7 Strategies how to cope with illness or disability (2)
1. Allow yourself time to come to terms with your illness
2. You are not alone – make most of all help and support groups
3. Nurture yourself
4. Learn how you can best help yourself feel better
5. Concentrate on the present, do not dwell in the past or worry about the future
6. Learn how to live a stress free life
7. You are the maker of your own luck
Illness and disability might come in many forms. Some illnesses and disabilities have to be faced from birth; others are developed during people’s lifetime. They can come on suddenly or gradually develop over many years without the person knowing about it. People are usually genetically predisposed but illnesses can also be the result of the polluted environment or the lifestyle we adopt. Coming to terms with any illness is not easy and might take a long time especially when your illness surprises you suddenly.
Imagine that you are happy, your life is going very well and you are very proud of all your achievements. You have got a great family and circle of friends until one day something very unfortunate happens to you. You become ill or have an accident and you can no longer enjoy life as you used to. Suddenly everything seems to be falling apart. All kinds of scenarios may come up; you might no longer be in a position to support your family financially, you could lose your job, simply your dreams are falling apart. This is the hardest time and naturally you will be down about it, yet with a few changes you might still be able to live your life to the full. The following easy steps should help you in the right direction.
2. You are not alone – make most of all help and support groups
Sometimes I take a lady from the neighbourhood shopping with me. Like me she has health problems, some of them are similar to mine. I truly enjoy talking to her. We can complain about our problems, we can learn from each other how we deal with our ailments, what remedies alleviate our symptoms or which alternative therapies are helpful. We share a common fate and interest and I know therefore that she will not be bored. We can put ourselves into each other’s shoes easily. But I know that the rest of the world including my family will not understand what I am going through. I have therefore learnt not to bring up the subject of my illness in front of everybody.
Not discussing your problems with others might be difficult, because you might want to share them with your friends, but do not want to bore them. It’s therefore better to think of matters which are more cheerful and positive. If you do not feel like speaking just listening to others will do the trick - people just love to talk, especially about them and will appreciate that you listen. At the end of the day if you recount to people how hard life is treating you, they will only tell you how much harder their life is. Seldom might you come across somebody who understands and will be willing to listen to you but apart from these rare individuals you have to find those who will like to share their own problems with you. One of my friends has health problems but never mentioned them in front of me. As soon as I let her know that I became ill she suddenly flooded me with e-mails, how she herself was not well and how she coped with it. Her normal messages of a few lines suddenly turned into long pages. She knew I would understand and that I would not be bored.
I first thought that there was nobody else in this world that had to suffer in the same way as I did. It was only when I got to know my neighbour with similar health problems, I realised I was not alone. I learnt there were others who had to endure similar difficulties. Sometimes they managed to cope well; other times they found it harder. What is important, however, they can be there to support each other. It is therefore only to your advantage to join support groups and be there for each other learning from your strength. I know people who complain about such groups not seeing any point in them. They argue that at the end of the day they still have to come to their own homes, being unable to pay for all their bills and having to cope on their own. Support groups will naturally not solve all people’s problems, but they can help you overcome some of the unpleasant sides of life.
It is important to appreciate all the help of the professionals who organise these support groups and put people in contact. You can either ignore them or make most of them. The choice is yours. I was also offered groups which I thought were not suitable for me and therefore I did not contact them. Your own family members might sometimes not approve of you joining such groups. They might feel that you will just become absorbed with your illness thinking of nothing else and making yourself even more ill by analysing what you suffer from. Do not look for your relatives’ approval. Instead decide what works best for you. Like with everything else in life take the middle route, do not go into extremes. Enjoy the support of your like-minded friends but only to enrich your life. Do not get stuck in complaints about your misfortune. Surround yourself with people with whom you feel great, avoid people who are distracting you from achieving your goal.
Try to be yourself; do not listen to criticisms of other people and do not compare yourself to celebrities who look ‘perfect’. They only create this brilliant impression in magazines, but they have real problems of their own.
It would also be beneficial to join groups with people who share the same interests as you, where you would meet others who would love to discuss interesting issues with you. It could be a hobby group such as craft making, painting, knitting, the list is long. You might be feeling better some days than others and even though you might not be able to return back to work full or part time you might still be able to make contribution by volunteering opportunities. One Sunday per month I give a hand with my sons at our local park. You might think what we can get out of it if we are not rewarded with money. We meet a lot of interesting people with whom we enjoy a good laugh and learn a lot of new skills. We were, for example building a fence in the park to protect a very rare lilac collection of bushes from rabbits. This skill helped us later when we were repairing the fence in our own garden. And apart from all this it gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Helping to look after the environment and protecting it for future generations is also something you might consider exploring. You could for example join an eco club or contribute with your ideas about a greener sustainability of your region. Learn from children, they bring great ideas from school how to live greener. My sons have for example taught me to pick up tins, glass or plastic bottles on the street and sort them for recycling. Since then, wherever I go I always carry a plastic bag with me just in case I come across all these recyclable items, and there are times when my bag is full. We also pick up rubbish on our nature walks. Even local authorities in our region are organising nature walks as the health as well as social benefits are enormous. Thus you will be able to meet even a bigger circle of people. Once, I attended a bird watching session that was organised by our local natural history museum. First we had a lecture about what birds we were likely to see followed by the actual walk and I was amazed how many types of birds find their home in such a small park. Incredibly, when we came back our neighbour said to us she saw a sparrow hawk in our garden – a bird of prey that is not usually seen in towns, another time a partridge visited our garden. We love to watch the birds in our garden and we feed them scraps which would have normally ended up in a bin, such as fat from bacon, chicken skin or apple cores. We get very excited when we spot a completely new bird coming to feed. I know we are not the only ones who enjoy watching birds; an elderly lady I used to care for loved watching birds and always asked me to fill her bird table with feed. It is not only nice to watch the birds but listen to their songs which are especially easy to hear early in the morning before all the rush starts. I find it really relaxing to watch all the birds in the garden including the squirrels whose acrobatic skills of jumping from branch to branch are amazing. Even if you live in a flat you might be able to attract birds by putting some feed for them on the windowsill and enjoy their company. And birds need our help especially in winter and spring when it is more difficult for them to find food.
· You are not on your own, there are others with similar problems you can join forces with
· Use the support of people in similar position like yours to enrich each other’s lives
· Use the middle route; it is OK to complain about your position in the short term, in the long-term
oncentrate on the positive.
· Join groups of people who share the same hobbies as you