Managing Emotional Challenges of Long-Term Illnesses

support group

Get Fit While You Sit is just one example of a support group.

Emotional stress can play a big role in our overall health. Being able to manage the emotional challenges that come with long-term illness can help you feel better physically, emotionally and mentally.

Develop Good Communication With Your Health Care Team

Being able to talk easily and comfortably with the members of your health care team helps you feel more in control. Remember, you are a key member in this team. Taking an active role in your medical care gives you information and helps you feel more involved. Preparing a list of questions before your appointments is one way to make sure all your concerns are addressed, as well as asking someone to join you so you can process the information afterward together. My next post will give tips on talking with your health care providers.

Stay in Touch With People Who Comfort You

Family and friends, whether they live next door or far away, are important members of your support team. They can provide help on your low-energy days with their love and concern. This is considered a form of treatment. Visits, phone calls, letters and emails are all good ways to keep in touch and get support from those who care about you.

Ask for Help

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for or accept help. You may worry that you’ll be a bother or burden, but family and friends usually want to help and be involved. Many times they do not know what they can do to help. By giving them directions on what you need, your friends and family can feel useful and you receive the help you need.

Acknowledge Emotions

A long-term illness might make it necessary for you to adjust the plans you had for your future, and this can affect you emotionally. For example, people sometimes struggle with feelings of sadness or worry as they think about facing the future with a long-term illness. A support group connects you with others in similar situations who can share how they are coping. Individual counseling is also available to help you figure out how to live as full and active life as possible with a long-term medical condition. At Avera we offer several support groups ranging from caregiver to cancer patient. The Avera Queen of Peace Cancer Center offers different groups on a monthly basis. For a schedule please view the events calendar. Professional individual counseling is also available.

Draw Strength From Your Spiritual Side

Strength comes from many different sources. People often turn to spirituality when coping with illness. This can refer to one’s religious beliefs, faith or life philosophy. Spirituality is about finding purpose and comfort in your own personal understanding of the meaning of life. Examples of activities that allow you to explore your spiritual side include prayer, meditation and reading life-affirming texts. At Avera we have chaplains and palliative care teams available to provide guidance and support.

Invest in Your Own Resilience

Resilience is the ability to manage whatever might come your way. Just as a good support system is part of being resilient, so is treating yourself well. Try to do small things to take care of yourself every day. Read a good book, buy yourself a small gift, watch a funny movie or listen to your favorite music. These may sound useless, but pampering yourself in little ways goes a long way in helping you adjust to life with a long-term illness. Treating yourself right and finding new ways to enjoy life will help you accommodate any changes your illness may bring.

By Charlene Berke

Director of the Cancer Center at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

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