When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, it’s natural to feel different waves of emotions. Fear, sadness, or anger may be some of the reactions you have. All of these emotions are entirely normal and a natural part of the process.
But a diagnosis of a chronic condition doesn’t have to ruin your life. There are ways to move past these emotions and on to acceptance. Here are some tips.
1. Take a deep breath
A chronic condition means you’ll likely be dealing with it for a lifetime. You don’t have to make any decisions today, or even tomorrow. Take some time for the news to sink in. When you have a clear head, you’ll be better equipped to examine all your options and decide on the best course of action.
2. Don’t go it on your own
About half of all adults, almost 120 million people, have one or more chronic health conditions according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are plenty of folks who have been there, done that (got the t-shirt!), and can help you cope. Look for support groups through your healthcare provider, your local hospital, or a place of worship.
3. Count on friends and family
In addition to connecting with people who share similar experiences, reach out to friends and family for support. Although it can be difficult to ask for help, your loved ones undoubtedly want to do something to lighten your load. Think about specific things they can do, whether it’s accompanying you to a doctor’s appointment or doing weekly grocery shopping, they will surely appreciate any suggestions on how to best help you during this time.
4. Make smart doctor appointments
To get the best out of every doctor’s visit, make sure that you’re well-prepared. Come armed with a written list of questions and concerns and make sure they answer them all to your satisfaction. Keep asking until you understand – ask them to explain again, or even draw a picture if that might help. Consider bringing a friend along to jot down notes and help you remember and understand everything the doctor said.
5. Be proactive
Take responsibility for your own health. Start a healthy eating and exercise plan. Stop smoking. Follow through with all the home care you can. If you have high blood pressure, get a blood pressure monitor. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, check your blood sugar regularly. Keeping on top of your body and its signals can help prevent little problems from ballooning into big ones.
6. Organize your records
If you’re seeing multiple providers and have a lot of health information, this can be a challenge. An old fashioned accordion folder, three-ring binder, or something more high-tech, like an electronic personal health record (PHR) can help keep things neat and ready at a moment’s notice. If you’re not familiar with a PHR, it’s like the electronic health record your doctor keeps, but you keep this one. Records can include your date of diagnosis, results of tests, places and dates of any surgeries or treatments, medications or supplements you’ve been on. Ask your doctor for a PHR recommendation or search for a web-based or mobile app.
7. Be wary of Dr. Google
When seeking out information about your health problem, look for scientifically-reviewed information. Look for sites run by major medical institutions and non-profits (these URLs often end with .org, .gov, or .edu). Some credible sources include MEDLINEplus, the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Diabetes Association.
As you cope with your recent diagnosis, know that we’re here to help you every step of the way. Sign up for our newsletter to receive tips and tools backed by sound research, read our blog for health and lifestyle information, learn about quality supplements trusted by doctors, and enjoy exclusive coupons for serious savings.
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