Health/Wellness, Self-Care

9 Practices to Embrace a Positive Mindset while Living with Chronic Illness

I was recently asked how I stay positive while living with a chronic illness. It’s definitely been a work in progress, for sure.

Chronic illness can be, so life-changing, and I try not to think too much about what has been taken away from me because it can feel soul-crushing and utterly depressing. I’m tearing up a little just writing that.

I have struggled with depression twice since my Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) was triggered. I know what it feels like to lose the life I dreamt about, to lose the amazing life I had, and to lose almost all hope of having a decent life.

Being in a family with mental health challenges, I also know first hand that medication is sometimes needed to help you get back to a better place, and that’s okay. Listen to your body and if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor.

Why a Change in Mindset?

I don’t like feeling sad and depressed about my life. So what have I done about it? I try not to dwell on the negative aspects of my life and focus on the positives I have going for me.

It can be hard in the beginning because let’s be honest the negatives can really outweigh the positives a lot of times, BUT you might surprise yourself.

Changing my mindset was the biggest game changer for me. It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t even a lightbulb moment. It happened gradually and looking back I can see the moments when I had different mind shifts.

My First Change in Mindset

The first year I was married my husband was more my caretaker than my husband.

I became really depressed and was quite mean to my poor hubby. I was so depressed because I literally couldn’t do anything around the house except for bathe myself and get dressed.

I had all of these expectations on how a wife should be, and in my mind, I was failing at all of them.

After over a year of marriage, my husband finally got the nerve to tell me how mean I was being to him. It pains me to say that I was surprised and that I had no idea I was behaving so badly. Long story short I found a book called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. It’s not as old school as it sounds!

Anyway, this book taught me how to communicate with my husband, and this was my first experience with a change of mindset.

When I changed my tone and how I responded to my husband our relationship improved dramatically. This was the first time I realized I COULD still be a good wife even if I couldn’t do anything around the house.

This was such an empowering moment for me.

In addition to this book, which I highly recommend reading, below are nine positive mindset changes I’ve made while living with FND.

1) I focus on CAN instead of CAN’T

I now try and focus on what I can do versus what I can’t do.

With all that I have lost, it is so easy to focus on everything I can’t do, but I can still do things.

For example,

  • I can and do give lots of hugs and kisses to my two little guys.
  • I can still go to work.
  • I can do crafts.

Yes, there might be “buts” to all of these, BUT the goal is to only focus on the positive.

What is something you can do?

2) Gratitude

Since July of last year, I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. It has really helped me focus on the positive aspects of my life even when things aren’t going so great.

It’s also given me so much more appreciation for my husband and all that he does for our little family and me. I had started to take a lot of what he did for granted but now I’m more aware of what he does, and I feel so thankful and lucky.

Gratitude is something you can start right now. You can either write it down or share your appreciation out loud with someone. Try to say or write down three things you’re grateful for each day.

To learn more about the benefits of gratitude, check out this article: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.

3) Tapping

Starting in October or November of last year, I started doing this thing called tapping. It’s kind of like meditation and affirmations rolled into one all while tapping specific points on your body.

I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve been feeling so much better about who I am, and it surprises me how once I take the deep breathe at the end of the video all of my anxiety just flows out with that one breathe.

It’s funny because the only video I’ve watched is Amazing Day Quickie by Brad Yates but I’ve done it every weekday for at least two months, and I already feel different in a very good way.

It gives me peace even if it’s for just one moment, but it also makes me feel worthy without anyone telling me that I am.

Give it a shot. What have you got to lose? If you don’t like that one, Brad has a ton of other tapping videos on YouTube.

4) I no longer give “what if” thoughts any time of day because they’re a gateway to negative thinking.

For example,

“What if I didn’t have this illness, then I could be a normal mom.”

OR

“What if I could run a marathon, but I can’t because I have FND.”

Need I say more?

If you’re like me, sometimes you can get stuck in a negative thought loop where you can’t stop thinking about the negative thought.

I’ve found that meditation and writing what I’m grateful for can help stop the loop of negative thoughts.

5) I grieved for my former self

I’ve actually done this twice. The first time was more situational because I still held on to a lot of hope that I would return to the person I once was.

The first time I grieved was after I was getting no help from the medical community. No one was listening. All doctors kept telling me was that it was just stress and that was stressing me out.

I figured I’d be better off just living the way I was than having doctors tell me it was “all in my head,” that it was psychosomatic, and that I “better hoped I was psychosomatic or else I had an incurable disease.”

At that time, grieving helped me be comfortable with the status quo.

The second time I grieved, I really grieved hard. Oh gosh, I’m tearing up again!!!

For those that don’t know, I went into a remission of sorts for about three years. I had also been told I would make a full recovery, and I wholeheartedly thought I would.

My symptoms were very mild during my remission, and they only came on at night when I was tired or when I would try to workout. To the outside world, I looked pretty normal.

Six weeks after the birth of my second child I started to relapse, and I was in major denial about it for nine months.

When I finally acknowledged to myself that I needed help and I was, in fact, having a relapse, the realization that this condition could be permanent came to light. It was during this time depression came over me.

It would be another 6 months before I finally received the correct diagnosis, and my grieving process really began.

This time I even suggested to my husband that maybe I should have a funeral for my old self. My husband gave me a “seriously?!” look but said he would do it with me.

I never ended up going through with the funeral, but I know saying it out loud really helped me complete the grieving process.

Once I grieved, I was able to stop telling myself, “When I get better I’m going to do X.”

Instead, I can now say, “I want to do X. What accommodations will I need to make it happen?” This way I live a life I can enjoy rather than waiting for the right moment when I feel better.

If you are suffering from a lifelong illness/condition that has drastically changed your life, grieving for your old self may be a way to move on with your new self.

If you need to have a funeral for your old self, then do it! It offers closure. Don’t worry about what other people think about it. They aren’t the ones living with this new body. You are.

6) Therapy

I found an amazing therapist. I came to a point where I was too overwhelmed trying to cope with this life-changing experience, along with everything else.

Therapy not only helped me cope with my new life, but it also helped me become more confident in trusting myself and listening to my body.

I learned that it was okay to put my health as the number one priority, and then my little family before anyone else.

Therapy also helped me step away from toxic relationships, and I learned how to be connected with someone without being connected to their drama.

I have been much happier and less stressed with limited connections to these individuals, and I now have the tools to say “no” when people try to drag me into drama that I’m not involved in.

If you’re looking for a therapist, you can search for one at Psychology Today. If you live outside the US, click on the globe icon next to “US” and select a your country or “International.”

A blogger I follow, Faith from the Radical Transformation Project, uses and recommends BetterHelp. They will match you with a therapist that you can skype, email or talk to on the phone.

7) Meditation

I have dabbled in meditation on and off since a before FND, but it hasn’t really become a habit.

However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t helped. It has dramatically helped me reduce my stress levels when I’m stressed to the max.

Lowering my stress makes it easier to think in more positive ways.

I’ve tried a few meditations, but the ones I currently like are the free meditations on the 10% happier app. They are informative and short. 🙂

There are also a ton of free meditations on YouTube.

8 ) I Learned a Trick to Help Get Rid Thoughts causing Anxiety and Overwhelm.

I actually stumbled across this about a month ago but I’ve already seen results so I wanted to share.

So apparently when we are having anxious/overwhelming thoughts about something, our brain believes these thoughts are facts. When our minds perceive these thoughts as facts, we have a hard time letting them go.

But if we rephrase the thought, we can trick our brain into thinking it’s not a fact. Once the brain realizes it’s not fact, it can let it go much easier.

I’ve played around with the words, and I found adding the phrase, “I’m feeling” in front of my anxious thought can instantaneously release my body from that feeling and thought. It’s pretty cool and definitely worth a try.

If you’d like to read where I first heard about this, then head over to Andrea Hanson Coaching and sign up for her freebie called Get Your Free Guide: Reduce Overwhelm in One Simple Step! Her freebie is really helpful, and she gives a different phrase to say that might be more helpful to you. The freebie even has you walk through some of your own real-life examples.

9) Planning my week

Last year I joined a focus and time mastery membership group through Lifehack Bootcamp so that I could get moving on starting my blog. It was really slow going for me. I bought the domain and hosting on February 16th, and by the end of June all I had to show for it was my The Beginning post found under My Journey.

One of the techniques taught in the membership was to plan every half hour of the week.

This may sound like a lot of work but doesn’t take too long, and I’ve found it very eye-opening, useful and stress-reducing to plan my week.

Planning my week allows me to see what I decide when I should schedule each task to maximize my productivity. Also, it will show me how crazy my week might be. It’s at that time, I can decide if the week really needs to be that crazy or can I think through everything and determine if something can be delayed until the next week.

If a crazy week is inevitable, I will usually feel a wave of stress wash over me. I may even think, “how the heck am I going to get this all done?” But when it comes time to sit down and actually do the work, the stress is significantly less intense, and I’m able to focus better and be more productive.

If I do start to feel overwhelmed during the week, then I just follow the plan, and it takes away any second guessing or bad decision making I might make because I’m stressed.

This, in turn, lowers my stress immensely. It also saves me time and energy because I already know what I need to get done and when I need to do it.

Of course, the weeks never go quite as planned, but it doesn’t take much effort to reorganize tasks if need be.

If you want to help reduce stress, be more productive, save time and energy I highly recommend trying to plan your week.

Recap

To recap, here the list nine practices I’ve learned to help me obtain a more positive mindset. And guess what? You can do them too!

1) Focus on CAN instead of CAN’T
2) Gratitude
3) Tapping
4) Ignoring “what if” thoughts
5) Grieving my former self
6) Therapy with licensed professional
7) Meditation
8) Trick to end anxious/overwhelming thoughts
9) Planning my week

Are you ready to start your positivity mindset transformation today? Which one will you start with? Comment below and let us know.

Do you have any other tips that have helped you in your journey to a positive mindset? Share them in the comments below. I’m always looking for more ways to stay positive. 🙂


positive mindset | positivity | chronic illness | depression | anxiety | tapping | therapy | meditation

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara has worked in corporate America for almost 15 years, and she's worked the last eight years with FND. Her FND comes with paroxysmal dystonia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, sensory overload, muscle pain, and more. She is currently a part-time career woman, a mom and a wife.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Norma Rodriguez says:

    Hi Sara, im happy that you can do all that you do with FND. I will try some of your suggestions. I been sick with FND for 3yrs now. And it’s difficult just to go to the market. Or walk from my living to the kitchen. I do thank you for your experiences with this disorder.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Hi Norma, Sorry for my delayed response. Thank you so much. Grocery shopping is something I still can’t really do. I don’t know what it is about grocery stores, but they cause me to have sensory overload quickly, and then my symptoms are triggered. Not sure what your treatment plan is but if you’re curious about mine, please feel free to email me at sara(at)managingchronic.com.

  2. Avatar

    I appreciate that this post is so packed to the brim–with the raw emotionality that comes with chronic illness AND with the hope and ambition inherent in sharing possibilities and solutions. Thank you for prioritizing that balance. Sometimes when I read articles like this, it feels like it’s a little sugar-coated–like it’s only for people who have it way more “together” than I do. Or, it can feel heavy and wallowing and too focused on everything that’s wrong. I love that you included meditation in here (that’s my go-to mindset upgrade), and it was interesting to see the overlap in a lot of meditation techniques I’ve learned and other things on the list. For example, Michelle McDonald’s RAIN technique sounds a lot like number 8, which I definitely want to look more into! Thanks again for putting this all together. Your effort is my benefit, and I’m very grateful <3

    Oh, one more thing! I discovered a morning/evening mantra that has helped me recently with mindsets–particularly around business, oddly enough: https://jillsatterfield.org/uncategorized/begin-at-the-beginning-end-at-the-end/
    Morning: “Today I want to dedicate myself, to the best of my ability, to being generous and open hearted and benefiting others”.
    Evening: “May everything that I have done today, with whatever skill or good intentions, be dedicated to benefiting others. May my actions of today in some way be for the benefit of others.”

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Hi Kathryn, Sorry for delayed response. Oh my gosh, thank you so much! I’m so glad that you’ve found it helpful. I love the morning and evening mantras and I am going to try them myself. Thank you for sharing those. 🙂

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. It really helps to read that others have the same thoughts. I also found therapy really helpful especially to let go and grieve my old self. Xx

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Hi Lisa, Sorry for my delayed response. Thank you so much for your note. It’s so helpful to me to know this as well. 🙂

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