In response to a question by a reader of this blog, I have in the last several days looked into natural methods of healing for those of us living with chronic illness. These approaches can be in conjunction with a medicinal regime or as an alternative. Now at our part 4, the final part of this series of posts, I am going to look at positive thinking and taking control of your health.
Please be sure to check out the other blog posts in this series on natural healing.
Part 1 I wrote about educating our selves about our conditions, having a desire to make change happen, and taking in consideration what it is we need to heal and how.
Part 2 I discussed nutrition, supplements, and exercise and how their combination is important to over all success towards good health.
Part 3 – I looked at stress reduction and adequate sleep.
Positive thinking – Whistling and Skipping
Since my diagnoses, I have in many posts touched on the idea of positive thinking by reflecting upon having hope , the importance of feeling positive , touching on the idea of understanding ourselves, and having a sense of humor despite chronic illness. All of these are ingredients are essential to long term health success because the word chronic means “long-lasting,” and our illnesses, in most cases, are permanent. Now, I am not talking about whistling and skipping here or putting on a false smile; I am talking about making a choice to take a positive approach on life despite feeling not so positive on a daily basis.
A positive attitude is the greatest gift you can offer yourself when it comes to a life of chronic illness. Developing that positive attitude means maintaining an emotional balance during the course of illness, being open minded towards treatment options, and dealing successfully with interpersonal relationships. Self image also comes into play and if that self imagine is not good then positive attitude is impossible, and in turn, that has an adverse effect on a person’s health. Other emotions, as chronic illness sufferers, include anger, grief, fear, and loss of control and while these emotions are justified, they can be self consuming if we let them. Moreover, and in turn, they affect the two major aspects of successfully living with chronic illness: treatment and personal relationships. We need to be willing to take an open-minded approach towards treatment and be willing maintain personal relationships because both play a major part of good health and any chance of attaining overall better health.
Positive attitudes affect our emotional and physical well being. Moreover, the importance of developing positive mental thinking is essential to the healing process. From personal experience I know that positive thinking and chronic pain do not necessarily go hand and hand. However, in my journey, I have learned that the most important thing about healing and feeling better on a daily basis is the attitude that I have. There are days where I feel like I can conquer the world and there are days where I just do not want to get out of bed. I have learned that even the bad days count because on the bad days, I have to remind myself to “just suck it up and move on,” and I do. I remind myself the importance of counting my blessings and not sweating the small stuff.
I understand that my bad days will pass because they always do and because I do have good days. I find strength in prayer, mediation, and relaxation. I spend less time focusing on the pain and more time living my life. I have also learned that I have a choice to suffer alone but I am not required to. I find comfort and support when I need it, and I ask for help instead of taking challenges alone. I have learned that I have limitations and I cannot always take chances alone. I have accepted that there are things in my life that I no longer control but I don’t have to dwell on them. Instead, I can focus on things that I can control.
I have made a choice to be positive despite my conditions and while I don’t have control of my physical health, I have control of my responses, my feelings and the outcomes. I have also learned that being positive is not just about me. It is about everyone I come across everyday, including my family, my coworkers and even complete strangers. Deciding to take on a positive approach despite limitations takes practice and patience. It is something that teaches you resilience, planning, and even how to whistle and skip at the same time.
Taking Control – You are responsible for your health
Ten years of trying to find a diagnosis taught me two things: how to advocate for myself and how important advocating for myself is. The advice I always give to newly diagnosed person is to “educate yourself and to advocate for yourself,” because no one else is going to do this for you. Chronic illness is serious problem and if you do not believe how serious it is, you will not be motivated to manage your illness, educate yourself, and to work successfully with your medical providers. These things all entail your willingness to make lifestyle changes and taking your prescribed medications to be as healthy as possible. If you are not willing to take care of your body, you will be looking at some serious health complications in the future. While your excuses are justified because chronic illness is overwhelming and can lead a sufferer to be helpless, it does not change the fact that you still have to be willing to take responsibility of your health.
Taking responsibility of your health means managing your own care and taking your medications as prescribed. If you are not willing to do that, then your medical providers and family and friends have no responsibility towards you. They cannot support you or help you to change your attitude or behavior so in a way, you hinder their ability to do their jobs or provide a supporting role. Only you can take charge of your health and you and your doctor cannot be partners in your healthcare if you are not willing to take the first step. Once you are willing to take the initiative, you can educate yourself about your conditions and the treatment options out there. Discuss with your doctor the things you have learned, your feelings toward your health and those options, and work with your doctor towards a treatment plan that is right for you.
As part of taking responsibility, you also must learn to seek support. No one knows your feelings, your actions and your health better than you and no one knows how all these things work together better than do you. Therefore, it is your responsibility to ask for help when you need it and to learn to accept support. There will always be people willing to help you be successful but no one will know you need that support if you do not ask for it. That support can come from family and friends, as well as your doctor or a support group of people who also suffer from your condition.
Probably the most important aspect of taking responsibility of your health is changing your behavior and if you are not willing to do that, you are not willing to be successful. Of course, our illnesses make us feel helpless but we should let that hinder us from being successful and working to find out everything we can about our conditions, being open with our doctors about our concerns, and following through on our goals towards better health, including diet, exercise, medication and supplements, stress management, and sleep. This willingness to take responsibility will lead to better health in the short and long term.
Thanks Kelly for posting this question. You are free to post comments related to all four posts or any of the four. It definitely has been a meaningful topic to write about. I was also asked to discuss personal relationships and intimacy as it relates to chronic illness so look for that post in a week or so.
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