When living with chronic illness, there can be much suffering. The same is true if you are a caregiver to somone managing sickness every day. For example, there may be mental stress. Or physical health problems. Challenges and obstacles to overcome with a new routine. So, how do you move forward from suffering to well-being in difficult circumstances?
One of the guiding principles of The Chronic Wellness Coach is to relieve suffering where possible. Then, build the skills of well-being. We can visualize this principle with the Illness-Wellness Continuum below.
The Illness-Wellness Continuum is a visual representation of a person’s journey from sickness to health. The left side of the picture includes the signs and symptoms of illness. Examples include pain, weakness, or low stamina. Additional signs could be neuropathy, tremors, unstable blood pressure or blood sugars.
On the right side of the continuum is the goal of wellness. At The Chronic Wellness Coach, wellness and well-being go hand in hand. We strive to improve well-being in different dimensions of health. For instance, physical, mental, social, spiritual and financial health.
I’ve put my own minor spin on this continuum by replacing illness and wellness with relieving suffering and building well-being.
From Suffering to Well-Being
Relieving suffering is about finding those things that decrease symptoms of poor health. Or, finding steps and strategies to move forward through difficulties. Maybe for you it means finding a way around obstacles. On the opposite side, well-being is about finding and practicing those activities that boost your spirit. Nurture your soul. Help you to find pleasure. Or, peace and calm in difficult circumstances.
Sometimes, you can focus on one area of health to both relieve suffering and improve wellness. For example, if your mental health is poor with depression or anxiety, you could work with your doctor first. They may prescribe medication or counseling to decrease the symptoms of depression. Then, as your depression lessens, you can intentionally practice those things that boost your mental health. For instance, what things bring you pleasure? How can you calm your mind from excessive worry? What activities help you find peace? There are many options to improve your mental well-being. And they may be different for each person.
Alternatively, you may relieve suffering in one area of health, while building the skills of well-being in a different area. With chronic illness or disease, the focus so often is on physical health. But when physical symptoms don’t improve or go away, it can lead to mental distress. For example, you may feel frustration, disappointment, grief, or irritability. If both physical and mental health are poor, your suffering increases.
In this scenario, if physical suffering can’t be relieved, what can you do? Could you focus on activities that help improve your mental well-being? Or connect with people around you to improve your social health? By intentionally focusing on other dimensions of wellness, you can decrease your total suffering. And so, think about those things that you can do that will boost your spirit or nurture your soul. Examples are plentiful. But they could include:
- connecting with a dear friend
- joining an online group for a hobby you enjoy
- or managing stress with physical activity.
You just have to find the one or two strategies that work best for you and your circumstances.
Finally, there is another way to look at what is happening to your whole self when living with chronic illness. That is, chronic illness or disease often involves physical and nonphysical suffering. While you may have little control over the course of your physical health, you may have more control with your nonphysical suffering. You can aim to live as well as possible by not ignoring the nonphysical pain of chronic illness. What can you do to improve your mental well-being? How can you connect more with family, friends, or your community to improve social health? How can you connect to a higher being to find peace with your new normal?
The answers to these questions are not always obvious or easy. Sometimes it helps to have a partner to work with. If you are struggling to answer some of these questions, let’s talk. One-on-one wellness coaching can help you brainstorm the right strategies for you. And help you move forward from suffering to well-being.
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.