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How to Be OK on a Bad Day With Chronic Illness

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There’s no way around it. When you have a chronic illness, you have good days and bad days. It really is that black and white in this world of grey.

Sometimes you know what may have led up to the bad day. Other times you might feel completely blindsided and at a loss on why you’re having such a terrible day. I know we always want to pinpoint the cause to avoid risking another bad day in the future, but sometimes you can’t find that logic because our bodies and chronic illnesses react as needed, in the moment.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do on bad days besides try to get through them, which is what’s happening to me today. I don’t quite know why I’m feeling extra awful today, but I am, and it has been a hard day all around. That lovely list of tasks I wanted to accomplish today went right out the window — there was no way some of that stuff was getting done when I’m feeling like this and I have to let myself accept it.

On days like this, I always have to remind myself my illness is beyond my control and the best thing I can try to do is ride it out in the best way I know how (based on what’s worked for me and my endometriosis).

No matter why you’re having a bad day or what chronic illness you may have, here are some things that help me be OK when these awful days hit, and might be worth trying out the next time you encounter one. Plus, a lot of these are free or pretty cheap to do — bonus!

  • Drink hot tea — I don’t know why, but there is just something soothing about a hot cup of tea when you feel awful inside and out. It truly comforts my soul and me. Plus, there are so many varieties of tea blends available for all kinds of tastes and preferences. Need caffeine-free tea — go herbal. Want something calming — go with chamomile or lavender blends. Upset stomach or bloating — peppermint tea will become your new BFF after eating. Trust me; there is a perfect tea blend out there for you. Find it, then thank me later.
  • Find low energy distractions — When I say find low energy distractions, that’s exactly what I mean. On bad days, our energy levels are spent trying to get through the day, so I’ve found it incredibly helpful to find stuff to do on my bad days that also require zero or minimal physical energy. Some of my favorite things include reading, journaling, meditation, coloring, sitting outside, a specific light/easy yoga sequence, painting my nails, snuggling with my fur baby or under a weighted blanket, taking a hot Epsom salt bath and binge-watching my favorite shows. These activities don’t require much effort from my body, but they can take my mind off the pain/symptoms, so it’s a great distraction. Even if some of these are only for a short period, it still helps.
  • Talk about it — If you have a family member, friend, or even a support group like The Mighty, I highly recommend talking about how awful you’re feeling that day. By talking about it, you’re able to verbalize how you’re feeling and outside perspectives and sympathy can make you feel better emotionally. Plus, who doesn’t feel better after being heard or just having a good rant session to get things off your chest? Not a fan of sharing your thoughts on bad days with others? Write them out.
  • Repeat mantras — There’s a reason why so many people are creating their own mantras or affirmations — they work! There are times we need to focus or hear something repeatedly on a bad day, and mantras can provide that to you for free at any time or anywhere. I have several mantras on my phone and I pick and choose them as needed. Some days I need to remind myself that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, whereas other days, I focus on trying to be less anxious. That’s the beauty of mantras or affirmations; you can pick whichever ones you need for that bad day and change them as needed.
  • Stay kind to yourself — This step is so important, I should have written it first. Your bad days can bring out the worst in you — the guilt, the exhaustion, the pain, the fear, the anxiety, the bad thoughts and so much more. You have to remember this is not your fault, not your permanent stare of being, and you should not feel guilty on a bad day. Yes, you may need to cancel amazing plans to stay home and rest or leave work early (again) because you can’t bear another hour of torment. Your body is going through enough on a bad day; don’t beat yourself up on top of it. Be kind to yourself. By being thankful you can recognize when you’re having a bad day and, if possible, take steps to try and make it a little bit better or easier.

These are just some of the things I like to do on my bad days, but I’m curious about what everyone else is doing and always love trying new things to help make these bad days more tolerable when they happen.

Originally published: August 20, 2019
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