Living Well with Chronic Illness
From arthritis and diabetes to eczema and asthma—living with a chronic condition can be a challenge. One secret to success: Take charge.
Learn all you can
A major challenge of chronic illness can be the emotional turmoil that this difficult situation can create. But by taking charge of your own health, you can learn to cope with these emotions and feel more in control of your life.
The first step? Learn everything you can about your illness. Consult your healthcare provider, find details online from trusted sources like government agencies, or seek information from national health organizations. Find out what causes your condition to worsen and what may improve it. Check around for a program or workshop that will teach you about managing your illness, as well as self-care skills.
Next, take an honest look at the unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle. Working together with your provider, identify a particular behavior you’d like to change in order to have better control of your illness. Set a specific goal for dealing with it and develop a plan that addresses things that could go wrong and how you’ll handle them. As you’re working toward your goal, check in regularly with your healthcare provider to update them on your progress or struggles.
Ways to take action
Here are several more strategies for managing your own health:
Always be sure to take your medicines as prescribed. While it can’t cure your illness, medicine can prevent further problems. Report to your healthcare provider any side effects and how medicine affects symptoms.
Seek support from friends and family and keep up social connections. Consider joining a support group. Studies show that social support can contribute to the management of chronic illness as it’s associated with better overall adjustment, fewer symptoms, and higher self-esteem.
Preserve as much of your normal routine as you can. Maintain hobbies or find new ones that fit better with your condition. Try to continue with work and household chores, adapting them as needed.
If you are able to be physically active, ask your provider to help you devise a safe exercise program. Regular physical activity can improve your health, reduce your need for medicines, and offer a sense of control over your illness.
Care partnership works best
Studies show that people with chronic illnesses who play an active role in their own care do better than those who do not take an active role. What works best? A partnership that combines the training of healthcare professionals with patients’ knowledge of their own lives.