5 Ways to Build Resilience for Life With Chronic Illness

Kristy Lovegrove
a woman sitting down watching the sunset outdoors

Life is far from perfect. When it goes wrong, how far do you let yourself spiral?

Every day life is full of ups and downs, and chances are you are going to have many more. Life is like a roller-coaster but when its brings you down, it can go a lot lower than you think you can go. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a magic escape button? Like many people, I have been in some hard and difficult places and left feeling broken and in despair. Because of this, I have been building and constructing a resilient mind to help me deal with difficult times.

Sometimes adversity is totally out of our control no matter how hard we try — and if you’re anything like me, you like to be in control as best as you can. Living with a chronic illness is a battle within itself and when things are out of balance (even when I know I have done everything right), I just want to scream at the top of my lungs and tell it to go away or just give me a day of grace. Oh, how I would do anything to feel good!

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Gone are the days when I could find a little escape from my feelings. I can only dream of slipping on the joggers and go for a run or take it out on the punching bag. These desirable things are too taxing on the body and would only make my illness worse. Living with a chronic illness, I’ve had to sit with my feelings and honor them face up. This is very confronting — I’m unable to escape these trapped feelings of anger, frustration, sadness which are all welling inside ready to burst into puddles of tears.

When something goes wrong, are you the type of person that bounces back quickly or does it take you awhile to recover from whatever the difficulties you have faced? Resilience is learning from our experiences and how we react to certain situations. While it’s great to have people to call, they are not always going to be there. You may be on your own sometimes, and what are you going to do?

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If you prepare yourself overtime with techniques, hopefully you will be able to dig deep; deep within your soul, somewhere you’ve never gone before. If you stand back up and move forward little by little, you are building a fortress of resilience that will help you cope with the curve balls that life throws.

Resilience is not a trait that you are born with, it is something that you develop with thoughts, behavior and action. It’s through these hard times that shape you. Here are a few strategies that you may wish to prepare yourself for when you’re having a hard time, and adapt them in a way that best suits your needs.

1. Honor your feelings and emotions.

It’s OK to feel frustrated, unhappy or sad. Cry if you need to. Feelings are meant to be felt. Trying to ignore real feelings and suppressing them is going to cause tension elsewhere. Just remember that this too shall pass and you have it within you to move forward from this setback.

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2. It’s a temporary setback.

I know it may not feel it at the time, but be kind and gentle with yourself, it will pass. With each setback you endure, you are building up your resilience to face the next difficult roadblock. As you face these roadblocks, know that deep inside you can get pass them.

3. Leverage the power of lists.

Taking control of your situation is what is important. Think of resilience as problem solving. Writing things down help the brain become a little less foggy. It’s empowering to cross things off “the list” once they have been achieved. Think of this as your “little wins.”

4. Do something that sparks a little joy.

Focus on things that you can control. It could be be anything from going to your favorite sitting spot, playing music, meditating, spending time with people that make you feel good, saying hello to strangers, walking around the block and noticing whatever it is you notice.

5. Stick to your daily routine.

I know when you’re not feeling your finest, but even the simplest things you do daily can work to your advantage. This can be anything like making sure you drink two liters of water throughout the day, eating healthy and nourishing foods and even taking a shower. All these mundane tasks that need to be done throughout the day, get us to the next hour and before we know it we are tucked up in bed ready to tackle the next day.

How do you stay resilient during tough times? Tell us in the comments.

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