8 Tips for Managing Chronic Illness
Managing your chronic illness can feel like a full-time job, but what if it only took a few small changes per day to make your life easier?
Imagine making it through an entire day without feeling fatigued, or being able to recalibrate quickly when a bout of depression overwhelms you. More energy, stronger muscles, less pain and exhaustion – it sounds almost too good to be true when you’ve been living with chronic degenerative illness for so long.
What if small tweaks to your daily routine could be a more effective treatment than taking a pain pill?
Here are some evidence-based lifestyle tips if you live with a chronic disease – like diabetes, MS and so many others – so you don’t have to waste time wading through what’s fact or fiction.
It’s no secret that your body depends on water to survive, but did you know that drinking less water can aggravate your symptoms? According to some studies it even lead to an increased number of certain conditions and a higher risk of fatality.
Water does more than just quench your thirst. It also carries more nutrients to your cells, flushes bacteria out of your system, and increases your energy levels so you can function better overall.
Drinking more water is one of the most important lifestyle tips out there, but how much water is ideal? Harvard Health suggests drinking 30-50 ounces per day, but you might say that’s easier said than done.
Not so fast. Drinking more water can be as easy as:
- Setting timers on your phone to remind you.
- Keeping a water bottle near you that’s the 30-50 oz.
- Drinking a glass before every meal and right when you wake up in the morning.
- Eating water-rich foods like salads and fruits.
- Adding broth-based meals to your diet, like soup.
Keep Your Environment Clean
Your environment directly affects your quality of life and too often we don’t realize how many toxins are in our homes and the products we use.
Do you know how much damaging bacteria and chlorine is in your shower head? It’s not pretty, which is why making a simple change by using a chlorine filter in the shower head can go a long way, especially when living with autoimmune disorders.
And that’s only one of many easy modifications you can make.
You can try buying an air purifier to reduce mold issues, or use non-toxic products around the house or on your skin. Luckily, more companies are turning toward healthy non-toxic products, which makes finding them much easier.
You can also regularly clean your washing machine or switch to glass food containers to avoid the chemicals that enter your food and water from plastic.
Some studies have even found that interventions to stop further exposure or detoxify the body can be life-changing, especially with chronic illness.
Experiment with Nutrition
Most chronic diseases are often linked to vitamin deficiency and bad nutrition, which means you have more power than you think to affect your symptoms by getting intentional about the foods you eat. Some helpful changes include:
- Eating organic and choosing foods that haven’t been treated with pesticides, which have been linked with various disorders and cancers.
- Intermittent fasting to help cleanse your body, reduce inflammation and increase energy overall.
- Trying out vegan, Paleo, or histamine diets.
Shoot for balance over complete elimination. If you try to completely eliminate things your body is used to, there’s a better chance the lifestyle change won’t stick around. It’s okay to be good only 80 percent of the time and cheat the other 20 if you still enjoy your food and life. What’s most important is listening to your body, so consider working with a nutrition specialist to develop the ideal plan for your lifestyle and make sure you’re getting everything your body needs.
Mental health is as important as physical fitness when living with chronic diseases like depression or MS, so adding non-spiritual meditation, taking a break from social media or even spending time in nature can be just what the doctor ordered.
Self-care can be effortless, such as taking a long shower or bath, spending time reading before bed or even journaling. A journal is an excellent method for tracking your progress, too.
The activity doesn’t have to be big or time-consuming to work.
Sleep with Low Interference
Bad sleep can you leave you feeling groggy and unwilling to do anything, but it’s also a major factor in the risk and worsening of chronic conditions.
Without good sleep, your body and brain don’t have time to restore its lost functions from the day, process memories or knowledge, and recalibrate for the next morning.
On the other hand, getting enough quality sleep can lessen the symptoms of chronic conditions, reduce fatigue and improve your overall mood. If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re putting your immune system at risk, and increasing safety risks and the possibility of other diseases, too.
Do you feel like your sleep might not be the best? Try:
- Keeping lights low at night.
- Sleeping in a dark room without the TV or phone – so your brain can relax.
- Avoiding screen time an hour or so before bed.
- Indulging in that self-care we mentioned earlier during that extra hour.
- Investing in a comfortable mattress, since you spend a third of your day on it.
- Keeping bedtime around the same time for a better routine and healthy circadian rhythm.
Remember the easiest changes are the ones you don’t have to think twice about.
We know exercise improves mood, helps you lose weight, boosts your ability to fend off infection and lowers risks of disease, but how do you start without it overwhelming you?
Find an exercise you love that doesn’t require a lot of effort. The best kind of exercise is something that’s fun for you and/or doesn’t require much discipline making it easier to do it. Regardless of what you choose, it’s always best to consult your physician before engaging in physical activities.
You might try yoga, pilates, step aerobics, dance, weightlifting or barre in your neighborhood. One of the easiest exercises is walking, and by adding nature to the mix, you can positively affect both your physical and mental health. Some of the best exercises for you, according to Harvard Health are:
- Tai chi
- Strength training
If another task isn’t ideal you can always try these low effort exercises:
- Standing/sitting crunches where you tighten and release your abdominal muscles.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Circling your arms as you sit.
- Squats as you brush your teeth or toe lifts when you’re cooking.
- Exercising during a single song.
The goal is to try adding small exercises in the routine you have now. Remember, it all comes down to something you’re willing to show up for.
Join Support Groups
Chronic disease can make you feel like your body is turning against you, causing sudden shifts in energy, mood swings, general discomfort or limitations in function. It makes it difficult to know how your body will react each day, making socializing difficult.
Some of your friends or family members might not understand why symptoms cause you to cancel plans at a moment’s notice or even be selective about where you go. It can put a strain on relationships, leading to lost friends or even secluding yourself, and eventually loneliness can set in.
It’s important to know that you’re not alone.
Chronic illnesses – like lupus, COPD, multiple sclerosis and many others – are more common than you think and support groups can offer you a safe place to connect with others who are going through the same thing. When you’re surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through, you don’t have to put in any extra effort and their support can go a long way, even helping you find new ways to manage day to day.
Set Small Goals for Success
We know you’re tired and overwhelmed, so adding more to your plate might seem counterintuitive, but living with chronic illness can be a whole lot easier if you set yourself up for success with smaller goals.
If hydration is first on your list of lifestyle changes, set up a goal to drink enough each day. Maybe it’s going to a support group once a week or simply taking time to journal each night before bed. Whatever you choose, challenge yourself to stick to it and remind yourself daily how to good it feels to accomplish even that one thing. Setting up small goals can go a long way.
Another great tip is to track your progress of a goal in a visible place everyday, maybe on a corkboard or hanging on the wall. It’s a great way to see your progress, remind yourself why you’re doing it and reward yourself, without having to remember it. Whenever you check off one goal, you can bask in the feeling of accomplishment and celebrate your win.
Chronic illness management works when you make small changes that complement your life, instead of completely overhauling it. While living with chronic conditions can make it more difficult to function, these changes can reduce the symptoms and give you more power back, especially when it all seems out of your control.
It doesn’t have to feel like a full-time job when you have small goals and better support in multiple areas, such as your social life, nutrition, sleep, self-care, environment, exercise and water consumption. Even one of these daily shifts can make enacting the others much easier, too. Make winning the day a regular experience with these 8 chronic illness management tips.
Infusio is a unique, multi-level approach to healing, designed by British naturopath Philip Battiade for the treatment of chronic degenerative illnesses such as Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders and cancer. The framework of the Infusio Concept consists of the Five Steps To Health, a foundational system that helps determine each patient’s individual needs and then optimizes their health. Integrating the best of traditional European medicine, alternative medicine and cutting-edge science, offering services ranging from Bioenergetics to Stem Cell Therapy and rejuvenating spa treatments, Infusio provides a 360° individualized approach to health.