5 Ways to Care for Your Mental Health While Living with a Chronic Disease

5 Ways to Care for Your Mental Health While Living with a Chronic Disease

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle with my mental health. Whether it’s due to the stress of medical appointments or just living with the symptoms, the state of our emotions is a common complaint among those of us living with a chronic disease like endometriosis. Luckily, there is always something that can be done to improve our mental health, even if just a little.

Following are strategies that currently make my life a little easier:

1. Taking a mental break from the illness

Because it’s my job to write about endometriosis, I end up spending a good chunk of my life talking about it and doing research. It can easily feel as if endometriosis is my entire existence. The same applies when it’s the only thing people ask about. What works for me is to designate days that are illness-free, even when symptoms are bothering me.

On weekends, I don’t read about my illness, write about it, or even talk about it. Those are the days for fashion magazines, drag shows, or going through my record collection. 

2. Listening to podcasts on completely unrelated topics 

Instead of choosing topics I can relate to, such as life with a chronic illness or anything uterus-related, I listen to something I know nothing about. This gives my mind something to really focus on, breaking cycles of repetitive thoughts.

Jonathan Van Ness, from the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” explores completely random topics in each episode of his “Getting Curious” podcast. Whether it’s the political situation in Central America, ice skating, or the perils of toxic stress, every week he chats with an expert on a different subject. His approach is funny, informative, and very easy to listen to. 

3. Not depriving myself of things I enjoy

This especially applies when it comes to food. Managing a chronic illness can involve eliminating foods that can cause discomfort. I’m on an endo diet, which means I avoid inflammatory foods. I recently realized that because I was so intent on avoiding things that were “not good” for me, I was getting bored with — and depressed about — my limited food choices.

When out, I sometimes chose not to eat altogether. I was losing my appetite and my ability to enjoy food.  So, I recently went back to coffee and … pizza. While caffeine is considered an inflammatory agent, having the odd cup of coffee lifts my spirits and makes me feel like I am treating myself. More importantly, it makes me forget about my chronic illness. I only indulge in pizza once in a blue moon, so the bloating is worth it to me.

Dog in a cafe
Jarvis helping me to celebrate my return to the world of coffee. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

4. Making the effort to look my best for myself

Chronic fatigue can be the biggest contributor to our most negative thoughts. If I am feeling tired, I will reach for pajama bottoms and oversized sweaters. Yet, channeling coach potato vibes never does me any good. I make the effort to wear the nicest clothes I own that are comfortable, and only wear pajamas in bed or on a purposely lazy Sunday. 

Do not wait until you have to be somewhere fancy to look good. Celebrate your worth by washing your face and wearing a bright lipstick or your favorite top. 

5. Sleeping as much as I can

Anxiety and depression can be sleep disruptors, so if my body is asking for rest, I don’t deny it. I go to bed as early as I can. The key is to set an alarm so as not to fret about waking up on time — hello, added stress! I force myself to get up as soon as the buzzer rings.

Our mental health can sometimes feel like a battlefield. It’s important to recognize what can trigger the bad days, but also what will provide us with the smallest amounts of relief. In this case, every single droplet of positivity counts.

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.
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My name is Jessie. I am a writer and part-time Yoga instructor living in the south of England. Since being diagnosed with endometriosis, I’m determined to be the boss of my chronic illness. You’ll find me with two sausage dogs curled up on my belly and my duvet nearby, writing about life and whatever my mind thinks up. This is my journey.

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