Friday, September 9, 2022

Steps to Take If You've Just Been Diagnosed With a Chronic Condition

By Diane Harrison

According to Harvard Health, if you've just been diagnosed with a chronic condition, both your immediate and long-term priorities should shift to reflect your diagnosis. This doesn't mean that you have to spend all of your time worrying about your health. On the contrary, you can work with your medical team, counselor, and social circle to regain your sense of peace as you know you're well cared for. 

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition invites you to consider taking the following steps if you've been newly diagnosed with a condition that may affect you for months, years, or the rest of your life.

1. Invest in Learning

Your first instinct after receiving a diagnosis of a chronic condition may be to completely ignore your health. While denial may help you cope in the short term, it will not do anything to improve your long-term health. Learn all you can about your condition and strive to educate those close to you as well. For example, if you've been diagnosed with diabetes, explain to your children and spouse that you can never leave home without your insulin case or wallet. Your family may be able to help you remember to grab it on your way out the door and remind you when it's time to take it.

Develop a good working relationship with your physician and other members of your medical team. If you feel that you can't communicate with your doctor, don't be afraid to switch. Stick to a schedule for your medication and supplements as well. If you're not in the habit of taking medication, learning how to manage even one pill a day can be tricky. Set an alarm on your phone or another device to remind you to take your pill or inject a medication so you avoid missing a crucial dose.

2. Focus on Relaxation

Blooming Mindfulness notes that stress can be a contributing factor to flare-ups in chronic conditions. For example, if you've noticed that your rheumatoid arthritis worsens during intense periods of stress such as school finals, family conflict, or your children's behavioral issues, make it a priority to learn how to reduce your stress load. Consider dropping responsibilities that are not necessary. If you’re self-employed, it can be difficult to find time for relaxation, so make it a point to take time off, socialize, and get outdoors.

Use make-ahead meals to get your family through a busy week, and meditate or listen to music while you focus on your breath. Boost your mood by keeping a clutter-free home, letting in more natural light, and adding some indoor plants.

You can also find ways to make your backyard more conducive to relaxation and time spent outside by turning your yard into an outdoor oasis. With a new patio, flower gardens, potted plants, windchimes and the like, it can be a haven after a tough day. You can even work with a patio landscaping professional to get the results you want that fit your budget. Just be sure to look for reputable contractors who get glowing reviews.

3. Ask a Counselor for Help

It's important to be aware of your mental state and practice being kind to yourself throughout the process of adjusting to a new normal. Even if you feel that you're managing just fine without speaking to a mental health professional, it can be worth your time to talk to someone who specializes in helping people with chronic conditions. A licensed counselor, therapist, social worker, or psychologist will be able to provide clarity and reasonable hope for those who have been diagnosed with chronic medical conditions. A psychiatrist can prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills if you need them to cope with this big transition.

Being diagnosed with a chronic condition can be scary and overwhelming. It may be encouraging to focus on the aspects of your daily life that you can control. Reach out to those who care for you, including your medical team, for help navigating through uncertainty, and don't be afraid to see a qualified counselor as you sort through your feelings about living with a long-term medical condition.

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