By Tara Heath.
We all know that living with a chronic illness or depression can be frustrating. Whether it’s heart disease, arthritis, adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, Lupus, MS, Crohn’s disease, CSID, or other chronic illnesses, we all have to bear the burden of daily living. Unfortunately, chronic illness and depression often go hand-in-hand. In fact, it is estimated that one-third of people who have a serious medical condition also suffer from symptoms of depression. Thankfully, there are a few tried and true options available to help us cope with our chronic illnesses and depression.
Adopt a Pet.
Spending time with a dog or cat is a great activity to cope with our conditions without needing yet another prescription. Animals provide people with chronic illness or depression a variety of benefits ranging from companionship, unconditional love, and even alleviation of physical symptoms. Cuddling our four-legged pals lowers stress, boosts our moods, reduces blood pressure, and keeps us active, which are great reasons to look into adopting a furbaby or getting a service dog. If your living arrangements or health issues prevent bringing home a pet, consider volunteering at local animal shelters to get a dose of pet therapy.
Whether it is a change in air pressure or a flare-up, being active is often at the bottom of our to-do list when we live with a chronic illness or depression. However, stretching and moving actually can ward off some of our aches and pains. This makes it vital we look for activities which don’t place a lot of stress on our joints, muscles, or body. Instead of running, consider taking up bicycling or sign up for chair exercise classes that use resistance bands to improve flexibility. Some people with chronic illness have even found yoga to be a viable exercise option, because it allows you to breathe, reduce stress, and build strength by stretching.
Make a Splash!
Living with a chronic illness or depression can make it difficult to enjoy a lot of popular physical activities. However, many of us can enjoy water based activities like swimming or exercising in a heated pool. The primary benefits of swimming and hydrotherapy is that water reduces wear and tear on our bodies and can even relieve pain. Water activities relieve muscle and joint pain, stretch muscles, offer aerobic activity, and give us opportunities to interact with other people. Join an aqua exercise class or enjoy free swimming hours to take advantage of all these physical benefits.
Schedule an appointment or create a spa in your home to reduce tension or stress with a hot bath, a soak in a hot tub, a deep tissue massage, or a pedicure. Use essential oils or your favorite lotions to protect your skin and prevent damage like dryness, sores, tears, or bruising from forming. In addition, while you are relaxing, take a few minutes to check your body over for any warning signs that a condition might be worsening. For example, many diabetics need to pay extra attention to the health of their feet to spot problems before serious complications arise.
Get Fired Up!
Head to the kitchen and cook up a natural supplement to help cope with chronic illness or depression. By eating better, we are ingesting foods, nutrients, and minerals that help ease symptoms of our conditions. Depending on the condition, food can be a powerful tool to help ward off exhaustion, protect joints, steady blood sugar, and keep our bodies functioning as best as possible. This can be as simple as including more healthy fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and salmon in our diets to help ease joint pain and inflammation. Download recipes, checkout a cookbook from the library, or join a cooking class for some fresh ideas and menus.
Most of the activities mentioned involve exercise or nutrition. However, one way we can cope with the hand we have been dealt is by seeking out a support group to offer helpful advice and support us on our journey. Groups come in a variety of formats and can be found in person, online, or even over the telephone. Support can help us share personal experiences, vent our frustrations, reduce anxiety, prevent feelings of isolation, avoid judgment, and improve our coping skills.
Become an Advocate.
In addition to finding support, we can cope by educating or raising awareness about our conditions. It’s no secret many people don’t understand our afflictions and often misjudge our actions or symptoms. We can give ourselves purpose by speaking out and reducing common misconceptions about our illness. Take a few minutes everyday to share facts online, join an advocacy campaign, or create a blog that highlights your struggles and triumphs.
What activities to cope with chronic illness and depression have you tried?
Let us know in the comments section.
Tara Heath is a 37-year old health professional and works as a freelancer writer in the evenings. Her writing focuses mainly on health, such as skincare and how to live a healthy lifestyle overall. She lives in Burbank, Ca. with her husband and two beautiful daughters ages eight and twelve.