For many families, illness becomes a reality at some stage or another. Illness can range from a chronic illness to a sudden serious diagnosis or a condition that requires changes to your lifestyle and home. Whatever the nature of the illness, there are likely to be some common concerns and considerations for your family. Whether you or another family member is the sufferer, being aware of potential pitfalls and how to stay positive will help everyone. Illness is an enormous physical and psychological strain on the person experiencing it. But the family, friends, and loved ones of that person face challenges of their own with the regard to the situation too. With communication, mutual support, and professional advice, we can face illness positively and productively. If you and your family are coping with illness, or you simply want to be prepared, consider these seven helpful steps.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Emotions
It is now widely recognized that our mental state can have a profound effect on our physical health. This is never more true than when our health is already compromised. If we are tense, anxious and stressed it can have a knock-on effect on our overall health and wellbeing. As a result, many families refuse to acknowledge their own emotions for fear of placing strain on themselves and others. Illness sufferers may want to put on a brave face for the sake of their loved ones. Carers may feel frightened or guilty to acknowledge that they are exhausted or losing patience. But acknowledging your emotions does not mean that you simply give in to them. On the contrary, when we face our emotions we are then in a position to deal with them effectively. Repressing them can make the feeling worse. It inevitably leads to disaster whether as an outburst or emotional exhaustion. We can acknowledge how we’re feeling either to trusted friends or simply to ourselves. If we’re feeling angry about the situation, it can also stir other powerful emotions like guilt. We should try to be patient with ourselves and understand what may have caused it. Feeling anger doesn’t make us a bad or cruel person. We might be angry with the situation because of the pain it is causing our loved one or all the disappointment it has caused. Once we have firmly acknowledged the emotion, we can then work to dissolve it as best we can. When we feel anger rising, we should try and think of the fact that it is no-one’s fault, for example. No-one wants to suffer from illness, and the illness itself is inanimate. We are not being deliberately harmed. This is a natural situation we have found ourselves in. We should cherish the time we have and not make things worse by becoming angry and negative. Feeling guilt is also exceptionally common. We might feel guilty for feeling afraid or having “selfish” thoughts even though it is someone else who is ill. Again, we should try to be kind to ourselves. Guilt is a way of punishing ourselves. Aren’t we being punished enough? Aren’t we in a difficult enough situation without adding blame, guilt, and self-loathing to it? If you feel guilty for the way you handled something in the past or for not doing enough, now is the time to make amends. Let the past go and set things to rights now. You might feel guilty for being the most afraid of what will happen to you. Try to remember that this is an understandable feeling and doesn’t make you unkind or heartless. Why not try to take some positive action to plan for the future and feel more secure? Or talk to your loved one and explain how worried you are. You may both feel this way and be able to reassure each other. At least then you will not have to deal with the additional guilt of feeling dishonest or like you are hiding something.
Step 2: Stay Positive
A positive frame of mind is not always easy to achieve and can seem abstract. So think of it in terms of a grateful mind. Think of what you have to be grateful for during a difficult situation. Perhaps you have a wonderful, loving family you can be grateful for or supportive friends. Perhaps you have excellent nurses, or a reliable doctors. Illness never feels like a positive situation, but many people are dealing with illness alone and without proper care. We should try to keep perspective and see things from a positive angle. Not only does this make us feel better, it has an impact on those around us too. We are better able to respond to challenges and difficulties when we feel positive. We will also not further exacerbate the situation by getting tense, rundown, and depressed.
Step 3: Consult Professionals
Professional advice may seem like the most obvious step when dealing with health issues. But not everyone is aware of all their option. Consulting a professional during times of illness isn’t just limited to a doctor or nurse, for example. We may wish to discuss things with a counselor, support group, or even fellow sufferer. ‘Professional’ can simply refer to someone with great experience of the situation. One of the most common ways for illness to affect us negatively is through isolation. Consulting professionals will help to reassure us and ensure we stay informed of our situation. The health issue may affect other aspects of our life such as our finances, housing, or legal situation. We should consult professionals in these areas too. Feeling like practical issues are taken care of can ensure that we focus only on our health and recovery.
Step 4: Consider Alternatives
Many people suffering from a serious or long term illness keep an open mind towards different types of therapy. While receiving conventional treatment they may also explore more natural options, for example. Dietary changes, exercise, supplements, and even meditation can all help aid recovery. Many studies have confirmed a positive outcome, especially when combined with conventional medicine. Even people who have found conventional medicine ineffective have then found relief through alternatives. We should try to keep an open mind and support family members who wish to explore this option.
Step 5: Take Care Of Yourself
When focusing on a suffering family member or even when distracted by our own illness, our level of self-care can lapse. We may still be doing our normal routine like showering and dressing. But it is equally important to still ensure a good night’s sleep and effective nutrition. Our sleep can be disrupted in times of stress and our appetite can waver too. But poor sleep and diet only ever exacerbate health conditions or leave us feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than ever. We should be vigilant in taking care of ourselves and encouraging our family members to do the same. We may find that undertaking even simple daily tasks is becoming difficult or overwhelming. We shouldn’t hesitate to seek professional support in this situation. During times of severe stress, this is very common but it is also treatable.
Step 6: Stay Up To Date
Many of us consider the internet our best resource for knowledge and information. We should take care to only read reputable sources when it relates to medical information. But it can also be positive and helpful to stay up to date with various options and treatments. We can visit sites like www.Poseida.com to read up on gene therapy, for example. Or support forums to understand what has had positive effects for other sufferers. We should be careful to avoid unnecessary “horror stories” or unreliable advice. But keeping our ear to the ground on new developments and treatment can be encouraging and helpful.
Step 7: Communicate
While it is true that we all deal with stress in different ways, the stereotype of the “strong, silent type” has done a lot of damage. Failing to communicate with loved ones during times of stress can lead to feeling of disconnection and resentment. Some people find it easy to express their feelings and for others it is incredibly difficult. Even if you find it difficult to communicate, it can be helpful to express this too! Explain to others that you find it difficult to communicate. You can offer to listen to their thoughts and concerns for support. It may even make it easier to express your own feelings. If someone asks you a question or what you’re feeling, try not to dismiss it. If it is too painful to discuss then say so. This is still a form of communication. Explain that you are not ready to discuss it but reassure them that you will when you feel able, for example. Or perhaps you can find a method of communication that works better for you than face to face. Some people find it easier to communicate in writing such as letters or emails, or over the phone. Whatever suits you as a method of communication, adopt it. It can still be a form of communication to tell others that you appreciate them but you’re not quite ready to talk.