When you go to the grocery store, can you be certain you will remember to get everything you need? When you set an appointment, can you be sure that traffic will allow you to arrive on time? Few things in life are absolutely certain. This uncertainty causes anxiety – you worry about being late or you worry about forgetting something important.
Now imagine you’re uncertain, not about the grocery store or an appointment, but about your health or the health of someone you love. This kind of big uncertainty brings a whole new set of scary questions: What limits should you expect on your everyday lives? What will the future look like? Will you and your loved ones be okay?
Chronic illness creates a new level of anxiety. Here are four ways you can work to manage it:
1. Knowledge is Power
The more you know about the chronic health condition, the more you can plan accordingly. Even if knowledge doesn’t allow you to take any concrete steps, just having this knowledge itself can make a chronic health condition seem less terrifying. Educate yourself fully about your condition.
2. Choose Your Sources
For almost any condition you can imagine, there is a horror story online. This means that when you’re searching for the information recommended above, you’re likely to find things you wish you hadn’t. Remember: not every person will be the worst-case scenario you read about online. Ask your doctor for recommendations or visit authoritative sources like hospital websites to learn about the disease.
3. Get help from Child Life Services
If your child has a chronic illness and spends time in the hospital, take advantage of a great resource: child life services. Child life specialists are trained in the use of therapeutic play not only to help children understand their illness, treatment, procedures, etc., but to work through their thoughts, fears and concerns about having a chronic illness.
4. Permission to be a Whole Person, Not Just an Illness
When an illness impacts your everyday life or that of someone you love, it can be hard to look past the disease and remember all the things that make you, you. You are so much more than your disease—your illness is but a small detail of the “whole” person you are. You still have dreams and aspirations. You can still make plans and have fun. Whenever possible, try to leave the illness behind to do “normal” things that you did before. Spend time with friends, take the dog to the park, and if you are able, enjoy a walk in nature. Doing activities you love will remind you that these are the things that truly define you and in fact, these are the certainties you can count on in life. After all, your illness doesn’t get to call all the shots!