Managing your emotions when you have a chronic disease

Do you live with a chronic disease and sometimes find it difficult to handle your emotions? Learn techniques for managing your emotions effectively and move toward living a healthier life.

At times our emotions can get the best of us, especially if we are living with a chronic disease. Having a chronic disease can create a symptom cycle that includes difficult emotions. According to the Stanford Patient Education Research Center, symptom cycles start with the disease which then can lead to tense muscles, pain, stress and anxiety, difficult emotions, depression, shortness of breath and fatigue. It is important to find ways of breaking this symptom cycle.

Worry, anger, fear and frustration are very common emotions we manage when we have a chronic condition. It is important to develop a personal toolbox of coping activities and skills to manage these emotions. Your personal toolbox will depend upon your personal preferences, skills and abilities. Some suggested tools to consider for expanding your toolbox include adding some type of physical activity or exercise into your daily schedule. Exercise is a key to maintaining or building muscle and movement, reducing stress and anxiety and improving your health. Other tools might include socializing with family and friends, relaxation techniques, prayer or meditation, deep breathing exercises, volunteer work or writing in a journal. 

Another important tool for dealing with difficult emotions is effective communication. If you are feeling misunderstood by others or not understood at all, poor communication can lead to prolonged frustration, anger and stress. The book titled “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions,” says that these emotions can have further negative effects on your physical emotional and social health. 

When you are communicating with others, according to the Stanford Patient Education Research Center, try to do the following: show respect and regard for the other person, be clear about the facts, be open and honest about your feelings, accept how others feel, be courteous, use some humor if appropriate, don’t expect the other person to read your mind and become a good listener. The best way to start a conversation is with “I” messages. State how you are feeling first then follow it up with why you are feeling that way. This type of communication avoids blaming others and opens the door to honest and productive communication.

Think about what is in your toolbox for managing your difficult emotions and consider adding some tools you may not have considered in the past. This will start you onto the road of managing your difficult emotions when you have a chronic disease. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to find chronic pain management classes located near you and your loved ones.

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