Waiting for test results can be daunting, and you’ll likely experience bouts of worry, anxiety, and fear during the waiting period. But it helps to remember that anxiety is normal, stay busy with engaging tasks that you enjoy, avoid negative thoughts, resist turning to Google for answers, and be open about your anxiety with friends and relatives.
I remember the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic when I realized I had been exposed to a COVID-positive person. Despite being a doctor, my levels of anxiety and fear were touching their peaks. I spent those days waiting for the test results in self-isolation. To cope with anxiety and stress, listening to music, reading books, chatting with friends, and watching videos were greatly helpful.
People with chronic conditions are no strangers to this anxiety, but there are things you can do to make the waiting period easier. Here are some tips and techniques that will help you manage your anxiety and feel more at ease during this hard process.
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.
This blog post contains some affiliate links to products you may find helpful, at no extra costs to you. All opinions are my own.
We love watching movies and reading novels, but do you ever stop to think about the stories you tell yourself?
Most of us don’t even notice it, but we are the stories we tell ourselves over and over again. Our identity, our beliefs about others and the world, they aren’t objective truths – they’re constructed in our own minds.
Since the dawn of time, people have been creating and telling stories to make sense of the world. From cave drawings and Greek mythology to fairytales, stories have allowed humans to share and learn information in a memorable way. Stories also help us to empathize with others by seeing the world from different perspectives, and they give us a feeling of control in a random world.
Modern science confirms that our brains are wired for narrative. The human brain loves to impose structure on experiences and it’s great at detecting patterns, like the beginning, ending and plot of a story. And once a story grabs our attention, the evolutionary old parts of our brain start to simulate the emotions the characters must be feeling. No wonder that stories play such an important role in shaping our identity and our life story.
You see, your life is not the sum total of a series of facts stringed together – it’s your lived experience of the events that happened in your life, and the meaning you gave to them. For example, when you make a stupid mistake in front of your friends, you could either laugh about it and recount other foolish things you’ve all done, or feel so ashamed that the voice in your head starts whispering, ‘see, you always mess up, everyone thinks you’re dumb’. In any case, it’s not a neutral incident, and what you tell yourself impacts future thoughts, beliefs and actions.
That’s why narrative psychology focuses on unraveling what kind of stories you tell yourself and how that affects you, plus what you can do to choose more helpful narratives.
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?
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