Claiming Control Over Your Chronic Illness
Most of us travel a long, frustrating road before we are finally given the diagnosis of a particular chronic illness. We rejoice! Finally, our collection of chronic issues has been given a name! Unfortunately, for the majority of those given the label of a chronic disorder, the path ends there. In the traditional medical community, “health maintenance” is pursued rather than a true resolution, health restoration, or, dare I say, healing...
Your supportive medical team will prescribe you meds to help relieve your symptoms. (According to data from Quintiles IMS, the number of prescriptions filled by Americans has increased by 85% over the last two decades. That’s several times more than the US population increase over that period.) In fact, the use of prescription drugs as a solution often brings with it a host of potential side effects.
Additionally, your treatment team may order more diagnostic tests, which can lead to more stress and anxiety, further exacerbating your symptoms. If your team is at a loss for answers, they’ll refer you out for more help. While appropriate care is administered in this model, this does not cure most ailments or provide long-term solutions.
It’s Not Them, It’s You
Very few medical practitioners discuss the patient’s role in the recovery process. Yes, taking prescriptions is an intervention, but what if I told you that you have massive resources in your personal reservoir to help you heal? That you have more control over your health than your doctor does?
What I’d like everyone I see with a chronic illness to understand is that their choices severely impact their health more than the “healthy” population.
This is not a negative statement! In fact, quite the opposite.
You have more control over your health than you think. You just need to find the right lifestyle and avoid the things that negatively influence you.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, in many ways, the odds are against you.
The reason you don’t hear people yelling this from the mountain tops is because they aren’t taught this during their medical appointments. Also, finding the right lifestyle for your health and making those choices consistently is difficult in our society, with its relentless daily demands.
The world out there does not favor a healthy lifestyle.
From the overabundance of inflammatory trigger foods in the grocery stores to the popular refrain that work, along with everyone else, must be put before our own needs, barriers to good health abound.
Everyone—with or without a chronic illness—has a different algorithm for optimal health, and they all require modifications to nutrition, sleep patterns, exercise routines, stress and coping strategies, and relationships. These modifications, when made over a lifetime and adapted as you evolve, can lead to great results.
The keys are consistency and claiming responsibility for knowing that what you do on a daily basis will impact your health in positive or negative ways.
A lifestyle modification necessary for great health may be as dramatic as leaving the job that causes you high stress and inflammatory reactions. Or it could be to simply add a few deep breaths throughout your day.
But how are you supposed to comb through the millions of web pages and books? With the constantly changing health recommendations, what is right for you?
The Challenge Of Finding Help That’s Truly Helpful
Seeking help is step one. However, beware: There are functional medicine practitioners out there that adopt a wholistic approach, but they don’t necessarily guide their clients in life changes, instead opting to push lots of pricey supplements. Our specialists may be many, but they may also be very focused and miss bigger picture flags that need to be addressed for you to truly mend.
Health and wellness coaches may be a shoulder to lean on for accountability. There are some nutritionists and dietitians who work well with chronic illness, but they may not specialize in your particular condition or be focused on pushing complicated diet plans that will have you spending extra hours (and dollars) at the grocery store and the kitchen.
The advantage of a truly wholistic health and wellness practitioner (in whatever profession they stem from) is that they’re not only there to give you a full range of lifestyle recommendations, they’re also there to help you implement them in a way that’s do-able and that makes sense for you. These practitioners look at your nutrition, stress, sleep patterns, relationships, and physical activity, finding a balance amongst all to stabilize your health. They can be hard to find, but they are out there.
Some of our medical doctors, physical therapists, physician assistants, functional medical practitioners, naturopaths, holistic healers, and health and wellness coaches are starting to expand their mindsets to look at the whole picture of a person that walks into the office. Until you are able to find that right fit for you, here are a few tips to work with in the meantime:
5 Tips For Achieving Your Best Results
Consistency and patience are key to achieving meaningful, lasting results. Here are some tips:
1. Develop a daily routine that you really stick to. It’s key to stabilizing a chronically irritated self and shifting towards health and wellness.
2. Have patience in the process. Chronic illnesses take a while to mend.
3. Have patience with yourself while you’re going through the process. We’re all human and slip ups happen. Don’t berate yourself over them. Just acknowledge them and move on.
4. Beware of self-sabotage. It’s an ugly monster that affects all of us, pulling us off the path, whispering in our ears that we can’t do it or it’s not worth it, or telling us it’s ok to cheat just this once—that you can make it up later. You can be stronger than that voice, but you must try to be stronger each and every day do see lasting change.
5. Get support. Not only can you find a professional to help you, but other social media support groups or local friends can help with accountability issues or by providing suggestions from their own journies.
When you have a chronic illness, your journey will never end. Putting yourself first every day and embracing the health and wellness changes you need to live the most fulfilling life you can, will make your journey a much smoother and happier ride.
Take control of your path and do the things you need to do to make yourself better. You are worth it!