Long-term health conditions can be difficult to come to terms with. Managing your physical symptoms can require a lot of care and attention, and at the same time you’ll want to try and ensure you have a fulfilling life outside of your illness.
This will look different for everyone, but it might mean that you need to balance work, caring responsibilities, friends and hobbies.
This balance can be demanding, and depending on your illness, you might feel like you only have the energy for a few specific tasks each day.
This can make it hard to support your mental health, and unlike a short-term condition where you can rest until you feel better, you’ll need to find some strategies to help yourself cope.
Here, we share our top tips for managing your mental health when you have a long-term illness.
Understand what you need
It can be a subconscious reflex to withdraw when you feel your mental health declining, but by getting to know your needs better, you will be best placed to decide what will help you the most at that time.
Some days, you might need quiet time to rest, and some days you might need to go out for a walk with a friend.
Knowing yourself will also help you manage any social commitments. Whilst you might feel a need to say yes to every invite so that you don’t miss out, doing so can be very draining when you have a long-term health condition to manage as well.
Being in tune with how you’re feeling can help you choose what to put in your calendar, so that you can be present and enjoy these events, rather than feeling overwhelmed and drained.
Recognise that not every day will be the same
It can be so frustrating when you can easily do something one week, only to find that you can’t do it the next.
Part of mental wellbeing is accepting that not every day is the same, and you can support yourself by acting with compassion and kindness.
Try to use quiet time as an opportunity to make plans for when you’re feeling more able to go out. Having something planned can be helpful, giving you something to look forward to.
Some people also find it helpful to complete a smaller task than the one you were trying to do – even if you simply read a bit of a favourite book, research something you’re interested in, cook a simple delicious meal, or call a friend.
Quality time, not quantity
All of us have limited energy and resources, but it can be hard to recognise when you’re taking part in something just because you think you should, or because you find it hard to set boundaries.
Part of managing mental health is being good at knowing when an activity will cause you to feel overwhelmed, rather than fulfilled.
That doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to say no to a dinner with a friend, for example, but you might organise it earlier in the evening when you’ll feel less tired, or in your own home.
You may also feel able to say to them that you’d love to meet up, but you can only stay for an hour or two.
Your friends will be happy to get to spend time with you, and will be understanding of your needs.
A better quality of life
Living with a long-term health condition such as gout, endometriosis, diabetes or Crohns can be demanding.
Managing your mental health is vital for your overall wellbeing and happiness, allowing you to do more than you would if you felt overwhelmed and exhausted.
Remember that your friends and family will still want to help you and spend time with you – you’re not a burden.
Luciana, a proud Brazilian, blends her passion for jiu-jitsu with a deep-rooted connection to spirituality and well-being. Her dedication to the martial art reflects not just a physical discipline, but a holistic approach to life, seeking balance in mind, body, and spirit. Whether on the mats or in meditation, Luciana embodies the essence of harmony and inner strength.