Many recognize that chronic illness can cause multiple symptoms accompanied by a great deal of physical pain and dysfunction. However, chronic disease can also have a dramatic impact on mental health.
Managing both the physical and mental symptoms of chronic illness can be challenging. Fortunately, it may be possible to improve both areas through the same process. Adopting healthy psychological and self-care practices helps alleviate physical and mental dysfunction caused by chronic disease.
The Connection Between Chronic Illness and Mental Health
Chronic illness and mental wellness are closely related in many ways. For example, psychological issues such as emotional trauma, grief, guilt, and anxiety can contribute to chronic pains, weight gain, and other physical manifestations. Conversely, chronic illness such as diabetes, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and thyroid disease, can contribute to mental stressors and the development of mood disorders. In fact, studies suggest that those suffering from a chronic illness are almost twice as likely to develop clinical anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues.
Tips on Managing Chronic Illness and Mental Health
Because of the powerful influence they have over one another, it is quite common for those with a chronic illness to also suffer from one or more psychological disorders. Therefore, those suffering from chronic illness must take the appropriate steps to support both their physical and mental well-being. An effective method of dealing with the troubles of chronic disease and mental dysfunction is to actively manage them by employing the following practices.
Learn All You Can About Your Condition
Even though a person may be diagnosed with a condition it does not necessarily mean they know anything about it. Many chronic conditions are complex and come with a large collection of symptoms. Being more familiar and learned regarding the condition(s) affecting you can significantly improve your response to them. Be sure to speak to your doctor about what’s happening, why, and reliable resources for further research.
At Holtorf Medical Group, we strive to help individuals learn all they can about a number of chronic conditions. Check out our treatments tab and blog for more information!
Get the Care You Need
Although your general practitioner may provide the initial diagnosis and immediate care you need to manage your chronic illness, they are likely not equipped to handle every aspect of the condition. Depending on your individual needs you may need to seek out further assistance from dietitians, endocrinologists, lifestyle coaches, or other experts. Furthermore, be sure each member of your team is coordinating with another so they can better care for your specific needs.
Even better, seek out a functional medicine doctor. Most medical practitioners have been taught to resolve symptoms rather than the source of the problem. This method is not effective for many people. Chronic conditions such are multi-faceted and complex, requiring more than resolution of symptoms. Functional medicine is focused on doing just that.
Regulate Your Inner Critic
In the presence of chronic illness and mental disease it is easy for your inner dialogue to become a deafening force of negativity. Taming an overly active inner critic requires that you be kind to yourself and allow space for compassion. If you are struggling with an inner critic, try to accept that you are not to blame for your condition. Pain and illness can happen to anyone and you are no less of a person for dealing with medical hardships.
Keep Watch for Depression
Nearly a third of those with chronic illness suffer from depression. This debilitating mental disorder can significantly impede the recovery process and even cause relapse. If you recognize signs of depression in yourself such as malaise, sadness, fatigue, lack of motivation, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in weight, loss of sex drive, or thoughts of suicide, speak with a doctor immediately. Without resolving existing mood disorders such as depression it is unlikely that the physical condition will improve.
Optimizing various elements of your life can do a great deal regarding recovery from chronic illness and mental issues. Making healthy changes such as stopping smoking and drinking, losing weight, engaging in healthy exercise, and adopting a healthier diet, all support better physical and mental wellness. Studies show that people who make these changes a priority are more likely to recover from and better manage chronic illness.
Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
Refocusing the mind can help alleviate stressors that contribute to chronic illness. You can take your mind off current physical or mental challenges by focusing entirely on the sensation of taking three breaths in and out. This action realigns the body and mind, allowing you to change your focus from pain, discomfort, doubt, worry, or any other nagging disruptions. Furthermore, by focusing on the present, you eliminate much of the anxiety and negative thoughts that may be connected with future worries.
Keep a Clean Space
Our living environment has a notable impact on the body. Making simple changes to reduce the number of toxins and harmful bacteria in the home can reduce stress on the body. Using an air purifier, non-toxic cleaners, chlorine filters in the shower, and regularly cleaning your appliances and living space are all simple steps that support mental and physical wellness.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is perhaps one of the most essential processes for maintaining overall wellness. Poor sleep quality can inhibit brain function, encourage moodiness, and promote physical symptoms such as grogginess, fatigue, and impacted immune function. Unfortunately, many do not put enough effort into getting quality sleep.
You can help restore or improve sleep quality by:
- Avoiding the use of screens including TVs, computers, tablets, phones, etc. an hour before bed and while in bed
- Investing in a quality mattress and/or bedding
- Keeping your sleep environment cool and dark
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
Set Aside “Me” Time
Stress can contribute greatly to physical symptoms and a worsening of your condition. A significant amount of stress can come from constant engagement with various elements of everyday life. Taking a break from these sources of anxiety can be hugely beneficial for mental well-being and by extensions physical health. Be active and intentional about limiting time on social media, enjoying a physical activity outside alone, taking a long relaxing bath, or simply reading a book without any other distractions. Whatever activity you decide to do, make sure it is something that is restorative and enjoyable.
Better Managing Chronic Disease by Supporting Mental Wellness
Because of its mutual influence on physical and mental well-being, chronic illness presents many challenges. One of the best ways of managing these difficulties is by adopting the wellness practices described above. Implementing these practices supports mental well-being which can improve both psychological and physical elements of chronic illness.
At Holtorf Medical Group, we understand the importance of treating the body as a whole. Our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to find the answers you deserve and a treatment plan that is personalized to your specific condition. We also understand the powerful impact of psychology on overall wellness and bodily function, and offer therapy services to our patients. If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, but aren’t receiving support you need, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!