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27 'Habits' of People With Chronic Illness

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Navigating life with chronic illness can be tricky, often requiring a lot of trial and error to figure out what accommodations work best for you. As you adjust to a different lifestyle in which illness is a constant yet unpredictable presence, you may find yourself developing “habits” that help soothe symptoms, distract you from pain or make life as comfortable as possible.

We asked our Mighty community to share some of the “habits” they’ve developed to get through the tough moments with chronic illness. Some of these habits may sound familiar, and others might provide you with some new ideas to incorporate into your routine.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “I ‘nest’ a lot on bad days. I tuck myself in bed with a mountain of pillows, blankets and heating pads, keep my TV and Xbox controller in hand’s reach, make sure I can reach my phone charger and then eat snacks and drinks in bed all day.”

2. “My habit is a saying that developed after people continuously asked me how I’m doing… My answer is always, ‘Well, I’m still alive.’ I suppose this habit is really part of a larger habit of me trying to be positive and laugh in the face of myasthenia gravis.”

3. “I treat myself to a hot bath every night. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s my ritual. It’s 20 minutes of quiet time to myself. Plus it does on occasion give me some relief from pain.”

4. “Since I am very light-sensitive, I have sunglasses everywhere: my truck, my purse, two or three in my room, two or three more (back-up pairs) in a drawer… and I keep a pair in my office.”

5. “I double calendar everything. I’ve had a lot of problems with ‘brain fog’ and I don’t want to miss appointments or double book. Plus my kids have events and appointments too. So everything goes into my calendar on my phone and onto the wall calendar in the kitchen!”

6. “Sitting down in the shower to shave because it’s easier on my joints. I forget sometimes that a lot of people stand to shave.”

7. “Rocking my body back and forth. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing it but it is either because I’m exhausted or I’m overstimulated and need to calm down.”

8. “I turn on the seat heater when I drive. It helps my back and hip pain.”

9. “I start the day watching funny videos on YouTube or Facebook. Anything to laugh. It gets endorphins going and makes it hard to begin the day on a bad note.”

10. “I love to read. It gets me through pain, exhaustion and emotional breakdowns. I always have my e-reader with me.”

11. “Starting in my early teenage years I began an afternoon nap habit as a result of the unrelenting fatigue. I’m 40 now and still take a nap every afternoon.”

12. “When I’m on my cane or in so much pain I’m having trouble walking, I count to either two or five steps, each time telling myself I just have to get to five. So I’ll continue to muster up the strength to walk and it also takes my mind off the pain.”

13. “I have gotten into the habit of recording my pain each day out of 10 in my diary so I can look back and see if what I’m changing in my lifestyle is working.”

14. “A tall glass of red wine every night. It helps the muscle spasms to relax. Plus it has healthy antioxidants.”

15. “Keeping everything together as close by as possible, so as to avoid unnecessary painful movement. Water bottles, meds, snacks, laptop and phone (and chargers), stack of books, blankets, pillows, socks and pajamas are all an arm’s length away from my bed.”


16. “It’s perhaps a bad habit now, but putzing on my phone, texting my closest friends and watching DVDs are how I decompress after work. Usually after work I’m burnt out, so nothing gets done on a work day.”

17. “My habit is making sure that on bad flare-up days I have enough to drink and some snacks on my nightstand so I don’t have to get up and down all throughout the day, and so I have enough to eat to take my medication with.”

18. “I always have an earphone in, playing specific artists. I suffer from constant pain, and having music playing stops my sensors from being overloaded. Works really well in large crowds, such as shopping centers.”

19. “I ask myself, ‘Who am I doing/trying to do this for?’ It’s OK to go over the limit of what I should do and pay for it later if it means going to an event I’m really looking forward to or making someone I love happy. But so often I do things because I feel obligated, because I said I might go and feel bad going back on my word… I’ve learned my health is worth more than what others might think.”

20. “I have a habit of collecting my hospital bracelets after I get out of the hospital as it reminds me that I won yet another battle. It seems odd but for some reason I hold onto the bracelet feeling empowered that I walked away from what tried to defeat me again.”

21. “I’ve gotten into the habit of having several pairs of fuzzy socks and pajamas on hand. They keep me warm but not overheated and the socks specifically have a comforting effect.”

22. “Saying what I’m doing out loud so I don’t forget what I’m doing – like if I’m walking down the hallway to put milk in the fridge I’ll say, ‘Putting the milk in the fridge,” or if I’m looking for my keys I’ll keep saying, ‘Looking for my keys’ so I don’t forget what I’m looking for.”

23. “I have a five-year diary that is purely for for writing down one good thing that’s happened each day, however big or small it may be! It might be I managed an evening out one day, or it might be I stayed in bed all day watching Disney movies another. But it forces me to search for the good in every day.”

24. “I bend over when I stand still so I don’t pass out. If I keep walking I’m fine, but if I stop at a crosswalk I have to bend over or I get dizzy and black out due to tachycardia (POTS).”

25. “I developed a habit of not comparing myself and my life to that of a healthy person. I am on my own time.”

26. “I shower at night. Showering takes a lot out of me so I shower in the evenings and I only shower every other day. I use those face wash wipes or homemade wipes the other days to clean myself up a little bit.”

27. “I get up before dawn, walk my dog, feed the cats. Then I watch the sun rise while I take some photos, drink tea, listen to music. Or just take that briefest moment taking in the sunrise. A lot of days start very early with pain and nausea. I needed to reset that so – even with pain and nausea – I can start my days with gratitude and a bit of peace.”

What’s a “habit” you’ve developed due to your chronic illness? Share in the comments below!

Originally published: May 26, 2017
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