A chronic illness is defined as “a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment.” Chronic diseases are among the most prevalent and costly health conditions in the United States. There are different types of chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, migraines, cardiac conditions, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, seizure disorders, among many others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all Americans, which is equal to approximately 45%, or 133 million people, suffer from at least one chronic disease.
Although being diagnosed with a long-term health condition can be frightening, with proper support you can learn ways to effectively handle the daily stresses of living with your chronic illness. Consider the following strategies to help you minimize the challenges of living with a long-term illness and enhance your quality of life, provided by Harvard Medical School:
- Educate yourself: The more you know about your condition, the better equipped you will be to understand your symptoms and your treatment options.
- Advocate for yourself: rather than leaving everything up to your doctor, take responsibility for your care, and contribute to your treatment plan. Observe your own body and track what exacerbates your symptoms and what makes your symptoms improve. Sharing this information with your doctor can help them develop a pointed and customized treatment plan that is specifically geared to your nuanced needs.
- Get advice from experts: just because someone is a doctor does not mean they are privy to every facet of your disease. There are experts in every area of medicine for a reason; seek them out and have them join your clinical care team.
- Coordinate your care: you might assume that all your healthcare providers work together, or at the very least, communicate with one another with respect to your overall health, but this is unfortunately rarely the case. Enlist your primary care physician ensure your treatments are good for the whole you.
- Implement lifestyle changes: practicing healthy daily habits can enhance your mental health. Be sure to eat nutritious meals, avoid smoking, alcohol, and other drugs, stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.
- Create a living will: as is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary a living will is “a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent, especially an advance directive.” Consider what kind of care you want at the end of your life. Taking the time to make the decisions regarding your desired end of life experience (e.g., whether you want the most aggressive care until the very end, or whether you would prefer hospice care and a do-not-resuscitate order) can spare you and your loved one’s confusion and undue anguish.
- Try support groups: it can be comforting to be surrounded by others that are intimately familiar with living with your chronic illness. Support groups provide a forum for people to share, process, work through, and lean on peers living with a chronic disease.
There are a variety of ways you can cope with and learn to navigate the nuances of your disease. You have the power to take charge and manage your disease to prohibit your chronic illness from controlling you and stifling your happiness.
Further Information and Support
Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At Upwell Advisors, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process.
If left untreated, substance abuse, addiction, and/ or mental illness can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to help you or your loved one in the recovery process.