A chronic illness is difficult at the best of times
The many symptoms can leave you often house bound
And can mean you are not able to be as sociable as you want to be
The unpredictability of chronic illness can mean you are unable to make plans
Or may have to cancel plans at the last minute
This can lead to a lot of anxiety when it comes to going anywhere
Especially somewhere you have never been before
Catastrophising what could go wrong, how you will cope with your symptoms
Can lead to declining invitations or making excuses to cancel
Your illness makes you reclusive and used to the comfort of home
So going out is often a feat in itself and something to be proud of when achieved
But because it becomes so rare, anxieties can escalate from nowhere
And as we all know, stress and anxiety lead to flare ups
There are a few strategies you can use to help deal with the anxiety:
- Try to be the one to organise social activities. That way you can research places you will feel safe and that have toilets in case your symptoms worsen so you can get away from it all for a few moments. You could even then find somewhere close to home so that there is less travel time.
- Practice meditation or deep breathing to calm yourself and clear your mind. There are several apps you can use to assist, but I find if I lie in a quiet room, close my eyes and focus on my breathing it can take my mind off everything else including pain and anxiety.
- Manage your expectations. You are never going to be symptom free so please don’t avoid going out just in case you flare up, but also don’t go out unprepared without any medication or precautions thinking all your symptoms will magically disappear.
- Talk to others. The worst thing about chronic illness is that it can lead you to be very isolated at times. This can worsen the anxiety and lead to negative thoughts. Reach out and speak to a friend every now and then. You don’t need to speak in person or even over the phone. You could just message them and ask how they are doing. That way there is no pressure on you to reply straight away.
- I went to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy a few months ago and found it really helped me manage my anxiety, refocus my thought processes and found new strategies I could use whenever I overthink. I only found my way to CBT by calling a helpline who put me onto the sessions. If anything, it helped just to talk to someone I didn’t know absolutely freely without worrying about what they would think. Sometimes it’s easier to speak to a stranger than someone you know.
- If you are suffering or struggling, please know you are not alone. Reach out and talk to someone.
If you need help or someone to talk to, you can call Samaritans 24/7 hotline on 116 123.