Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can be overwhelming. Not only are you inundated with new information about your condition and care plan, but, often, you’ll have to adjust to significant changes to your lifestyle, work, social habits, activity level, diet and more.
While temporary conditions, such as a broken bone, have a clear trajectory and end in sight, a chronic disease diagnosis usually means you’ll be managing various symptoms and adhering to a detailed care plan for lengthy periods. Or, in some cases, for the rest of your life.
However, many people living with chronic diseases are thriving, happy and still finding plenty of joy.
Here are a few tips to help you cope with chronic conditions.
Communicate with Your Healthcare Team Often
It’s essential that you take an active role in your care plan and listen to your body. If you notice specific changes, be sure to report them to your doctor immediately. It will be much easier for your care team to help you when you keep them in the loop about your symptoms.
“If you have hypertension, learn to check your blood pressure. If your heart has rhythm problems, check your pulse. For heart failure, weigh yourself every day and chart your symptoms,” says an article for Harvard Health Publishing. “This kind of home monitoring lets you spot potentially harmful changes before they bloom into real trouble.”
The same holds true for conditions like pancreatitis.
Additionally, communicating your experience to your doctor could lead to breakthroughs in your diagnosis. For example, a series of symptoms may encourage clinicians to order a DNA test to learn about the root cause of your disease and better personalize your care plan.
Keep Loved Ones Involved
Chronic disease can disrupt your life, but it doesn’t have to destroy your relationships. While some conditions can limit your activity level, it’s crucial you maintain open lines of communication with the people you love.
Keep your friends and family members abreast of your condition and its prognosis, and consider inviting loved ones to accompany you to doctor’s visits and lab tests. Having the support of people you care for will help you keep your spirits up and ensure you never feel alone.
Attend a Support Group
Having a chronic disease can feel isolating, but it’s critical you recognize that you’re not alone. In fact, about 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. live with a chronic condition, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
One of the best ways to cope with your condition is to seek out others who are going through the same things you’re facing. Support groups give people a chance to share personal experiences in a more comfortable, non-clinical setting, and get advice and insight from people living with similar diseases.
Most importantly, it can help mitigate the sense of loneliness that often accompanies a new diagnosis.
Speak with a Therapist or Counselor
Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can have a significant impact on your mental health, especially as you grow accustomed to lifestyle changes. To help work through these thoughts and feelings, and manage stress, it’s a good idea to schedule regular visits with a therapist or counselor.
It’s also important to note that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with chronic conditions have a higher risk of depression. And prolonged depression can lead to additional medical conditions, such as increased inflammation, stress hormone abnormalities, metabolic changes, and other issues that can exacerbate your chronic disease.
In other words, not only will prioritizing your mental health help you find more joy in life, but it can help you keep your condition’s symptoms in check, too.
Overall, living with a chronic condition can create new challenges you weren’t prepared to face — but it doesn’t have to eliminate your ability to enjoy your day-to-day experiences. Following these tips can help you vastly improve your quality of life.