upside down, when you suddenly have to cope with painful symptoms and fatigue, sadness and anxiety, or a changed body image. Feeling sick every day can also shake your core beliefs about yourself, life and the world around you.
How on earth could being chronically ill possibly make you grow?
First of all, I’m not talking about the kind of personal development that has you striving every day to be a little bit better in terms of healthy living, knowledge, skills or other habits. Obviously those improvements are great, but in the context of chronic illness, growth refers more to developing qualities that are harder to measure. You may have to learn patience and acceptance when things are outside of your control. Your painful experiences could also make you more compassionate with others who are suffering, or help you embrace every part of yourself and lead a more authentic life. Or perhaps you turn out to be stronger and more resilient than you’d ever thought possible.
You get the point: growth does not just refer to climbing a symbolic ladder to reach the top, it can also mean you explore deep emotions or broadening your perspective on life.
If you look closely, nature provides us with many beautiful metaphors of growth through adversity. To paraphrase Pablo Neruda, the earth teaches us that just when everything seems dead in winter, the bulbs nested in the soil will suddenly bloom. Through the tiniest crack in the pavement grass and weeds will emerge – even concrete can stop nature from growing. And like the lotus born in the deep thick mud, our dark, painful experiences can transform us into a beautiful version of ourselves.
Not everyone will experience personal or spiritual growth after hardship, and that’s perfectly ok. You don’t need that pressure on top of everything else you’re dealing with!
But during times in your life when you’ve lost so much, it can be comforting to know that you may also simultaneously be gaining something positive, even if you’re not aware of it. Like Roy Bennett said: “Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.”
Get inspired by these 17 beautiful quotes to help you grow through what you go through.
When you’re living with a chronic illness like endometriosis, COPD or chronic pain syndromes, you probably face limitations on a regularly basis. You can only walk so far before your legs or back give in. You can only work for a number of hours a day before fatigue and pain get the better of you. You can’t handle the stimulation of crowded rooms, bright lights and windy weather for a short period of time before getting a migraine attack or sensory overload.
Living with limitations can feel like a juggling act, worrying about which ball you’ll have to drop and how to keep getting meaningful things done despite your chronic illness. And it doesn’t just affect you, but also the people in your life.
How do you explain to your family and friends what you can and cannot do due to chronic illness? And how do you set healthy boundaries and communicate them to the people around you?
It’s a common but underestimated side-effect of living with chronic illness: spending a lot of time alone. Because you’re stuck at home while your family and friends are off to work, school and sports. Because your migraine or crippling fatigue force you to crawl in bed, in darkness and quietude. Because you need to rest in between activities or simply can’t join in on social activities.
It can be hard to spend so much time in solitude and stillness. But being alone is not necessarily synonymous to being lonely. You can be completely content on your own, and you can be surrounded by people yet feel like no one understands you.
Although we all need company and social connections to feel good, you can also find beauty in solitude and stillness.
Spending time alone gives you space to tune into yourself. Stillness silences the voices of others telling you who you should be and why you should do, and gives you space to listen to your own thoughts, feelings and intuition. More so, being on your own offers you time for self-reflection. Without distractions from the outside world, it’s easier to get a clear picture of what you want in life, what matters most to you and how to achieve those goals and dreams.
Time alone also allows you to check in with yourself physically. By paying attention to your physical sensations, you learn to notice your body’s triggers and warning signs in time – and what helps to feel better.
What’s more, stillness can help you stress less. When your body relaxes and your mind calms down, you activate the restorative part of your nervous system. And less tension often leads to better sleep at night and improved concentration during the day. Getting quiet also lowers your cortisol levels and blood pressure, both important markers for your overall health.
So what can you do to make your alone-time reflective and restorative instead of lonely?
First of all, it helps to purposefully choose ‘me-time’ instead of letting loneliness overwhelm you. On the surface, you may be doing the same things, but emotionally, there’s a big difference between mindfully laying in savasana to recharge and staring at the ceiling feeling bored, sick and alone. If spend a lot of time on your own, you could make a plan to deal with social isolation or a list with fun things you can do at home alone.
Secondly, in our always-on world, we should all unplug from time to time to make space for stillness. Disconnect for an hour, a day or a weekend to spend time with your own thoughts and sit with your feelings. Enjoy analogue hobbies like reading magazines, playing guitar or brewing your own beer without getting distracted by messages, notifications or your favorite show in the background.
Finally, get into the habit of journaling for self-reflection, soul-searching and finding fresh perspectives. Practicing mindfulness and the art of savouring will also turn your time alone into more meaningful moments. You may not always be able to escape the loneliness and boredom of being on your own, but you deserve to get some upsides from all that alone-time too.
Take a look at these 16 inspiring quotes to learn to see the beauty of solitude and stillness.
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