Living With A Chronic Illness

Living With A Chronic Illness

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can impact your life in many ways. Along with the physical struggles, there are often emotional and relationship challenges as well. Although living with a chronic condition can be challenging, there are things you can do to help lessen some of the negative effects on other parts of your life.




What Is A Chronic Illness

A chronic illness is a condition that lasts for a long period of time, at least a year, and often cannot be cured, but can be controlled. Chronic illnesses such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases can have a big impact on your daily life. Managing a chronic illness can require changes to your daily routine and way of living. Chronic illnesses are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with nearly 50 percent of Americans living with a chronic disease.




How Does A Chronic Illness Impact Your Daily Life

Living with a chronic illness can impact your daily life in a number of ways. Managing your condition can require many doctor visits, causing you to miss work, or social engagements. Medications and treatments that are needed to manage your illness can cause unwanted side effects that can lead to fatigue and moodiness. This can make it difficult to complete your daily chores and rituals as easily as you could before the illness. You may need to rely more on family and friends for help and assistance with tasks that you could easily complete in the past. Your symptoms may be fine one day, and debilitating the next day which can cause you to feel a lack of control over your day to day existence.




How Does A Chronic Illness Impact Your Physical Health

There are many ways that a chronic illness can affect you physically. Many illnesses cause symptoms such as pain and fatigue. Being in constant pain, or experiencing fatigue makes it difficult to function effectively and enjoy your life. Sometimes the symptoms of a chronic illness can include physical disabilities and vision and hearing loss. These symptoms can greatly impact your quality of life. Necessary medications can have a number of side effects that can be hard to deal with. It can also be difficult to get quality sleep, leading to constant fatigue. You may notice that your stamina and muscle strength decrease, as a consequence of your chronic illness.

How Does A Chronic Illness Impact Your Mental Health

Chronic illnesses can have a negative impact on your mental health as well. You may experience an increase in symptoms of depression as you are no longer able to do some of the things you used to enjoy. This can lead to withdrawal and isolation which can further increase symptoms of depression. Anxiety is also common with some chronic conditions, as you may worry about having an attack, or the disease progressing. Side effects of your illness and its treatment can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Having a chronic illness can lead to inflammation and changes in hormones and neurotransmitters, which can increase depression and anxiety. The emotional and physical stress associated with being diagnosed with a chronic condition can lead to some struggles with your mental health.

How Does A Chronic Illness Impact Your Relationships

Having a chronic illness can cause issues in your relationships. Pain and other effects of a chronic condition can cause you to socialize less often than you used to. This can make it difficult to maintain friendships. Managing your illness can leave little time to participate in your hobbies and engage with others outside of work. Your intimate partner may need to take on more of a caregiving role, which can impact your connection and the way you view one another.  Household responsibilities can fall more to your partner, which may lead to resentment. Romantic and sexual interest can diminish because of your disease, creating distance and disconnection with your partner.

What Can Help

Although living with a chronic condition can be challenging, there are things that can help. You can focus on self-care activities such as eating healthy meals, exercising, and getting the rest you need, which can help increase your energy and decrease some of the pain and fatigue. Reach out to friends and family for help with chores and for emotional support, to ease some of your burden. Discuss your needs and limitations with your partner. Spend quality time together where the focus is on each other, not the illness. Prioritize your mental health by joining a support group to share your experiences with others that can understand. Attend therapy to address symptoms of anxiety and depression and to process the struggles involved with living with a chronic illness.

Having a chronic illness can affect your life in a number of different ways. It doesn’t just affect you physically, your mental health and relationships can also be impacted. If you are struggling with your mental health or relationship after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, therapy can help. With proper support, you can effectively manage the impact of your condition, both physically and emotionally.

6 Tips To Support Someone Who Is Suicidal

6 Tips To Support Someone Who Is Suicidal

It can be quite distressing to suspect that a loved one may be having suicidal thoughts. You may want to talk to them and try to help, but aren’t quite sure what to do. While you may not have all of the answers, opening up a dialogue, finding resources, and showing support can make all the difference. Below are 6 tips to support someone who is suicidal.


1. Know The Warning Signs


While it can be difficult to know if someone is contemplating suicide, there are common warning signs to look for. Someone who has made a previous suicide attempt or has experienced a traumatic event, or loss may be more likely to consider suicide. If your loved one has become withdrawn and isolated and avoids spending time with others, this can be a sign that they are having suicidal thoughts. Sleeping more or less than usual, or eating more or less than normal can be warning signs. Experiencing mood swings or changes in behavior, such as becoming more agitated or aggressive, may suggest your loved one is suicidal. When your loved one talks about feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or that everyone would be better off without them, they might be thinking about suicide. Finally, if they begin giving their things away and have a dramatic shift from a severely depressed mood to an unusually happy mood, they may be planning a suicide attempt.


2. Start A Conversation


If you think that your loved one is having suicidal thoughts, it is important to talk to them about it. While having suicidal thoughts does not necessarily mean that they are going to attempt suicide, opening up the conversation can help them feel supported and understood, and may just save their life. Although it can be hard to know exactly what to say, pointing out the warning signs you’ve noticed can be a good place to start. You can point out that you have noticed that they seem sad and have been spending more time alone. This can help open up the conversation so they can safely and freely talk about their situation.


3. Ask Direct Questions


Once the conversation has started, feel free to ask more direct questions. You can ask them directly if they have thought about hurting themselves. Asking about suicide and whether or not they have a plan, can provide you with important information about your loved one. While some believe that talking about suicide might put the idea in their loved one’s head, this in fact is not true. Having an open dialogue about this subject gives them a chance to open up about their thoughts and feelings. By being direct yourself, you may encourage your loved one to openly share their struggles as well.


4. Listen Without Judgment


When they do start opening up, make sure to listen to try to understand, without judgment. Although it may be difficult to learn that your loved one is thinking about suicide, tell them that you will listen. Encourage them to share more, and let them know that you are there for them. You don’t have to understand exactly what they are experiencing to show empathy and support. Let them know that they are not alone and that they can talk to you. It is more helpful to listen than to give advice or try to talk them out of their feelings. However, you can offer to help them find more support.


5. Help Them Find Support


If your loved one is thinking about suicide, they may be feeling overwhelmed and could find it difficult to look for help. This is something that you can help them with. You can help them find a mental health professional and take them to their appointment if they are nervous about going alone. If they need to tell other family members or friends about what they are experiencing, you can offer to be there for support. You can give them the number to the national suicide hotline, 988, and call or text it with them. If you are concerned for their immediate safety, you can take them to the emergency room, or call 911. Even if you help them find other support, make sure you check in on them often.


6. Create A Safety Plan


Another way to help a loved one that is thinking about suicide, is to create a safety plan with them. A suicide safety plan is a written set of instructions for your loved one to follow if suicidal thoughts or ideation increase. List out the warning signs that you and your loved one notice when symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts tend to get worse. For instance, a warning sign could be isolating and not taking care of themselves. Include things they can do to help calm down. They might exercise, listen to music, or belly breathe. Help them create a list of reasons to live. Such as, their pets or family. This list should also include things they are looking forward to in the future, like a trip or finishing school. Finally, include numbers of trusted family, friends, professionals, and hotlines like 988 that they can call if they need additional support. At the end of the safety plan you can add to call 911 if they are still feeling unsafe. While a safety plan is not a guarantee, it does provide a step-by-step plan to follow if  suicidal thoughts increase. 


If you are worried that a loved one may be suicidal, try to start a conversation using the above tips. Helping someone through this type of crisis can be mentally and emotionally difficult, so remember to practice good self-care. Although you can’t fix things for your loved one, you can be there for them and help them find the resources they need. 

Grounding Techniques

Grounding Techniques

Anxiety and panic can seem to happen out of the blue. A rush of adrenaline occurs and your thoughts take over. These thoughts can be very hard to stop, once they start. You can begin to feel disconnected from yourself and everything around you. In order to get out of your head and get back into the present moment, you can try a grounding technique.


Grounding Techniques


Grounding techniques are strategies you can use to help bring you back into the present moment. These techniques can reconnect you to yourself, your body, and the current time and place. Grounding techniques are used to get you out of your head and the focus on the past or the future, and to bring you back to the here and now. These tools can lessen the fight, flight, or freeze response and enable you to calm down. Anything that allows you to focus on the present moment can be a grounding technique. Having several of these techniques to use can be beneficial in a variety of different situations.


When To Use Them


Any time you are in your head too much, is a good time to use a grounding technique. These strategies can be used to calm down anxiety and even stop a panic attack from becoming overwhelming. If you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks or negative thoughts become problematic, grounding techniques can help you refocus your attention on what is going on around you instead. Grounding tools can be used to keep you attuned to the present situation if you are likely to dissociate. Below are some grounding techniques you can try if anxiety or PTSD are an issue.


Practice Mindfulness


The easiest way to practice mindfulness is to engage all of your senses with whatever you are currently doing. If you are washing the dishes, notice the temperature of the water and how it feels. Breathe in and notice what you smell. Pay attention to what the running water sounds like. When you eat dinner, notice the smells and savor the taste. If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your focus back to your senses. This helps you notice the external sensations, which can help quiet the internal thoughts.



Along with mindfulness, you can practice the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This tool requires you to name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It doesn’t matter what order you do it in. For instance, if you are eating dinner, you may want to start with 5 things you can taste, and 4 things you can smell. You can say these things out loud or in your head. This is another way to use mindfulness to ground yourself in the present moment.


Pay Attention To Your Breath


Paying attention to your breath is another way to ground yourself in the moment. You can start by simply noticing your breath and whether it is fast or slow, shallow or deep. When you start noticing your breath, it will most likely begin to slow down and regulate. You can also practice diaphragmatic breathing. To do this you want to breathe in for 3 and expand your stomach as you breathe in. On the exhale, contract your stomach and breath out for 7. You can exaggerate the out breath, as the out breath is what helps calm you down.




Exercising can help orient you to your body in the moment. You can walk, run, swim, ride your bike, take an exercise class, practice yoga, or simply do some light stretches. Moving your body helps get you out of your head and back into the present moment. If you are unable to exercise when you are feeling anxious, you can try to balance on one foot, or just stand up and notice how your legs and back are supporting you.


Other Techniques


Some other grounding techniques you can try include, holding an ice cube and noticing what it is like and what is happening as it melts from the warmth of your hand. Drinking something really hot or very cold and paying attention to the sensation. Listening to your favorite music, coloring, playing a game, laughing with your friends, and cuddling your pet are all ways that you can ground yourself in the present moment.


If you are experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, or PTSD and are having a hard time feeling connected to the present, try some of the grounding techniques above. These techniques can be used to keep your thoughts from taking over. If you try these techniques and are still struggling, therapy can help. When you are able to ground yourself in the present moment, symptoms of anxiety and PTSD can decrease.

Tips For Improving Motivation When You’re Depressed

Tips For Improving Motivation When You’re Depressed

When struggling with depression, the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming. What was once easy to do, can now seem impossible. Motivation can be lacking and you may not even know where to begin. While increasing motivation when you are dealing with depression can seem difficult, there are things that you can do that can help.


Depression And Motivation


There is a link between experiencing symptoms of depression and a lack of motivation. Symptoms of depressionSymptoms of depression often include feeling down or sad, having low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions. A common symptom of depression is losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed. If you experience depression, you may notice a sharp decrease in your motivation, as tasks that were once easy become nearly impossible to do. Below are some tips to help you increase your motivation when you are depressed.


Get Ready For The Day


Wake up at the same time every day and dress and get ready for the day. Even if you have nowhere to be. The simple act of dressing gets your brain out of sleep mode and into work mode. Instead of staying in your pajamas on Saturday morning, get up and get dressed. This can help increase your motivation as you will be ready to go and achieve.


Practice Self-Care


Practice self-care on a daily basis to help increase motivation. Self-care includes eating well-balanced meals, getting the proper amount of sleep, exercising, and bathing and grooming. Create a daily routine that allows you to accomplish tasks and rest and relax. Take a walk around the lake, go for a bike ride, or snuggle with your pet. Taking care of yourself enables you to feel good, which can help you become more motivated to accomplish other things.


Practice Mindfulness


Practicing mindfulness can help increase motivation. Mindfulness refers to being present and engaged in the current moment without judgment. When you practice mindfulness, you can focus on what you are doing instead of overthinking things or judging yourself negatively. To practice mindfulness, pay attention to what you can see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. If your thoughts begin to wander, bring yourself back to your senses and what you are doing.




Spending time with others when you are experiencing depression, can help you feel less lonely and more supported, which can help improve your motivation.  Doing things with others can make the task more enjoyable. As you socialize and interact with close friends and family members, accomplishing your goals becomes easier and more fun. Being with others can help you find the motivation you have been lacking to work towards your goals.


Change Negative Self-Talk


Negative self-talk can lead to a lack of motivation. If you are constantly telling yourself that you can’t do something, it will be hard to even try. Telling yourself that what you do doesn’t matter, or that it won’t be good enough can make you give up before you even start. Changing your negative self-talk to something that is accurate, but kind, can increase your motivation. For instance, If you are telling yourself you will never get it right, change it to, you can try your best and make adjustments as needed. Making your self-talk more positive can help improve your motivation.


Break Down Your Goals


When you are struggling with motivation, your goals can seem overwhelming. Breaking them down to the first smallest task that you can do towards meeting your goals can make them seem more manageable. If you want to find a new job, all the things that you have to do to get a new job can stop you from even beginning to look. Instead of worrying about everything this entails, perhaps you can set a goal to update your resume. Writing out a to-do list with smaller tasks, and crossing off the tasks when they are completed, can increase your motivation as you notice how much you are accomplishing.


Spend 5 minutes On A Task 


If motivation has been lacking, it can be difficult to even start something. In order to get started, set a timer for 5 minutes and tell yourself that you can stop after the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, you can either stop, or you can continue to work for another 5 minutes. This way, the task only needs to be worked on for a short period of time. Once you start, it is often easier to continue. However, your brain is less likely to focus on how overwhelming it is, since you only have to work on it for a short period of time.


Reward Yourself


Rewarding yourself often and immediately following a task can help increase your motivation. It is better for your motivation to reward yourself after you accomplish each task, instead of waiting until you complete the entire goal. Rewarding yourself immediately after completing a task increases the positive experience of the task, making you more likely to want to continue. When you reward yourself, your brain releases dopamine, which increases feelings of pleasure and decreases symptoms of depression.


If you are depressed and experiencing a lack of motivation, try some of the suggestions above. A lack of motivation doesn’t have to keep you from working towards your goals. If you are still struggling, counseling can help. Once you are able to increase your motivation, symptoms of depression may decrease as well.


7 Meditation Benefits

7 Meditation Benefits

Engaging in meditation on a regular basis can help you decrease stress and increase focus. It is about calming your mind and can be defined as a mental exercise that involves focus, awareness, and relaxation. Meditation helps you to train your brain to be still and quiet and has been shown to have a positive effect on your psychological well-being. Below are seven meditation benefits that you can experience when you begin to meditate on a weekly basis.


1. Decreases Stress


The world you live in can be very stressful. It can seem as though you always have a lot to do, and not enough time to do it. Stress can have a negative effect on your physical health and emotional well-being. Practicing meditation can help you manage stress better. Mindfulness meditation, provides the space to acknowledge and prioritize the demands on your time so you can take care of what is important and let go of the rest. Without the space and clarity provided through this type of practice, stress can feel overwhelming. When you meditate, you are able to better organize your thoughts and emotions, so you can more effectively manage stress.


2. Decreases Anxiety


Meditation can also help decrease anxiety. Although anxiety and stress can share many physical and emotional symptoms, they are not the same. Stress is a response to an external cause, whereas anxiety is an internal reaction to stress. It is characterized by constant worry and a feeling of dread about the future. While stress and anxiety are both a part of the fight, flight, or freeze response, stress is a short-term issue, while anxiety can persist for some time. Meditation can help quiet the mind and relax the body. This helps ease both the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. Since mindfulness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the central nervous system calms down and your body and mind begin to rest and digest. 


3. Improves Focus


Meditation can help you improve your focus and your memory. Practicing focused meditation requires you to intently focus on one thing. This can be a word, sound, picture, or your breath. Instead of clearing your mind, you pay attention to what you are focusing on, ignoring other thoughts and distractions. Focused meditation can help improve your attention for longer periods of time. It then becomes easier to block out distractions and enhances short term memory.


4. Increases Compassion


Compassion can increase through the use of meditation. Loving kindness meditation is specifically designed to increase compassion, empathy, and sympathy to all who are suffering. It also increases the desire to want to ease this suffering. Loving kindness can increase positive feelings and decrease any negative emotions you may be experiencing. It can activate empathy and emotional processing in the brain and increase gray matter. The increased compassion that you experience for others using this type of meditation can also be directed toward yourself


5. Improves Symptoms of Depression


Depression is a mood disorder that can cause a deep feeling of intense sadness and a loss of interest in activities, even those that used to bring you joy. Mindfulness can help improve symptoms of depression. By learning how to be present in the moment and aware of how you are feeling without becoming overly attached to negative emotions, feelings of depression can decrease and become less impactful. Meditation can help you change the way you think about sadness and other difficult emotions as well.


6. Enhances Relationships


Relationships can improve through a regular and consistent meditation practice. Meditation helps you regulate your mood and it can improve compassion and empathy. These things are helpful to relationships and can enable you to gain a deeper understanding and connection to your partner. The awareness that you gain through this practice can help you notice unhealthy patterns. This way you can choose to respond differently and change the unhealthy relationship pattern. Relationships also benefit from the increased levels of acceptance that a consistent meditation practice provides. It helps you better understand yourself, which then helps you better understand others.


7. Improves Self-Esteem


Not only does meditation help your relationship with others, it also helps improve your relationship with yourself, leading to increased self-esteem. Meditation enables you to notice your thoughts and feelings without attaching to them. This gives you the opportunity to observe how fleeting thoughts and feelings can be. You can then begin to know yourself on a deeper level. Loving kindness meditation can help increase self-compassion and decrease self-judgment. When it is practiced consistently, it becomes easier to ignore negative self-talk and focus on the positive instead.


These are just some of the benefits that you can expect from practicing meditation on a regular basis. While meditation may not be able to fix everything, it can help improve your overall emotional well-being. Once you start experiencing the benefits, you will want to include meditation in your weekly self-care routine.

Coping With Grief During The Holidays

Coping With Grief During The Holidays

The holidays are traditionally a time to spend with family and friends, and can be especially difficult for those who experienced the death of someone dear to them. While others are excited for the season to begin, if you experienced a loss, you may feel like avoiding the holidays instead of celebrating. This can be true whether your loss was more recent or a long time ago. Feelings of sadness and pain can be heightened during this time and memories of the loss of your loved one can be strong. Although the holidays can be difficult when you’ve lost someone close to you, there are some things that you can do to help you cope with grief during the holidays.

1. Ask For Help

The holidays can be a busy time. There is often a lot that needs to be done and it can feel overwhelming when you are grieving. This can be a good time to ask others for help. Reach out to family and friends and let them know you need help getting things done. Most people want to help, but just don’t know how. If you experienced a recent loss and it is too difficult to even figure out what you need, ask someone to be in charge of coordinating help. You don’t have to do everything alone. Reaching out to others also keeps you from isolating too much. Asking for help is one way to cope with grief during the holidays.

2. Say No

During the holidays, you probably have a busy social calendar and many obligations. Although others may expect you to do all of the things that you always do at this time of year, it will be important to say no. Grief is hard and requires a lot of time and energy. You never know when the intense feelings may surface and demand your attention. Saying no to things that you really don’t want to do will free up your time so you can focus on processing your grief. Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary.

3. Continue Important Traditions

Continuing meaningful traditions during the holidays can keep you connected to your loved one. These traditions allow you to recall happy times and fond memories of your loved one. You can make a dessert that they always made, or that was special to them. Listen to their favorite music, light a candle with one of their favorite scents, or read the holiday book that they would read. Continuing traditions that they enjoyed can be comforting to you, and can help you cope with your grief during the holidays.

4. Create New Traditions

While continuing important traditions can be helpful, creating new traditions can be meaningful as well. New traditions can help ease the pain of spending the holidays without your loved one. They can help you create a new normal that enables you to make new memories going forward. If some of your usual traditions are too painful this year, establish some new traditions to help you get through the holiday season. These new traditions may end up becoming just as important as the old ones.

5. Feel Your Feelings

With the focus on family and togetherness, the pain associated with your loss can be felt viscerally. You may be overcome with grief, even if your loved one has been gone for some time. When this happens, it is important to let yourself feel your feelings. Although it is normal to want to push them away so you can end the pain, your feelings need to be processed and you can’t do that unless you feel them. Find a quiet place, name the feeling you are experiencing, and notice where it is in your body. Then just sit with it and allow it to be. Feeling your feelings is a healthy way to cope with grief during the holidays.

6. Use Your Coping Skills

Effective coping skills will be very useful to you as you grieve during the holidays. Write out a list of coping skills that have helped you in the past and keep them with you. Breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, or just noticing your breath and breathing out longer than you breathe in, are naturally calming. Exercising, journaling, meditation, tapping and yoga are all good coping strategies. Have an exit plan for social gatherings and a code word you can use with a trusted friend for when you need some space. 

7. Be Gentle With Yourself

Remember that you are grieving and be gentle with yourself. If you usually host the holiday festivities, but aren’t up for it this year, it is okay. Know your limits and respect them. Take a break if you need it. If you find yourself happy or laughing, it doesn’t mean that you don’t miss your loved one. Whether you find yourself feeling good or bad, be gentle and kind with yourself and your experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Being gentle with yourself can you cope with your grief during the holidays.

8. Honor Your Loved One

Find a way to honor your loved one during the holiday season. Honoring your loved one keeps them with you during the holidays. There are many ways that you can do this. You can set a place at the table that remains empty, as it is meant for your loved one. Volunteering in their name or giving gifts to those less fortunate from your loved one, are some other ways to honor them. Spreading holiday cheer through random acts of kindness in their memory can bring joy to others and help you feel good as well.

While the holidays are not easy when you are grieving, they can be more manageable. Try following the above tips if you are dealing with grief during this holiday season. If you are still struggling to get through, therapy can help. Remember, grief is a normal response to a significant loss that can be very strong during the holiday season.

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