Bad Days with a Chronic Illness: How to Cope
By: Kristen Cosner
Companion Magazine Staff Writer
Let’s talk bad days. Everyone has them, but when you are living with a chronic illness, sometimes a bad day equates to more than just spilling your coffee and running late for work. Pain, nausea, procedure prep, achy joints, fevers, fatigue, rashes, and other symptoms of chronic illnesses can all add up to a less-than-great day. On these days you may feel defeated, frustrated, or disappointed with yourself as you are forced to slow down, rest, and even take time off from work or school. But here is the thing: bad days do not last forever. Sometimes it may feel like they will and sometimes you may even have multiple bad days in a row, but still, they will not last forever. For this reason, it is so important to give your body the love and rest that it needs these days. Your body is working overtime for you! Here are a few of my favorite ways to get through a bad day with a chronic illness:
- Get comfy. If you are home, kick off your shoes, change into comfy clothes, and surround yourself with the softest blankets and pillows you can find. Choose a comfortable and quiet location to settle in a rest for a little while. Not at home? Do your best to make yourself comfy at work to school, even if that means going to your car for several minutes to rest or wearing something that is a little more on the comfortable side. Sometimes it is hard to get truly comfy, especially if you are not home, but every little bit helps.
- Do something you love. It is important to try to incorporate doing something you love into every single day, but especially on bad days. What is something that brings you joy and helps you forget about your troubles for a little while? This could be drawing, reading, writing, knitting, yoga- the list goes on and on and is different for each person. Find the hobby (or hobbies) that brings you happiness and try to work even a few minutes of it into your day.
- Make a gratitude list. Gratitude lists are an essential part of every day to help you reflect on things that you are grateful for. With that being said, gratitude lists are especially important on your bad days because those are the days when it is often times hard to find the positives. Gratitude lists are simple: just grab a sheet of paper or a journal and begin listing the things that you are grateful for. These could be family, friends, pets, your education, the sunrise, the roof over your head, your access to healthcare and medications to fight your illness, and so many more. The simple act of sitting down and listing all of the things you are grateful for in life will help make even the worst day a little better.
- Practice a little self-care. Bad days with a chronic illness can equal pain, fatigue, and an overall feeling of “blah.” So, without overdoing it, treat yourself to a little pampering! Whether this is a warm Epsom salt bath or a face mask, the act of treating your body to a little extra something while it battles your illness is always a great decision. The act of taking care of your body will even help lift your spirits a little.
- Have a heart-to-heart. Sometimes, our bad days are not necessarily physical, but emotional. Even as someone who strives to stay positive much of the time, some days staying positive is not as easy. On these days I may find myself frustrated, sad, or defeated as the weight of my illness seems heavier than usual. One of the best ways to cope with a bad day emotionally is to talk it out. Find a family member or a friend whom you love and trust and have a heart-to-heart with them. Getting all of your worries and frustrations out will instantly lift some of the weight off your shoulders. You should never feel guilty about needing to talk! We are all human and as humans, we have the incredible ability to think and feel, which sometimes can leave us feeling a little overwhelmed.
- Listen to your body. Our bodies are incredibly complex systems that know what they need, even if we do not always listen. If you are having a bad day, try really tuning into what your body is wanting. Are you thirsty? Drink! Craving soup? Eat. Feeling sleepy? Take a nap. Listen to the signals that your body is sending and it will (hopefully) reward you with better days ahead.
Luckily, bad days do not last forever, even if sometimes it feels as if they will. So, even on your worst days, remember that it will always get better. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will get better. The bad days may knock us down, but they will never keep us down. For every setback, there is an even stronger comeback to follow. For every bad day, there are five more good days. For every step we take backward, we will take two steps forward. Reach out, love yourself, rest, and remember that you are never alone in your fight.