Wednesday, 3 February 2016

6 tips to help you cope with Chronic Illness

I've heard of three people this week who have been diagnosed with M.E and spoke to another who has it. It's so sad how common this debilitating condition is. I can't help them how I'd want to help them, but I can offer my experience and what has helped me. They are not cures but ways of coping that have helped me over the last 8 years I've lived with chronic illness. 
1) PACING - I was so annoyed with the NHS for what I thought was 'fobbing me off' when they told me how to pace myself and said that I'd finished the treatment. Is that it? I thought. However, I firmly believe this technique is what has kept me from regressing. The level of the activity that you pace is dependant on your energy levels. The idea is to only do half of what you think you can do, and to make sure you rest afterwards. I know how frustrating it can be when you can't accomplish a task in one sitting anymore, but pacing yourself prevents those awful consequences that come every time you burn all the energy you have.
2) TEST YOUR LIMITS - this sounds like an oxymoron after the first point, but I do think it's important on some occasions to push yourself a little to see if you have made any improvements. If you don't try you'll never know.
3) KEEP CALM - its not just physical activity that bring on my symptoms, they also worsen when I feel stressed or angry or upset. So, as hard as it can be sometimes I count to ten, take a deep breath and calm myself. (See my post on how I calm my anxieties
4) EAT HEALTHILY - there are specific restrictive diets that I have found help, but they are pretty hard to stick to. For the purpose of this post, I'm talking about eating your five a day, cutting down on refined foods and most importantly of all - REDUCE YOUR SUGAR intake. The crashes after a sugar fix are not what your chronically ill body needs. (Follow the link for a more detailed post on eating for health) 
5) PROPER REST - I mean putting down your book, switching off your tv and closing your eyes, taking deep breaths and clearing your mind. If you can't switch off, then change your thoughts, remember what it was like to feel well. Remind your brain and your body how it feels to be well. Let yourself rejuvenate and repair.
6) SAY NO AND ACCEPT HELP - everyone I've spoken to who suffers with ME/CFS used to be active, focused, busy people. The kind of people who do the helping, yet now we are the ones that need help. Saying no or accepting help does not come easy to us, but it is so essential. (See my post 'Help: need it, hate it!')It's also essential to ASK for help too. 7 years on and I'm still learning how to do these things!
This list isn't exhaustive, I'm sure there's things that I've missed, but these are the important ones for me. Feel free to add your comment on what has helped you :)