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What to Remember When Your Health Changes Quickly

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As much as we may wish that living with a health condition looks the same every day, health isn’t static.  Your health can change quickly, and when it does, you may feel overwhelmed, uncertain or frustrated.  You may have so many questions about the state of your health that you might be tempted to either throw yourself into self-care or give up on managing your symptoms entirely, but neither approach is likely to fully help you cope with your fluctuating health.

Instead, take life one day — or even one minute or second — at a time.

You don’t have to love your changing health or even fully accept it right away, but it can be far easier to manage when you slow down and meet yourself where you are at any given time.  If you’re in intense physical or mental pain, urging yourself to survive for just one more second can help you discover that you’ve taken so many small steps towards your ultimate goal — living a full life with your health condition.  If you have work to complete or personal care tasks to do during a symptom flare, break them down into smaller steps that feel more manageable.  You just may find that those smaller steps may be “slower,” but they can help you adapt to the changing state of your health and still have some semblance of life before your health changed.

On the days when the pendulum swings so drastically that you just can’t seem to muster up the energy to complete tasks, respect your own needs.  If you suddenly have “bad” days when you can’t do the things you used to, remind yourself that you don’t have to do everything at once.  Be gentle with yourself, and do what you can when you’re able.  It may not come at the pace you’d ordinarily expect of yourself, but you’re likely to feel far more physically and mentally stable if you take your time and remind yourself that your health is more important than your productivity.  You may feel surprised by how much you can do when you work with your fluctuating health instead of fighting against it.

When you feel like the drastic changes in your health are frustrating or overwhelming, take time to process your feelings of grief and loss.  You may worry that your conflicting emotions aren’t normal or that taking the time to truly feel will draw out the grieving process, but sudden health changes can be jarring, saddening, maddening and difficult to cope with.  Recognize that in some moments, you may feel accepting of the state of your health, but in others, you may feel pity or self-loathing.  Your perspective may shift from one moment to the next, so ask yourself how you can sit with your feelings and survive the next minute until you realize that you feel a bit calmer.  If you allow yourself the space to express and process your feelings about your changing health and recognize that grief isn’t linear, you may find that you’ll be more accepting of your health — and yourself — as you move through life.

Experiencing rapid, unexpected changes in your health can be jarring, especially as you learn to cope.  As long as you take life one small bit at a time, remain gentle with yourself and gradually process your feelings, you can adapt to your changing health and accept the emotions that accompany it.

Getty image by Wand Prapan.

Originally published: September 16, 2021
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