When life suddenly hands us a crisis it can be a lot to handle, especially if you are already juggling chronic illness. Getting through the disaster without completely toppling your health can be a huge challenge when life turns upside down. Having a plan to manage your health during times of crisis just might help. Whether you see that sticky situation on the horizon or it has just landed in your lap, taking a little bit of time to plan to be as healthy as possible while you face it will leave everyone in better shape on the other end.
Step 1- Consider your most critical health needs and plan to meet them. This sounds like a no-brainer, obviously if you need certain things to stay alive, it will be important to keep doing them to keep being alive during a crisis. However, if you’ve ever been so stressed out you forgot to do things like eat and drink, you know that distraction can cause us to forget even our most basic biological needs. Making a plan that includes having the things you need packed and ready to roll out the door when necessary can mean the difference between having what you need to keep moving and adding to the situation with a health emergency of your own.
Step 2- Breathe. By far the simplest, cheapest, quickest tool in your arsenal, taking a few minutes to focus on breathing exercises can be a big game changer in times of extreme stress. Calming and centering, deep breathing exercises can slow your racing heart and quiet your frantic mind, allowing you to focus. Reducing the physiologic stress response also means less impact on stress aggravated chronic illnesses. Keeping the stress from overwhelming you with symptoms can be a huge help when life becomes chaotic.
Step 3- Get help. This is no time to be an island. Phone a friend, reach out to your family, let someone know you are in the middle of something big and could use some support. Have a list of things that you can use help taking care of when your focus must be elsewhere. When they ask what they can do to help, you will know what to ask for. Maybe the cat needs feeding, maybe you just need someone to remind you to eat something, consider the needs in your life you are likely to lose track of and plan to get help meeting them.
Step 4- Take good notes (or recruit a friend to record for you.) It is easy to become mentally overwhelmed during a crisis. If you happen to also struggle with memory issues and brain fog as part of your chronic illness, it tends to be worse when stress levels are higher. Taking notes or having someone there with you to keep track of the important details will make figuring out what action to take much easier. Keep a notebook or note-taking app in your emergency kit. Be sure to write down questions and ideas as they come to you so you can refer to them later.
Step 5- Make time to rest and recharge. Perhaps the most challenging part of crisis management with chronic illness, respecting your need to recharge is essential to getting through any situation in good shape. Chances are, whatever is happening has disrupted your normal routines. It is easy to become so involved in dealing with the new stress that you lose sleep. Sometimes it feels entirely out of our control. Thanks to our modern world, it usually isn’t. There are many different options to help achieve a restful sleep, even during a crisis. Whether you prefer pharmaceutical or more natural remedies there are things that can help your body and mind to get a bit of restoration, reach out to a trusted professional for guidance on what is appropriate for you.
6. Be gentle with yourself. Chronic illness doesn’t step aside for anything, certainly not because life is suddenly overwhelming you with stress. Be mindful of and respectful of your physical limits. Treat your body with kindness. Be forgiving of the unhelpful ways it may act up due to the stress and loss of routine. Show it a little love when you can. Take a walk while you phone a friend, sit and watch the birds in the tress for a few minutes on your way out the door, take time to enjoy something that soothes you. It is amazing what a tiny bit of self-love can do to help us through rough times.
Remember, this too shall pass. No crisis lasts forever. When you get to the other side (and you will get to the other side) the care you’ve taken will leave you feeling much less rundown. Reducing the impact on your health, reduces the amount of time you will need to bounce back from that challenging situation. In a body that makes up its own challenges, that can feel like a huge win.
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