Dealing with illness | Education Support

Dealing with illness

Dealing with a chronic or serious illness can feel overwhelming and bring around many unwanted changes. It can often make us feel powerless and out of control. These feelings can trigger our flight, fight and freeze responses which can then make it hard for us to work out how to live with this new reality (see ABC model).

Understanding your condition

Often people can go into denial about their illness as it can feel easier than dealing with more difficult feelings of loss or anger. However, this can mean that people do not find out what they need to best manage their condition. Ask your doctor many questions to find out as much as you can about your illness. Do research online or through patient associations.

Work

It is good to be open with your school, college or university about your illness to see what changes they can make to help you manage best. Perhaps there are ways of flexi working or reducing hours to help. Employers have a duty of care to make changes and try to accommodate people’s needs. Also, if they know more about your illness they will understand the implications it may have in terms of your resilience, performance or time that you may need for medical appointments.

Self-care

Looking after yourself will increase your tank of resilience to be able to deal with the changes or implications of the illness. Eating well, exercising, reducing stress, doing things that you enjoy can be even more important (see Eating well, Sleeping well, Physical wellbeing).  Also ensuring that you are taking medication at the right times, adhering to any exercises needed to support your illness, and attending regular appointments will all help.  

It is often important to face that you may need to make changes to your lifestyle to meet the different needs of your illness. Cutting down on social arrangements that might feel tiring or changing the type or amount of work you do can help fill your tank and increase your resilience.

Management of pain

Pain can be debilitating and hard to manage. Meditation, mindfulness and hypnotherapy cannot get rid of the physical pain but it can assist. This can be done through apps or going to group or individual sessions.  

Dealing with our our emotions

People can often experience feelings of anger, despair, hopelessness, sadness and depression in relation to an illness. Here are ways to help manage these. Work out which ones work best for you and incorporate them in your routine:

  • Exercising
  • Eating well
  • Getting out in nature
  • Spending time with friends or family
  • Mindfulness or meditation
  • Journaling: writing down your emotions, the thoughts that drive them, checking for errors in thinking and re-scripting (see Emotional wellbeing and ABC model)
  • Joining support groups
  • Therapy (most hospitals provide specialist psychotherapists to help manage the emotional impact of the illness.  If not talking therapies can help).
  • Planning your schedule to ensure there are enough times for rest and breaks (see Work life balance)

What can you do?