Receiving a diagnosis of a chronic condition can be jarring and overwhelming. Uncertainty of the future mixed with symptoms you are trying to get control of… can leave you frustrated and overwhelmed. But you DO have what you need to create a new normal and enjoy your life!
What is a chronic condition? In the class "Living with a Chronic Condition" sponsored by Juniper, chronic conditions were defined as long term conditions with no straight forward cure. Chronic conditions usually start slowly and proceed slowly. The slow start can cause it to not be noticed for years until test results come back abnormal or symptoms become suddenly noticeable. There is not one simple cause but usually multiple causes that vary over time. The physical, mental and emotional impact often sends a person into a vicious cycle of symptoms.
image from https://doctorlib.info
Each of these symptoms can make other symptoms worse, and all of these symptoms can trigger and feed on each other. I.e. depression causes fatigue and pain causes physical limitations, and depression and pain can lead to poor sleep and more fatigue.
Breaking this cycle of symptoms is the key to getting back to enjoying life. You can break the cycle with "tools" you already have. As a chronic condition slowly proceeds, this cycle will need to be broken again and again. Acknowledging, strengthening, and practicing your toolset makes breaking this cycle easier. Rediscovering and enhancing your toolset allows you to take care of your health condition, manage your emotional health, and create ways to enjoy life.
In our toolset we have physical activity, medication management, breathing techniques, quality sleep, working with providers, healthy eating, effective communication with friends/family, listening to our emotions, imagery/meditation/relaxation, and most importantly problem solving, decision making, and action planning. Each time you break the symptom cycle a different combination of tools will be needed. Our mind is wired to respond to pain, stress, and danger before we can consciously assess it. These tools provide ways to slow the unconscious response process and get our conscious mind involved. None of these tools are difficult but are subtle additions to how they are done can make a major difference in how effective they are.
For example, physical activity is one possible way to break the symptom cycle. If you have new physical limitations, brainstorm ways you can still move. It might be finding low impact exercises, balance work, or doing chair yoga. Getting your body moving increases circulation helping to lessen depression, fatigue, and allowing better sleep. Use your decision making tool to decide on a workout plan and create an action plan to implement your new workout goals. With the use of these tools together you have broken the cycle.
Many of these tools seem so simple, because they are, but know there are ways to enhance these to really impact your daily life in an amazing way! To learn more about how to enhance these tools in your own life, click over to Juniper (https://yourjuniper.org) and sign up for the class “Living with a Chronic Condition” to connect, learn, and find support.