7 Coping Techniques That Help Me Live Well With Chronic Illness

Like many others in my situation, I’ve had to learn how to live with debilitating illness. Fibromyalgia, severe osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis (that includes lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis) have all influenced how I live.

Here is a list of things that help me live well.

1. I chill.

I have a tendency to over-react. My family would call it “wig out,” but sometimes life doesn’t work the way I’d like and I want to take it out on everyone around me. But I know that if I can change my attitude I can change my situation. I can purpose to be happy. How I look at things is something I can control when my life seems out of control.

2. I breathe.

I’ve learned deep breathing techniques and use them as often as needed. Like when we have to be somewhere at 5:00 and my husband still isn’t ready at 4:45. Breathe in, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four. We’re still going to be late but I’m calmer and able to survive one more day.

3. I exercise.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like to sweat so I’ve developed a program of
stretches and swimming that keeps me going. Chair yoga has been a lifesaver for me. Walking around in a warm pool has changed my life for the better. And the only sweating I do is afterward in the hot tub!

4. I medicate.

Yes, sometimes my illness gets the best of me and medication is my best option. Working with my army of medical professionals I’ve been able to determine what works best for my conditions. Even though I have many coping tools, I have to remind myself that medicating does not make me a failure. It makes me feel better.

5. I simplify.

OK, true confessions here. I have an espresso machine, a Keurig and a drip coffee maker. Part of simplifying is keeping only the things that make me happy. Coffee makes me happy! What makes you happy? Keep that and get rid of everything else.

6. I socialize.

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful circle of family and friends who understand when I cancel at the last minute or turn down wonderful opportunities because I know how I would probably feel afterwards. And sometimes I’m able to participate – and that’s a wonderful thing!

7. I’m grateful.

It’s easy to fall into the pit of self-pity. And I do sometimes. But getting up early because I can’t sleep allows me to see a beautiful sunrise. Meeting a friend for coffee and laughing about something silly helps me forget the pain in my back, even if only for a moment. Taking my granddaughter for a mani-pedi and having her confide in me about her latest boyfriend warms my heart. And for all of these things, and more, I’m grateful.

Using the appropriate tool is important. I don’t want to try to cut a piece of meat with a potato peeler! Just like any good kitchen or toolbox, I have to keep an assortment of the right tools ready for the right situation.

I want to encourage you to gather up your tools in advance. Pick and choose carefully to customize your toolbox for your own life so that you’re ready for whatever comes your way. Not only to live, but to live well.

Getty Image by Nevena1987

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