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7 Survival Tips for the 'In-Between' Days of Chronic Illness

I have a number of chronic illnesses, and as a result most of my days are “in-between” days. An “in-between” day is when I don’t consider myself “sick,” as I can get out of bed and function in a basic way – but I also don’t
feel “well.” On “in-between” days I feel exhausted, have high pain levels and find doing even the smallest task a huge effort. In a way, these “in-between” days are worse than when I feel truly sick, as on those days I have no choice – I simply can’t get out of bed at all. On “in-between” days I do have an element of choice as I’m not bed-bound, and I’ve found it hard sometimes to make sensible choices about how to spend my day so I don’t end up feeling even worse at the end of it – both physically and


On “in-between” days I have to make things as easy for myself as I possibly can, while trying to get to the end of the day feeling it hasn’t been a complete struggle or a total washout. I have found these seven “in-between days” survival tips really useful. They are not anything spectacular or new, but they do help me get through those difficult times. I hope you find them helpful too.

1. Prioritize. When having to cope with an “in-between” day, acknowledge you are going to have to change your plans, as you won’t be able to get everything done. Delegate what you can, postpone what you can and only do what is absolutely necessary.

2. Give yourself time. For those things you absolutely can’t put off, make sure you allow yourself extra time to do them. Remind yourself it’s OK if it takes you a little longer to have a shower or do the dishes – it’s not a race!

3. Communicate. This is one I struggle with sometimes – but let those close to you know you are having a tough day. They might not fully understand what this means as those without chronic illnesses tend to see things in black and white – or “sick” and “well” terms. However, if they care about you they will understand as best they can and this way you won’t have to pretend you feel better than you actually do – which is a lot less tiring.

4. Succeed in something. For me, this is really important. I need to get to the end of the day thinking it hasn’t been a complete waste. In order for that to happen I need to feel I have succeeded at something. That “something” can be really small – I might have managed to post a letter, sort out the washing or make a few phone calls. This helps me
hold on to a sense of normality and stops me from feeling too down.

5. Appreciate the small things. I find this really helps me cope when things are getting overwhelming. Sometimes just looking out of the window at the leaves on the trees blowing in the breeze or spotting a
bird or two on the feeder in the garden is enough for me to feel grateful for living around such beauty – it also helps take my mind off the pain and exhaustion I am feeling.

6. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself this is not your fault. You are not a worse parent/partner/child/friend because you are having a rough day due to your chronic illness. You are continually fighting to be the very best version of you that you can be, despite all the challenges your diagnosis entails. I find that giving myself a break and not berating myself for having to change my plans for that day can help a lot. I also find listening to some favorite music, reading a book or watching a good movie or TV program can help.

7. Share. This last one I find helpful at different times and in different ways. Sometimes I take great comfort in posting in a Facebook or similar social media group for those with the same condition as me. I can also enjoy reading the experiences of other people in a similar situation as it makes me feel less alone.  Sometimes I find that to be too much, and prefer instead to reach out to a trusted friend who understands what I’m going through. Some days I don’t feel I want to share my experiences with anyone – but I do find it helpful to write down a bit about how I’m feeling. I suppose I find it most useful to share how I’m feeling in some way or other – rather than keep it bottled up inside.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I am sure other people will have lots of other helpful and valuable tips for coping with life with a chronic illness. I think it’s important we carry on supporting each other and sharing our experiences, in the hope we can in some small way make life a little bit easier for us all.

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Thinkstock photo via spukkato.

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