Mental health problems often go hand in hand with chronic illness. This was true for me when I was living with cystic fibrosis, and it still is, four years after my double lung transplant. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression all my life and for the past few years I’ve dealt with post-traumatic stress.
Awareness is helpful, but having tools to manage these conditions is crucial. Following is a checklist that has helped me stay on track with my mental and emotional health. I hope it also helps others living with chronic illness.
The first step is to assess how you are feeling mentally and emotionally. Tune in and ask, “Am I able to work and access resources in a calm, well-rested and energetic manner? Or am I easily triggered, exhausted and barely sustained?” Being honest with ourselves is the first step to changing what isn’t working.
It is necessary to be critical of what you feed your mind. Ask yourself, “What am I looking at? Who am I talking to? What programs, movies or music do I listen to? How much news do I receive?” All of this affects how we think, feel and act.
Making an honest assessment of how you spend your time is important for overall well-being. Is your time filled with stressful and frustrating tasks, or things that bring you joy and peace? Sometimes we fill every minute with activities, social media or entertainment to escape our reality. We numb ourselves or avoid dealing with our feelings. It’s healthy to prioritize what makes us feel good and make time for mental wellbeing, self-care, and time with loved ones.
Set clear limits on your time and energy. Saying yes to everything and everyone doesn’t make someone a good person – it makes them burnt out, exhausted and ineffective. Saying no to people, work, or demands when necessary is healthy. It communicates that we are human and gives others permission to be human too. Because those of us with chronic illness have limited time and energy, protecting these valuable assets is critical.
Identify effective tools for coping with mental health problems. This will look different for everyone. Developing coping strategies, talking to a therapist, and nurturing all parts of ourselves—mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual—is healthy.
Balance is everything. We can’t go on at 100mph and pour into others without getting anything in return. We are not Jesus. We are people who need connection, support and peace. We are allowed to receive care from others, lean on our supportive people, and take breaks when needed.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Comparison negatively affects our mental health. It robs us of joy, peace and self-confidence and does not help us to thrive or grow. It plants seeds of self-doubt, lowers self-esteem and prevents us from being fully ourselves. Reinforce your identity as valued, loved and unique. This is how we can operate from a place of knowing we are enough.
Change is possible regardless of your individual situation. If you make just one change today, think about how it will affect you a week, a month, or a year from now. It is important to make time to take care of our mental and emotional well-being.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Because the mind-body connection is real, we need to make sure we keep both in check.
You are not alone in your struggle. There is no shame in asking for help. It is possible to manage symptoms and improve mental health. Keep hoping!
Remark: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay your search because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion on issues related to cystic fibrosis.