Coping Strategies for Chronic Conditions

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Recently I had the pleasure of presenting to a Parkinson’s Disease support group. We talked about how patients and family can cope with PD and improve relationships on a daily basis. While we talked specifically about Parkinson’s, these suggestions can be valid coping strategies for chronic conditions of many kinds.

First, let’s review some of the basic tenets of The Chronic Wellness Coach.

  1. Health is more than physical health. Our well-being is the interaction and balance of many areas of health. Examples include physical, mental, social, spiritual, and financial health.
  2. When one area of health or wellness is out of balance, other areas of health are negatively affected too. This can affect relationships and interactions with our loved ones daily.
  3. Sometimes you cannot control what is happening to your physical health (or the health of a loved one). But you may have control in other areas of wellness.
  4. And to live as well as possible with difficult circumstances, it’s important to find where you can positively improve your well-being. Knowing how to improve relationships and learning coping strategies for chronic conditions can be one way to positively affect your total wellness. At The Chronic Wellness Coach, I teach simple strategies. Strategies that you can put in place on your own, to begin change immediately.

Coping Strategies for Chronic Conditions

Show Compassion for Yourself and Others

It is difficult to manage a chronic condition day after day. Have compassion for yourself for not being perfect. In other words, treat yourself like you would a friend. What would you tell a friend who feels bad about snapping at his wife when she asks how he is feeling? You might tell your friend that it’s understandable that he is irritable when he experiences pain and doesn’t sleep well. Most people would be irritable under those conditions. In the same way, have compassion for yourself and your bad moments.

Also, have compassion for your family caregiver. They, too, may be experiencing stress, anxiety, and a sense of loss of control over how to help you in the best way. Or, they may be juggling doctor visits, calls to insurance, and work of their own. If they are irritable, consider what they might be dealing with and show understanding.

Communication is Key

“Realize that an illness can either bring you and your partner closer together or push you further apart, depending on how well you are able to cope with challenges…” Karl Robb

It’s important for partners to communicate often. This is especially true when circumstances are new, changing, or uncertain. Attending doctor visits or support groups together can improve understanding between partners. And going to social events together can help family understand what challenges you face when out in the community.

Finally, communication can improve if both partners are willing to discuss difficult issues. For example, sexual dysfunction is a side effect of some conditions or medications. And it can be a difficult topic to address. But, being open about the physical and emotional aspects of sexual dysfunction may help you connect with your partner better. With open communication, you can come up with different ways to express love and affection for one another.

Find New Ways to Enjoy Things Together

“We have learned not to regret the things what we can’t do, but focus on what we can do, then do it.”

Elizabeth Theiss Smith

There may be things you can no longer do because of your health. But you may be able to enjoy something similar. For instance, maybe you enjoy nature and you used to kayak or canoe. But now it is too difficult to do. What else can you do to enjoy nature? Sitting with a loved one or friend along a riverbank may be an option. Other examples include streaming a play or movie in the home instead of going to see one in person.

Likewise, going to a restaurant may not be an option now for many reasons, not the least of which is the coronavirus. Instead, try a virtual dinner with family. Or schedule a virtual game night to connect with family or friends without leaving your home.

Maintain Independence As Much As Possible

If you are the person with the chronic condition, do as much for yourself as you can, even if it takes more time. For example, dress yourself in the morning if you can and you have the extra time. Maintaining independence can have a positive effect on you. It can also give your caregiver a break at times to attend to other things or themselves.

Also, find activities you can do on your own, separate from your spouse. Ideas include:

  • joining a support group by yourself
  • engaging in a hobby that interests you
  • spending time with friends who can help with basic care needs while your partner takes a break.

When looking for ways to engage in things on your own, think of things that nurture your spirit or boost your soul.

Final Thoughts

Life often feels off balance or out of control while living with a chronic condition. And this can affect personal relationships daily. While there may be some parts of your health that are out of your control, you can try different strategies to improve communication and connection between you and your partner. And ultimately these changes can be part of the solution to living as well as possible, even in difficult circumstances.

Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness.  Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice.  The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you.  There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.

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