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6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Healthy

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Getting a chronic illness at 24 was never part of my plans. While I am not yet ready to see it as a blessing, it has given me lots of time to consider what’s important, and I have learned some lessons about looking after myself that I never really considered when I was healthy.

For all those who have your health, and those who don’t, I want to share some of the things I have learned from my experiences with chronic illness:

1. Health is a blessing, not a guarantee.

Don’t take your health for granted. Just because you’re young and fit, it doesn’t mean your health is assured. Don’t take unnecessary chances with your health, or you may find it leaves you.

Listen to your body.

Your body is an integral part of you; it’s not an obstacle to your goals. You have to work with your body otherwise it will push back. Your body knows what it needs. Pain and tiredness are all messages from your body telling you it needs something; don’t ignore them.

Give yourself the time you need to recover from illness and injury.

Allowing yourself to rest when you are ill or injured means you return to health quicker. I know the pressure from work and other commitments can make it hard to take the time you need to recover, but there is a real risk to pushing too hard when you need rest. Many chronic illnesses start from an ordinary illness like flu or glandular fever, and I’m sure my fellow people with chronic illness would agree with me when I say that trying to push through the illness only made things worse.

4. Be assertive of your own needs.

You know what you need better than anyone else, and only you can really stand up for those needs. Not taking care of your needs puts your health at risk. Long term stress, not getting enough sleep, and being tired all the time can have significant health implications. Make sure you manage other people’s expectations of you so that you are looking after yourself properly.

Health is important.

Now I’m sure you already know it, but I can’t stress this enough. This is the point that makes everything else I’ve said even more essential. You don’t really notice you had good health until you lose it. Think back to the last time you had flu. When you were ill I bet you noticed that you were not healthy, but once you recovered you probably hardly registered that you were no longer sick. Which takes me to point six:

Be thankful for your good health.

Try to notice when you are in good health and be thankful for it. Being aware of the good will not only help your emotional state, it will help you to put the due importance on all the other points above. If we pay attention to something we tend to put more importance on it, so trying to pay attention to our good health will mean we appreciate it more and look after it better.

Before I got ill I was full of energy and always on the go. I was doing well at work and had various activities after work almost every day of the week. I think amidst all this I lost sight of what my body needed and I wasn’t putting my health first. This gave the illness a chance to settle in. I have now been ill for over two and a half years, and I am still a long way from recovery. Paying more attention to what my body needs, and making others aware of my needs, has been the most helpful things in managing my illness.

I hope that you will give some thought to what I’ve said, as I wouldn’t wish ill health on anyone, and the main thing I have learned is that you can’t take your health for granted.

Wishing you good health and happiness.

Getty photo by bruniewska

Originally published: June 7, 2018
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