18 Steps for Living Better with Chronic Illness

Written By: JoJoisms - Sep• 01•14

Visual JoJoism43The last several posts were all about letting you know that you are not alone and that someone cares. I pray they continue to help those with chronic illness so please feel free to pass them along to those who need some support and to feel understood. Also they are a great way to let friends and family understand how you feel. Here is a list of the best ones to share:

1. JoJo’s Journey: 35 Years with Chronic Illness
2. I Have a Confession to Make…My Battle with Depression
3. Discovery: Spiritual Deficiency
4. It’s Not Vanity; It’s Part of Chronic Illness

If medical science cannot make your chronic illness go away completely, you have to find ways to make living with it easier.  I’ve come up with a few things that help me.  Apply one, some or all of them as they suit you and your situation, but I’d love for all of you to share your ideas and what has helped you.  So, please leave a comment with your feedback so all my readers can benefit from our collective experience.

Attitude Ideas:

1. Be flexible

Chronic illness takes twists and turns. No matter how well you plan and/or how faithful you are to your meds/vitamins/diet, you will have times when you won’t be able to do X.  Be flexible enough, if your work allows, to be okay doing Y or Z or M.O.U.S.E.  If I don’t have the energy to bounce back after a difficult or stressful weekend, I may need to devote Monday to staying in and even taking a nap if need be.

2. Develop and count on a sense of humor

If you don’t laugh, well…you know the alternative. I make a joke of things. Makes me feel better. Makes others around me feel better too.  But for times when I can’t joke, I can usually count on some friends, family and my dh to say something funny to cheer me up.  Life can be hard, even if you don’t struggle with chronic issues.  Making your struggle into humor is just plain uplifting. I’m not saying to make light of what you are going through, but I am saying to make light of what you are going through.  Now before you ask me for the Jibberish Subtitles, let me explain.  I don’t ever say that what I’m going through is easy or fun, but I do point out the funny parts of it.  In that way, I’m making it lighter and lifting my spirits.

3. Be open to new things

Sometimes you need to be open to the possibility that something new might help you–even if you’ve tried it before. Sometimes circumstances aren’t right and, as you gain more strength or balance your diet or meds, that new idea might just work.

4. Don’t discount the silly ideas

Those new things can sometimes come in the form of the ridiculous. How can some oil that smells like lavender make me feel better?  Does it make sense that drinking something to give you more stomach acid will help?  Well, yes.  What may sound silly or ridiculous to you, might just help you through something.  Lavender essential oil and other oils has actually helped me sleep better.  And my heartburn isn’t a result of too much acid, but too little such that I am not digesting my food. This causes other issues resulting in my heartburn.

5. Don’t invest too much time or money in the ridiculous

On the other hand, some things that sound ridiculous actually are.  Don’t spend too much time or money on things that don’t work.  I only try things that show a preponderance of evidence that it works.  And I only spend money on things that are reasonable given my financial situation and that evidence.  Otherwise you’ll be a broke and busy chronically ill person.

The Practical Ideas:

6. Have your kids help

Kids can be a big help to you and, generally, they LOVE helping mom out. They feel special and a feeling of accomplishment to help.  Little kids can get you a glass of water or bring you the laundry basket, or set the table.  Older kids can help the younger kids, do some of the housework, chores or even make dinner.  Teenagers can run errands, if they drive.

7. Plan

Dinners were always my afternoon problem.  Planning out your menu for the week does help because you don’t need to think much about what to make, which I find takes the most amount of time.  Brain fog kicks in and has me running around the kitchen trying to remember what I’m making, much less find all the ingredients. Keep things with you in your purse that you might need when you are out.  If you are on a special diet, keep some approved snacks in your purse in case you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and you need to eat.  A little planning goes a long way.

8. The crock pot is your friend

The crock pot is my dearest friend.  I love being able to throw things in there in the morning and have dinner ready by the time the family needs to eat. Cuts down on that frantic time from 3-4pm when I used to run around the house trying to find the one ingredient I needed and then looking online for a suitable substitute I happened to have in my pantry.

9. Shower at night

Mornings are usually pretty rushed and I am exhausted when I get up.  Taking a shower at night means I don’t need to do my hair or makeup afterward.  Cuts down on the time.  In the morning I can style and put my makeup on without having to worry about taking a shower. This works for me, though it might not work for everyone.

10. Styler

I bought myself an electric styling brush that has been a life saver.  It straightens and even curls my hair when dry.  So when I wake up, I can simply run the brush through my hair and I’m done in 10-15 minutes as opposed to taking 45-60 minutes blow drying, curling and spraying my hair.

11. Break up house work

I used to clean my entire house in one day.  I can no longer perform that little feat of physical activity so I break up my housework into short spurts each day Monday through Friday.  I wash clothes on Mondays, dust and clean the bathrooms on Tuesdays, vacuum and do the floors on Wednesdays, clean the kitchen and microwave on Thursdays and do more laundry (sheets and towels) on Fridays.

12. Spread out outings

Have a few days when you don’t go anywhere to recoup and regroup.  Don’t try to go too many places in one day.  Even if you aren’t the one driving, it can zap your energy to do the shopping, look for a car, meet up with a friend for dinner and pick up your prescription on the way home.  Ask me how I know.

13. Buy extra at the store if you can and go shopping less often

If you can, buy two or three dishwashing detergents, jars of spaghetti sauce or hair spray when you go shopping.  I’ve had too many times were I ran out of something and had to do an emergency run to the grocery store.  Not only is that an extra outing, but it’s done with the stress of having to run out and run back.  Double whammy energy zapper.

14. Shop Walmart–less trips

I love to shop at Walmart.  I can go to just one place and get groceries, car tires, a birthday gift for Aunt Millie and take out for dinner all in one stop!

15. Make lists so you don’t forget

Part of chronic illness for so many is brain fog.  I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to take my meds, eat lunch, do laundry… I make a list each day of what needs to be done and include things some might think to be ridiculous like taking my vitamins, eating lunch or taking a shower.  😀

16. Reminders on computer or iphone

I used to use paper lists, but brain fogged minds often lose the list.  So I began using my Outlook Calendar.  When my computer was zapped by lightning, I transitioned to my phone, which was better for me because it has a loud tone that was near me when it went off.  I can’t tell you how many times I came upstairs at 4pm to find my computer had reminded me to eat lunch.

17. Schedule naps or take them when you need them

Sounds like a no brainer, but chronic illness usually means we get sleepy or tired–especially at about 3pm.  I used to schedule a nap around that time because I knew I would be good for nothing unless I did.  Sometimes I have to be flexible and nap at 9am if I wasn’t able to sleep much the night before. Now this works out great if you don’t work or work from home.  Those of you who work outside the home, will not find this helpful unless your boss is okay with your head down on your desk at 3pm every day.

18. Invite others over so  you don’t have to go anywhere if that is easier for you. It is for me.

I invite people to come over to my house to visit as often as I can instead of having to drive out to them. It’s more taxing for me to have to plan and execute a car trip out than it is to have someone over for lunch.  You may find it different for you, but this works for me.

So…what things help you live better with chronic illness?  Please share your tips as a comment below.



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  1. Hi JoJo. My heart goes out to those with chronic illness. My father-in-love has had an ‘invisible illness’ for several years now and it has really taken a toll on his mental and emotional wellness. I suffered PTSD and depression and it felt like it would never go away. I started watching comedy-anything. I *needed* to laugh. I started diffusing mood elevating essential oils. I started gardening (as much as my back would allow). As a wife and mom who serves, serves, and serves some more, I had to stop doing that. I needed to establish time for myself and make sure everyone knew how much I needed it. That’s it in a nut shell. My Father-in-love is a bit more challenging, he has dementia now and it has developed quite a stubborn streak in him.

  2. JoJoisms says:

    I’ll be praying for your father-in-love and you as well. I hear you about taking time for yourself. Thanks for sharing that tip. Something we all need to do.

  3. koplax says:

    It is appropriate time to make some plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this publish and if I may I desire to recommend you few attention-grabbing issues or tips. Maybe you could write subsequent articles referring to this article. I wish to read more issues approximately it!

  4. JoJoisms says:

    Stay tuned to the blog. I’ll be writing more on this and related topics.

  5. jake says:

    Love it, Alyson. Thanks!

  6. JoJoisms says:

    I’m not Alyson. I’m JoJo.

  7. Kista says:

    […]18 Steps for Living Better with Chronic Illness «[…]

  8. LACHAT says:

    well said and written! Thanks so much