7 Ways I Look After My Mental Health When Living With Chronic Illness

A bath set up. There is a white bath top with candles lit around the edge of the bath. On the left hand side is bottles of products and on the right is tall white candles. Across the bath is a bath caddie that has an open book and a mug of tea with a spoon in it.

Photo from Pexels

2020 was a huge struggle for everyone physically, mentally and emotionally. For me, 2020 was not only challenging due to being in a pandemic, but I was also hit with the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. The diagnosis was bittersweet as I was happy that I finally had answers as to why I was in a lot of pain, but in the same breath, I was angry and upset. The doctors believe that it was due to the accident I had at work, which is as separate issue; however, a lot of anger and resentment stemmed from that.

I remember leaving the hospital and thinking, ‘what the hell do I do now?’ I had several days at home being upset and then I started to do my research and tried to learn as much as I could about Fibromyalgia and I am still learning. A lot of the websites and information spoke about the importance of a positive mind set and healthy mental health habits. When I am in constant pain and exhausted due to lack of sleep, I do think about how I can feel anything but down and upset. It’s okay not to feel positive and happy all the time; however, what is important is to acknowledge a bad day and then start fresh the next day. I have made the conscious decision that I am not going to let Fibromyalgia rule my life or my mental health. Even though I have this condition, I am still me.

There are a lot of different ways to look after your mental health and I am going to share my coping mechanisms and hope that they help you if you are struggling to look after your mental health when living with a chronic illness:

1. Journaling

Putting pen to paper every evening has been a great way to check in with my mental health. Each evening, I write about my day; I write down what I have achieved, what I am grateful for and where I could have made better choices. This reflection allows me to highlight positive actions and I can focus on them rather than the negative aspects from my day. Every small win is still a win!

When I have a bad health day, whether that be physical, mental or both, writing in my journal is therapeutic and I am able to write down any negative thoughts and feelings. When I have written them down, I can address them and work through them individually or discuss what I have written with my loved ones.

Being able to look back at my bad days in my journal, acts as a great reminder that bad days do not last forever. I decided to journal in the evenings, so that I can finish my day on a positive task and this helps me to clean my mind before I get into bed.

2. Affirmations

I use affirmations in the morning; I write a couple of affirmations that I feel would be appropriate for that day. Talking positively about my life lifts my mood and enables me to work on my self-esteem. It is something that takes time, but alongside journaling, this practice really helps me to keep in a positive mind set and makes me look for the positive aspects or where I can say that is a win for me today.

3. Creating A Structure

During lockdown, my daily structure was disrupted and when I received my diagnosis, my life became disorganised. My days would consist of limited or no sleep, lying around when I was having a bad day. However, since implementing a firm structure to my day, I have started to notice improvements. Trying to have a better sleep routine to help with my tiredness and forcing myself to get dressed and aim to do at least 3 tasks every day. Every day is different and the key I have found to helping care for my mental health is not getting frustrated with myself if I didn’t get anything done that day; or even if I only managed to get washed and dressed that day.

4. Speak To Someone Every Day

Staying in communication with family members and friends is really helpful because I have the support of my loved ones. If I have a bad day with my symptoms and I am feeling low, they do a great job of cheering me up; this could be via text or video call; it reminds me that I am not alone in this journey. Just knowing that they are there makes me feel that I am strong enough to keep a healthy mind set and look after my mental health.

A brown haired woman saw on a bed reading a book or a magazine. Next to her is a phone and she is holding a green bottle and has black sunglasses on the bed.Photo from Pexels

5. Trying To Be Kind To Myself

I was always guilty of being unkind to myself; I would get frustrated with myself if I didn’t finish my ‘to do’ list, or if I had a nap and ‘wasted’ part of the day. Now I am learning to be kinder to myself and beginning to acknowledge that sometimes my body will let me down as it no longer as it once was. Being hard on myself and talking down to myself only made me feel worse, so focusing on what I do achieve each day makes me feel good about myself and helps me deal with the pain that I have.

6. Resting When I Need To

Before my diagnosis, I was always so busy! I never sat still, but now I am having to adjust to a different pace of life, which I have found very difficult. I have been practising resting when I feel tired and it helps me to rationalise and deal with pain. I am aware of the impact of lack of rest and sleep as I experienced a lot of upset when I was tired because the pain felt unbearable at times.

7. Practising Self-Care

Self-care for me is more important now than before my diagnosis. I regularly schedule in time for activities that I enjoy. I love being creative and it makes me happy which improves my mental health. Creating mental health habits like writing in my journal also helps me appreciate what I do have. Looking after me has now got to be something I focus on to keep a healthy, balanced mindset.

Not every day is a good day and I am having to take every day as it comes. However, at the end of each day, I get stronger because I am living my life, but just differently to how I thought it would be. Fortunately, I am still me and this illness will not break me. I hope these tips help you or your loved one dealing with living with a chronic illness.

How do you cope with your chronic illness? Do you have loved ones who live with a chronic illness? I’d love to hear in the comments.

51 thoughts on “7 Ways I Look After My Mental Health When Living With Chronic Illness

    1. Oh gosh. That is horrible for your mum. It is so frustrating because in your mind you can do and want to do so much and your body just doesn’t/can’t do it. Thank you for your kind comment. X

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  1. I could honestly relate to so much on this list – prior to lockdown I really wasn’t kind to myself when it came to having breaks or resting but lockdown helped me produce slightly better boundaries! I also really struggle with sleep so i can really relate to that aspect of this post x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just researched all about fibromyalgia and wow… it’s so awful, I’m sorry. Taking care of yourself, journaling, being kinder — these are productive things you can do. Don’t pressure yourself so much. God bless you and may you have good health. Thank you for sharing with us your experience and advice.

    http://www.lifebeginsattwenty.com

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  3. Talking to someone and being kind to yourself! Such great ones. It’s tough to take care of yourself sometimes, these are great ways to do it so thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with this chronic illness, I can’t imagine what you must be going through. I’m glad you are taking strides to look after your mental health, it is so important to our livelihoods and the pandemic has really allowed me to take needed rest. I’m still learning and it’s not easy, but I’m already starting to see the benefits of self care and rest

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  5. RESTING WHEN YOU NEED TO. *applauds* Yes!! I think that’s the most important one for me, but also the hardest. I have a chronic illness as well and it’s why I’ve been blogging full time for nearly 6 years. But it can be really challenging for me to take time to just rest when I need it. I’m such an overachiever, perfectionist, and workaholic that I get angry with myself when I can’t accomplish the work I had planned. But sometimes I need to just take a day to be sick and that’s okay. Thank you for the reminder. I really appreciate your vulnerability in this post as well!

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    1. That is the same as me I am so guilty of not resting when I need to or overdoing it. It is so frustrating that mentally I am ready but my body is like no sorry I need to rest. I would love to blog full time. I am currently off sick but hoping to get into a position when I can go back to work. Thank you for sharing your experience and kind comments xx

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  6. When you said : “I remember leaving the hospital and thinking, ‘what the hell do I do now?’ ” I totally felt that. This must be so hard on you but you found ways to help you cope with your illness. I just really love how you are able to do what’s good for you. You are so inspiring! These are great tips to look after your mental health. My favorite ones is to create a routine that works for you and to be kind to yourself because we all need that. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

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  7. Looking after your mental health is so important. I know things like this can be difficult to write about. I have also been journaling a lot over the past year. Most of the time I tend to handle difficult things in my life by… ignoring them. For obvious reasons this isn’t always the best solution. So I feel like putting pen to paper and getting out thoughts crowding my mind has really helped provide some clarity and just an output in getting all my feelings out instead of hoarding them all inside. Thanks for sharing this post ❤

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  8. What a great post Lauren! And thank you for writing about such a personal topic, I can’t imagine what you are going through but I’m sure this post and you sharing your advice will help others in similar situations. Self love and self care is so important but isn’t always easy.

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  9. I do not have a chronic illness, but I have so much empathy and respect and awe for people like you who, while you do have those ‘what the hell do I do now” moments, find positive and powerful ways to keep finding and creating happiness.

    Writing helps me handle all the trips I face in life. Opening up does too,
    Thank you for sharing your story and all the ways you keep loving life! ❤

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  10. This post is a good way to educate people on how to mentally cope with a chronic illness. Thanks for sharing your experience and for showing your vulnerability. I wish you to continue with this positive attitude and to continue to find solutions to ease your mind. What you are doing is encouraging and inspiring to others.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A really insightful post. My mum has recently had a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and ME which has been difficult for her. Thank you for sharing. I will be sharing this with my Mum and I hope you’re doing well! X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can completely relate it is so hard and difficult. I have fibromyalgia and also chronic pain syndrome both due to an accident at work. So it is hard. I hope your mum finds it helpful also I have other posts on it if she wants to have a read. Any questions I will be happy to answer if I can ☺️ wishing your mum best wishes xx

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  12. I’m glad you finally got some answers! I think lockdown has also helped me to set boundaries and time to relax that I never did before and it’s been great to have more down-time.

    Tash – A Girl with a View

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  13. I don’t have chronic illness and I can’t say if I’m clinically diagnosed with mental illness but I could feel you and how journaling kept our mind sane. Writing down all our thoughts may it be from a bad or good day, really helps ease our emotions. Thank you for sharing, this personal, I hope you’re doing well. xx

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  14. Lush Post babe. Having fibro is so hard isn’t it, I’m sorry you have it also!! You are more than welcome to message me any time to talk/vent about it xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story and experience with us. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to battle both mental illness and physical illness, on top of a pandemic! You are definitely strong and the 7 ways in which you look after yourself is powerful. Thanks again for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Resting when I need to is one that I’m REALLY working on throughout this whole lockdown situation. I was 110% guilty of being that person who was ALWAYS on the go. When the lockdown hit, most of my evening plans were suddenly cancelled. It forced me to realize that I not only needed to spend some ‘down’ time but that I enjoyed relaxing and spending that time with my husband and our pets.

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  17. I love this post so much. Well done for talking out about your struggles, pet. I think this is so wonderful and the advice you’ve given here is vital. I LOVE journaling for helping to keep track of my symptoms and help me get my thoughts/feelings out. That and it serves as a great place to store ideas.

    I also can’t stress how vital it is to communicate with people, even if it’s just online.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for sharing, I have had trouble sometimes finding time to rest when my Diabetes decides not to play ball, so having some time for me to do self-care is great ideas where that is colouring in book or opening up photoshop to complete a graphics challenge 🙂 I’m also glad to hear that you have your diagnosis now which should rest your mind 🙂

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  19. Living with chronic illnesses can be exceptionally hard on your mental health. I know in the past it has been for me. Having that magic diagnosis can open doors to finding ways to cope and heal, but also finding the right combination of things to help manage the pain and fatigue. Having a positive mindset is super important!

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