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Four Steps to Moving on After Battling a Long-Term Illness

Four steps to recovery from long-term illness

You’ve pretty much conquered that persistent health problem and are a long way down the road to recovery. But after many years of constant pain or regular flare-ups, you may be struggling to move on. If that’s you, don’t panic. Here are a few steps you can take towards long-term wellness, and to becoming a new and improved you.

Stop thinking like a patient.

If you’re used to going to appointment after appointment, scan after scan, and treatment after treatment, it can be a shock to the system to suddenly let it all go. What should feel liberating may actually feel like a new form of bondage. ‘Learned helplessness’ is a recognized psychological condition that is born out of a sense of powerlessness. When a medical professional gives your symptoms a label (for example ‘arthritis’, ‘depression’ or ‘heart disease’), it can actually help to validate your physical and/or mental struggle. Many people hold fast to this label and allow it to define them. Then when they are cured of the condition they no longer know who they are without it. The familiarity of the constant appointments and prescriptions is stripped away, leaving them feeling exposed and vulnerable. If this is you, it’s time to reshape your thinking! Stop living as a patient, and start enjoying life.

Call a truce with your body.

You’ve probably put your body through a lot during your illness, and vice versa! While your body was inflicting pain or other symptoms on you, you may have been inflicting lotions, potions and outlandish notions on your body. There is a lot of mystery about the way the human body works, and each of us is different, so the way your soul heals will differ from the way mine would. My advice would be to call a truce. Stop numbing any lingering symptoms and start listening to your body. What is it trying to tell you? Do you need more rest? Better nutrition? Regular exercise? A more holistic approach to health? A detox? A particular supplement? You may feel like you don’t have time to incorporate these things, but caring for your body should continue to be a priority, providing that you are aiming your energies in the right direction. It’s only when you start to accept your body’s responses and learn from them that true healing can really begin.

Give your mind a break.

The chances are, you’re still in monitoring mode. Your mind is constantly ticking over, trying to remember everything you need to do to stay healthy. From weighing yourself religiously to buying into every fancy vitamin available, lathering your skin with the latest miracle cream and monitoring your bowel movements, your head is full of facts and stats. You’re micromanaging your body’s responses to the point where you can’t sleep for thinking about it, and you struggle to concentrate on simple daily tasks. It’s great to keep an open mind about remedies that might help you along your wellness journey, but remember to give your mind a break. Take time out to relax without thinking about all the things you should or shouldn’t be doing. After all, stress can be far more dangerous than forgetting to take that fifth supplement of the day! If, while you’re reading this, your mind is racing back and forth, it’s time to start being intentional about your thought processes. Practices like yoga, mindfulness, and prayer can help to focus the mind and lift stress.

Be realistic.

There is no such thing as perfect health. None of us will experience a painful, symptomless existence until the day we pass peacefully into eternity. Our bodies are fallible. Sometimes we will feel sad or rundown, and we might even get really sick on occasion. There may be aches and pains to contend with, especially as we get older. It’s important to be realistic and not to wait around for perfect health before we start living our lives. By all means, take care of your mind and body, but remember to take advantage of all that life has to offer.

If you’re recovering from a long-term illness but are struggling to come to terms with your improved health or the after-effects, speak to an integrative medical practitioner. He or she will help you to live a more balanced, harmonious life as you learn to really leave that chronic condition behind.

Patricia Deckert, D.O.

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