Managing a chronic condition day after day can be stressful. You may feel like you have no control. But making small, vital changes when living with chronic illness can be key to managing it all better.
In the Beginning
If you are the person with the health problem, physical health is often affected first.
You may experience pain, weakness, poor balance, or fatigue. Or maybe it is a loss of independence and mobility, poor sleep, or poor stamina. Living with physical symptoms can lead to poor mental well-being. For example, depression and anxiety. Stress, loneliness, and feelings of isolation are also common. So as physical health declines, so too can mental well-being.
If you are a caregiver to someone who is living with a chronic condition, you may experience physical and mental health concerns as well. Mental well-being for caregivers may suffer first with anxiety, worry, or stress. Overwhelm happens when the caregiver takes on more tasks. The caregiver may now be trying to balance work, doctor appointments, and new concerns at home too.
Over time, poor mental well-being may lead to health problems. Examples include high blood pressure, weight gain, a weakened immune system, or fatigue.
Chronic illness quietly affects all areas of life. And before you know it, life feels like it is spiraling out of control. Sometimes we don’t recognize life is out of control. Other times we know it but are so overwhelmed we can’t take the steps to fix it.
If that is you, you aren’t alone. The good news is, there are strategies to help you find where YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL. Strategies to help you address one problem at a time. And feel empowered with your health again. Not only your physical health, but your total health.
It’s important to know where you can find control and positively influence your health.
Start with Small Changes When Living with Chronic Illness
When you are feeling overwhelmed, change can feel like one more thing that puts you closer to the cliff. Have you told yourself, “I don’t have time. I’m barely surviving.”
You don’t have time to tackle something bigger right now. Understandable. But change needs to start somewhere. So where can you start?
Start small. Baby steps.
A small change can lead to a big difference over time. Let me give you three examples of how small change can have a big impact days, months, and years later.
#1 Small change can add up to something huge.
Have you heard the following choice before? Would you rather receive $1 million dollars today or a penny that doubles every day for 30 days? Believe it or not, you would be better if you took the penny that doubled every day for 30 days. In a month’s time you would have over $5 million dollars. Almost seems unbelievable doesn’t it? Something so small as a penny can accumulate to an amazing amount of money in a short period of time.
As Jim Rohn, successful businessman, states:
“We don’t have to change that much for it to make a great deal of difference. A few simple disciplines can have a major impact on how your life works out in the next 90 days, let alone in the next 12 months or the next 3 years.”
What small change can you make to manage your stress, mental well-being, or social health to impact how your life works out days or months from now?
#2 If you try to tackle a change that is too big, you may see no results at all and lose motivation. You won’t create the momentum you need to make even bigger changes in your life as you are able and ready.
Here’s another money example. I am a fan of Dave Ramsey, financial advisor. When my husband and I finished graduate school, we had over $130,000 of school debt, plus other loans. Using Dave Ramsey’s plan, we paid our debt off in less than 7 years and had no other debt than our mortgage.
His plan is simple: list out all your debts, make the smallest payment on all loans but the lowest one. Be “gazelle-like” in tackling the smallest debt first. With the laser focus on paying off the smallest debt, you’ll pay off the smallest debt fast. Then, add the money you were paying to the first loan and apply that money to the next smallest loan. Dave Ramsey calls it the snowball effect. As Dave puts it:
The point of the debt snowball is behavior change. If you try to pay off the biggest debt first, you won’t see results for a long time. Without results, you’ll lose motivation. And without motivation, you’ll likely lose steam and stop paying extra on that loan. Meanwhile, all of your smaller debts are still hanging around.”Dave Ramsey
Tackling a small change in your life with laser focus can create fast change. In addition, you’ll grow in the motivation and confidence that even bigger change is possible.
# 3 Small change can alter your trajectory.
Did you know that changing the trajectory of an airplane by 1 degree will result in a completely different destination? For example, if you are flying from San Francisco to Washington DC, a one-degree difference would land you in Baltimore. That’s nearly 50 miles away. As Antone Roundy says, “How much richer could your life be if you’d make even “one-degree” of effort to improve something about yourself or your business each day! It doesn’t even have to be anything hard. You just have to do something and do it consistently.”
Where is your life headed right now? If that’s not the destination you want, make small changes and alter your trajectory.
So, if you are living with a chronic illness or caregiver stress, what is one small, vital change you can make today that would improve your life?
Finding or participating in a support group if you are lonely?
Buying a back brace to decrease pain when transferring a loved one?
Practicing deep breathing when emotions run high or overwhelm sets in.
Pick one change, then practice and repeat until you have a new trajectory.
If you need help seeing where change is possible in your current situation, let’s talk. Contact me for a free consultation to see how wellness coaching can help you.
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.