Don’t Overlook Emotional Wellness When Dealing With Chronic Illness
Paying attention to emotional wellness doesn’t come easy for some of us. It is often easy to sweep our emotions under the rug and function on autopilot until we burn out. Then we rinse and repeat this toxic cycle.
But pretending that everything is OK when it’s not is as unhealthy as not talking about emotions at all. Coping in unhealthy ways can lead to even more emotional damage and result in more trauma.
As part of Emotional Wellness Month, I’d like to offer this thought: Our emotional wellness is a key ingredient for our overall sense of well-being. And since our emotional health is so bound up in our physical health, it is even more important for people who are dealing with chronic illness to have healthy coping strategies for managing emotions. It can literally be the difference between life and death in some instances.
The mind-body connection is real. I know that when my emotional health is out of whack and I’m filled with anxious thoughts, depressive feelings, and gut-wrenching grief, I don’t feel good physically. I get symptoms of nausea, tense muscles, and horrible headaches. And this often increases the emotional turmoil I feel. I sometimes experience a trauma response, which affects me emotionally and physically and can lead to even worse symptoms.
Learning what being emotionally healthy means for me has taken time.
I am learning that to help myself feel better, I can try to choose my thoughts to help me set the tone for how I want my day to go. Before I get out of bed each day, I say a prayer, which helps to get my mind in a healthy space. When I am anxious or feeling stressed, I pray several times a day.
Talking to someone I trust also helps to focus me and guide my thinking. Going for walks in nature or listening to music that calms me helps me to choose my thoughts, too. Sometimes an ugly cry is what I need to clear my head. It’s helpful to have a number of different coping strategies.
Having a chronic illness means that so much of our physical health is out of our control. But tending to our emotional health can help us to recover some of that control. The connection between the mind and the body shows us that nurturing our emotional health can have a positive effect on our physical well-being.
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