7 Strategies how to cope with illness or disability
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.
3. Nurture yourself
I have a question for you, to which I would like you to give me a sincere answer.
Who is the most precious person in your life, who do you value most? Give it a thought before you read on.
Your partners, your children or perhaps your parents? Was this one of your possible answers?
I am sure all these people mean a lot to you otherwise you would not be mentioning them. But there might be times when even they can let you down. The only person you can always trust is you. I know it perhaps sounds funny, but you will always be in your own company. You can either cheer yourself up or make yourself miserable. But first of all you need to take care of yourself and make sure that you can keep yourself as healthy as possible. Naturally, you cannot cure your illness or disability, but you can learn how to live your life to the best - that is how to relieve your symptoms in the best possible way.
There is so much you can do to help yourself feel better. We are all different and not every remedy or therapy will help everybody. Take for example allergies – they all work on the same principle when the body starts to defend itself against substances which are normally not harmful, yet the symptoms can be so different ranging from hay fever, blocked nose, itchy or weepy eyes, sneezing, rushes, eczema, digestive or skin problems to name the few. It is therefore understandable that some remedies will work for some, but not for others. A lot of people have said they tried so many remedies or therapies and nothing ever worked. Some therapies take longer to kick in and it is important to be patient and observe the changes, which are happening to your body. On the other hand it is the purpose of some therapies such as homeopathy that your body starts to eliminate toxins from your body and as a result you can start to feel temporarily worse, which is a good sign because the treatment is working.
Often the most effective self-help techniques are the easiest ones. Try for example to imagine that you are throwing all your negative thoughts and pain into the bin with the attempt to get rid of them. This is known as a visualisation technique and you can picture almost anything you wish; you can let your imagination work. Concentrate on yourself being strong, as a leader, as someone who can make it to the top of the mountain. Or think of yourself lying on the beach, sunbathing and the sun’s heat travelling into each part of your body making you feel warm and energised. You might be amazed that by pretending you can actually get all the benefits of it happening in real life. You could also consider autogenic training, where you will learn to relax and it might even help you go to sleep if you are experiencing problems with your sleep.
Try and find something that you enjoy, for example reading a good story. This might look a little strange but just a cup of tea can be nicely spent on your own. It is easier to work hard at achieving something for which others will say ‘well done’. It is much harder to accept that because of your illness nobody will say ‘brilliant job’ for something you really wanted to achieve but could not. Nobody will praise you for coping with your illness so say it yourself each day.
‘Well done for coping so well.’
Praise yourself for any little achievement of the day no matter how small. If it helps put your favourite poem on the wall or any positive quotes to remind you every time you pass that place.
Were you more positive today than yesterday? Then I would like to congratulate you. I send praise to all of you.
Learning how to exercise can help you. The problem with exercise is that when you are ill you do not feel like exercising because you experience too much pain, stiffness or lack of energy. But gentle stretches help to alleviate stiffness or muscular pain. It is important to find the right programme for you, gentle moves are more appropriate than anything vigorous and the rules are little but often. Be persistent; do not expect any immediate results straight away. Likewise it is important that you follow a healthy diet. You should certainly not be embarking on any drastic diet to lose weight. Some of the diets to lose weight can actually not only cause havoc to your health, but result in the complete opposite of what they are promising. You trick your body into thinking that it will be deprived of any food supplies and it is trying to keep as much energy as it can. Even if you manage to lose weight, very often you will eventually put it back on sooner or later. This is actually more dangerous to your health than maintaining the same weight at all times; the body has to deal with the skin constantly expanding and shrinking when you lose and gain weight too often causing more profound wrinkles. It is therefore important to eat regularly. Small portions more often are healthier than big portions less frequently. It is crucial that all the food groups (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are included in your diet. In this respect please note that diets, which only involve one of the food groups, can be very dangerous for your health. And naturally always consult your GP if you want to embark on any new diet plan.
I mentioned in the previous strategy that I enjoy watching the birds and listening to their songs. I am lucky enough to live in a very quiet surrounding and that can be really calming to the nerves. But even if you live somewhere noisier, you can create this relaxing environment yourself by listening to your favourite music. You can also learn to play a musical instrument. Drumming and dancing to the sound of music is for example brilliant for releasing excess energy. When I was small I loved singing but never liked playing the piano, I did not enjoy having to practise every day. When my son expressed interest in playing the clarinet I tried to explain to him, that he has to commit to playing on a very regular basis. But he did not seem to be discouraged by that. In the first few years of playing he hardly ever practised, but then he joined an orchestra and now I often hear him. He has even taught himself how to play the saxophone. I really enjoy listening to his music and surprisingly even our neighbours mention to me how much they enjoy listening.
And do not forget, that it is also important to create an environment in your home which you feel happy and comfortable in. Some years ago I painted my sons’ bedroom yellow. My older son decided to paint his new room blue. Recently I read a book about colour healing. I found out, that yellow is not a suitable colour for bedrooms because it may be over stimulating. It will apparently help you to wake up in the morning but does not encourage a good night’s rest. Blues on the other hand calm the mind and lower the body’s levels of activity naturally encouraging sleep. I wondered whether my younger son’s waking in the middle of the night and occasionally even going down for breakfast at 4’o clock in the morning had something to do with that. Well he sleeps in the yellow room. I also remember how my grandmother always encouraged me to watch the greenery while travelling by train, bus or car. She always used to advise me that my eyes would get stronger. My grandmother is no longer with us, but I can always see her singing. Songs made her life more pleasant. Her mother died from Spanish flu after the First World War, so she had to take care of her younger sister and at the same time help her father on a farm. She used to enjoy telling me, how singing made her hard work on fields easier.
• It is important to realise that you are the person who matters most
• Make yourself comfortable and do something you enjoy each day
• Praise yourself for all your little achievements
• Follow a healthy, well balanced diet and if possible try to do light exercise each day