Emily Sunez

@esunez | contributor
Emily Sunez is a visual artist and writer who lives with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, CRPS, and lupus/UCTD. She is the author and illustrator of The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts & Inspiration for Life with Illness. Emily has become an advocate for others battling chronic conditions. She founded a local support group for people with POTS, and she is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Los Angeles Dysautonomia Network (LADN).
Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Affirmations and Journaling Prompts for Chronic Illness Self-Advocacy

Learning to become a strong self-advocate is crucial to living well with a chronic illness. Self-advocacy involves taking a more active role in managing your illness and fighting for your health and your needs. The reality is that no one understands your symptoms and your needs as much as you do, so it’s important to take the steps and the actions that will get you the most improvement in your quality of life and the best care possible. This may involve doing research, preparing and asking questions, tracking symptoms, making a care plan, getting second opinions, building a support system, requesting accommodations, etc. While this does take a considerable amount of energy, part of self-advocacy can also involve assembling a dependable team of friends and/or family members who can help you and support you along the way! My recently-released book, “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts & Inspiration for Life With Illness,” is full of positive affirmations and journaling prompts that are suited to help empower patients with chronic illness to cope and adjust to life with illness, as well as develop strong self-advocacy skills. Below are three illustrated affirmations and journaling prompts for promoting self-advocacy from “The Healing Journal.” Affirmation : I am in charge of decisions about my health. Journaling Prompt : Describe the actions you take on a daily basis to manage your illness. What are some decisions or changes you’ve made recently that have improved your well-being? It’s important to remember that you are the expert on your body and your health. The above affirmation and related prompt are intended to help you claim that power and reflect on the ways the decisions you’ve made (and will continue to make) related to your health have benefitted you. Of course, we value and respect the recommendations of doctors and other types of healers we consult to manage our illnesses, but ultimately, we decide what we put into our bodies and what treatments we decide to pursue. Affirmation : I vocalize my needs to those around me. Journaling Prompt: List some accommodations you can make or request at work, at school, and/or at home to help you better perform daily tasks/routines within your physical limits.  Describe how you can best communicate to others the accommodations you need. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask for accommodations in order to better perform jobs, schooling, or household duties, but learning to effectively communicate your needs can be greatly beneficial to improving your quality of life. Being in tune with your body and recognizing what tasks are challenging due to your illness or disability is the first step to advocating for accommodations. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, most employers and schools should be equipped to work with you to put necessary accommodations in place, but they won’t know what you need until you ask. Vocalizing your needs is an important part of self-advocacy! Affirmation : I educate myself the best I can about my illness. Journaling Prompt : Describe how you have gathered (or plan to gather) information about your illness. Becoming knowledgeable about the illness(es) you live with can help you become a strong advocate for yourself. By being informed, you are better equipped to know what questions to ask at medical appointments, what testing or treatments to inquire about, what lifestyle changes to make, etc. Researching and educating yourself may involve reading about your illness online or in books, but it also may involve connecting with other patients who live with the same illness(es) as you, either online or in person, and finding out what has helped others cope and manage their illness. Knowledge is power, and education is a great way to empower yourself as a self-advocate. If these affirmations and journaling prompts resonated with you, you can find 50 affirmations and over 100 journaling prompts in “The Healing Journal,” which is available everywhere books are sold. Beyond just focusing on becoming an advocate for yourself, the topics covered in the journal include cultivating self-compassion and positive self-worth, developing self-care routines uniquely suited to you and your illness, navigating the emotional toll of living with illness, and more. Utilizing positive affirmations regularly and keeping a journal are ways to improve your physical and emotional well-being and play a more active role in managing your health. May these affirmations serve as a reminder that you have the power to take charge of your healing and become a strong self-advocate!

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Affirmations and Journaling Prompts for Chronic Illness Self-Advocacy

Learning to become a strong self-advocate is crucial to living well with a chronic illness. Self-advocacy involves taking a more active role in managing your illness and fighting for your health and your needs. The reality is that no one understands your symptoms and your needs as much as you do, so it’s important to take the steps and the actions that will get you the most improvement in your quality of life and the best care possible. This may involve doing research, preparing and asking questions, tracking symptoms, making a care plan, getting second opinions, building a support system, requesting accommodations, etc. While this does take a considerable amount of energy, part of self-advocacy can also involve assembling a dependable team of friends and/or family members who can help you and support you along the way! My recently-released book, “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts & Inspiration for Life With Illness,” is full of positive affirmations and journaling prompts that are suited to help empower patients with chronic illness to cope and adjust to life with illness, as well as develop strong self-advocacy skills. Below are three illustrated affirmations and journaling prompts for promoting self-advocacy from “The Healing Journal.” Affirmation : I am in charge of decisions about my health. Journaling Prompt : Describe the actions you take on a daily basis to manage your illness. What are some decisions or changes you’ve made recently that have improved your well-being? It’s important to remember that you are the expert on your body and your health. The above affirmation and related prompt are intended to help you claim that power and reflect on the ways the decisions you’ve made (and will continue to make) related to your health have benefitted you. Of course, we value and respect the recommendations of doctors and other types of healers we consult to manage our illnesses, but ultimately, we decide what we put into our bodies and what treatments we decide to pursue. Affirmation : I vocalize my needs to those around me. Journaling Prompt: List some accommodations you can make or request at work, at school, and/or at home to help you better perform daily tasks/routines within your physical limits.  Describe how you can best communicate to others the accommodations you need. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask for accommodations in order to better perform jobs, schooling, or household duties, but learning to effectively communicate your needs can be greatly beneficial to improving your quality of life. Being in tune with your body and recognizing what tasks are challenging due to your illness or disability is the first step to advocating for accommodations. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, most employers and schools should be equipped to work with you to put necessary accommodations in place, but they won’t know what you need until you ask. Vocalizing your needs is an important part of self-advocacy! Affirmation : I educate myself the best I can about my illness. Journaling Prompt : Describe how you have gathered (or plan to gather) information about your illness. Becoming knowledgeable about the illness(es) you live with can help you become a strong advocate for yourself. By being informed, you are better equipped to know what questions to ask at medical appointments, what testing or treatments to inquire about, what lifestyle changes to make, etc. Researching and educating yourself may involve reading about your illness online or in books, but it also may involve connecting with other patients who live with the same illness(es) as you, either online or in person, and finding out what has helped others cope and manage their illness. Knowledge is power, and education is a great way to empower yourself as a self-advocate. If these affirmations and journaling prompts resonated with you, you can find 50 affirmations and over 100 journaling prompts in “The Healing Journal,” which is available everywhere books are sold. Beyond just focusing on becoming an advocate for yourself, the topics covered in the journal include cultivating self-compassion and positive self-worth, developing self-care routines uniquely suited to you and your illness, navigating the emotional toll of living with illness, and more. Utilizing positive affirmations regularly and keeping a journal are ways to improve your physical and emotional well-being and play a more active role in managing your health. May these affirmations serve as a reminder that you have the power to take charge of your healing and become a strong self-advocate!

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Affirmations and Journaling Prompts for Chronic Illness Self-Advocacy

Learning to become a strong self-advocate is crucial to living well with a chronic illness. Self-advocacy involves taking a more active role in managing your illness and fighting for your health and your needs. The reality is that no one understands your symptoms and your needs as much as you do, so it’s important to take the steps and the actions that will get you the most improvement in your quality of life and the best care possible. This may involve doing research, preparing and asking questions, tracking symptoms, making a care plan, getting second opinions, building a support system, requesting accommodations, etc. While this does take a considerable amount of energy, part of self-advocacy can also involve assembling a dependable team of friends and/or family members who can help you and support you along the way! My recently-released book, “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts & Inspiration for Life With Illness,” is full of positive affirmations and journaling prompts that are suited to help empower patients with chronic illness to cope and adjust to life with illness, as well as develop strong self-advocacy skills. Below are three illustrated affirmations and journaling prompts for promoting self-advocacy from “The Healing Journal.” Affirmation : I am in charge of decisions about my health. Journaling Prompt : Describe the actions you take on a daily basis to manage your illness. What are some decisions or changes you’ve made recently that have improved your well-being? It’s important to remember that you are the expert on your body and your health. The above affirmation and related prompt are intended to help you claim that power and reflect on the ways the decisions you’ve made (and will continue to make) related to your health have benefitted you. Of course, we value and respect the recommendations of doctors and other types of healers we consult to manage our illnesses, but ultimately, we decide what we put into our bodies and what treatments we decide to pursue. Affirmation : I vocalize my needs to those around me. Journaling Prompt: List some accommodations you can make or request at work, at school, and/or at home to help you better perform daily tasks/routines within your physical limits.  Describe how you can best communicate to others the accommodations you need. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask for accommodations in order to better perform jobs, schooling, or household duties, but learning to effectively communicate your needs can be greatly beneficial to improving your quality of life. Being in tune with your body and recognizing what tasks are challenging due to your illness or disability is the first step to advocating for accommodations. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, most employers and schools should be equipped to work with you to put necessary accommodations in place, but they won’t know what you need until you ask. Vocalizing your needs is an important part of self-advocacy! Affirmation : I educate myself the best I can about my illness. Journaling Prompt : Describe how you have gathered (or plan to gather) information about your illness. Becoming knowledgeable about the illness(es) you live with can help you become a strong advocate for yourself. By being informed, you are better equipped to know what questions to ask at medical appointments, what testing or treatments to inquire about, what lifestyle changes to make, etc. Researching and educating yourself may involve reading about your illness online or in books, but it also may involve connecting with other patients who live with the same illness(es) as you, either online or in person, and finding out what has helped others cope and manage their illness. Knowledge is power, and education is a great way to empower yourself as a self-advocate. If these affirmations and journaling prompts resonated with you, you can find 50 affirmations and over 100 journaling prompts in “The Healing Journal,” which is available everywhere books are sold. Beyond just focusing on becoming an advocate for yourself, the topics covered in the journal include cultivating self-compassion and positive self-worth, developing self-care routines uniquely suited to you and your illness, navigating the emotional toll of living with illness, and more. Utilizing positive affirmations regularly and keeping a journal are ways to improve your physical and emotional well-being and play a more active role in managing your health. May these affirmations serve as a reminder that you have the power to take charge of your healing and become a strong self-advocate!

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Affirmations and Journaling Prompts for Chronic Illness Self-Advocacy

Learning to become a strong self-advocate is crucial to living well with a chronic illness. Self-advocacy involves taking a more active role in managing your illness and fighting for your health and your needs. The reality is that no one understands your symptoms and your needs as much as you do, so it’s important to take the steps and the actions that will get you the most improvement in your quality of life and the best care possible. This may involve doing research, preparing and asking questions, tracking symptoms, making a care plan, getting second opinions, building a support system, requesting accommodations, etc. While this does take a considerable amount of energy, part of self-advocacy can also involve assembling a dependable team of friends and/or family members who can help you and support you along the way! My recently-released book, “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts & Inspiration for Life With Illness,” is full of positive affirmations and journaling prompts that are suited to help empower patients with chronic illness to cope and adjust to life with illness, as well as develop strong self-advocacy skills. Below are three illustrated affirmations and journaling prompts for promoting self-advocacy from “The Healing Journal.” Affirmation : I am in charge of decisions about my health. Journaling Prompt : Describe the actions you take on a daily basis to manage your illness. What are some decisions or changes you’ve made recently that have improved your well-being? It’s important to remember that you are the expert on your body and your health. The above affirmation and related prompt are intended to help you claim that power and reflect on the ways the decisions you’ve made (and will continue to make) related to your health have benefitted you. Of course, we value and respect the recommendations of doctors and other types of healers we consult to manage our illnesses, but ultimately, we decide what we put into our bodies and what treatments we decide to pursue. Affirmation : I vocalize my needs to those around me. Journaling Prompt: List some accommodations you can make or request at work, at school, and/or at home to help you better perform daily tasks/routines within your physical limits.  Describe how you can best communicate to others the accommodations you need. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask for accommodations in order to better perform jobs, schooling, or household duties, but learning to effectively communicate your needs can be greatly beneficial to improving your quality of life. Being in tune with your body and recognizing what tasks are challenging due to your illness or disability is the first step to advocating for accommodations. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, most employers and schools should be equipped to work with you to put necessary accommodations in place, but they won’t know what you need until you ask. Vocalizing your needs is an important part of self-advocacy! Affirmation : I educate myself the best I can about my illness. Journaling Prompt : Describe how you have gathered (or plan to gather) information about your illness. Becoming knowledgeable about the illness(es) you live with can help you become a strong advocate for yourself. By being informed, you are better equipped to know what questions to ask at medical appointments, what testing or treatments to inquire about, what lifestyle changes to make, etc. Researching and educating yourself may involve reading about your illness online or in books, but it also may involve connecting with other patients who live with the same illness(es) as you, either online or in person, and finding out what has helped others cope and manage their illness. Knowledge is power, and education is a great way to empower yourself as a self-advocate. If these affirmations and journaling prompts resonated with you, you can find 50 affirmations and over 100 journaling prompts in “The Healing Journal,” which is available everywhere books are sold. Beyond just focusing on becoming an advocate for yourself, the topics covered in the journal include cultivating self-compassion and positive self-worth, developing self-care routines uniquely suited to you and your illness, navigating the emotional toll of living with illness, and more. Utilizing positive affirmations regularly and keeping a journal are ways to improve your physical and emotional well-being and play a more active role in managing your health. May these affirmations serve as a reminder that you have the power to take charge of your healing and become a strong self-advocate!

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)

Emily Sunez
Emily Sunez @esunez
contributor

Journaling and Creativity Can Help Us Live Well With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness turned my whole world upside down. A decade ago, I became ill with multiple chronic conditions, including POTS, CRPS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and lupus/UCTD. For several years, my symptoms were completely debilitating and made it difficult for me to function and complete basic everyday tasks. As such, I began focusing all my attention on finding ways to cope and manage my illness. Though I was taking my medications and supplements, exercising as much as I could tolerate, and eating well, I was frustrated by the fact that my symptoms weren’t improving much. So I turned to alternative ways to cope and searched for a distraction from the crushing fatigue, vertigo, and widespread pain I was experiencing. I made the decision to sign up for a painting class in 2015 and instantly fell in love with the way painting made me feel. Not only was it a welcome escape from my symptoms, but it energized me and helped me feel connected to my authentic self again. I knew then that painting would become a big part of my life and my self-care routine. It turns out that painting, and other forms of creativity, have many proven benefits to both our physical and mental health. Practicing creativity helps boost the immune system and improves memory and cognition. Being creative also helps to lower stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. In addition to painting regularly, I also started journaling and writing often. One of the most difficult things about living with a chronic illness is coping with social isolation and the feeling that no one else can quite relate to what you’re going through. So I turned to my journal to express my thoughts and experiences freely. Journaling was very cathartic in that sense, but it also helped me to document my daily symptoms. Eventually, this allowed me to recognize patterns related to my symptoms, which helped me manage them better. There is extensive scientific research that shows the numerous positive health benefits of journaling and expressive writing. The psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker’s studies on this subject revealed that expressive writing about traumatic or emotional experiences on a regular basis improves emotional well-being. Additionally, expressive writing actually improves physical health – it lowers blood pressure, helps improve immune system function, mitigates stress, and improves lung and liver function. Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed using guided journals that contain inspiring or thought-provoking writing prompts. (One of my favorites is Meera Lee Patel’s “Start Where You Are.”) I wanted to find a guided journal that contained writing prompts related to chronic illness and disability. When I searched and searched but couldn’t find one, I decided to create my own! Over the last couple of years, I wrote and illustrated “The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life With Illness.” The book was born from my personal experiences living with illness – from my struggles to my triumphs — as well as my experiences talking with many other people who live with chronic conditions. It’s full of positive affirmations paired with journaling prompts that relate to the common challenges that arise from living with a chronic illness, such as learning to advocate for your health amongst medical professionals, as well as with friends and family. It was important to me to illustrate the book myself, as painting has been such an integral part of my own healing. The book is full of my watercolor botanical paintings, which are intended to bring soothing elements of nature indoors to people who may have difficulties getting outside. Through “The Healing Journal,” I hope to share with other chronic illness warriors that journaling and creativity have the power to help us live well. The prompts in the book encourage the reader to write expressively, think positively and mindfully, and develop the self-care tools and strategies that are uniquely suited to them and their illness. The very act of writing and illustrating “The Healing Journal” was therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to now be in a place where my chronic illness, though still present, is relatively well-managed and plays a much less limiting role in my life than it did previously. My greatest hope is that my story inspires others living with illness to try picking up a pen or a paintbrush! (Let me know in the comments below if you do!)