Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coping With Chronic Illness - 18 Ways to Ward Off Sadness

Coping With Chronic Illness - How to Ward Off Sadness
It is not practical to expect that every day or every moment I will think positive thoughts.  Dealing with our illnesses is going to get us down sometimes.  And I have periods of time when I do not have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to fight off negative feelings.  That is just life.  Sometimes we don’t so much cope as just exist.

I have done my share of just existing.  And then, when my inner strength has been renewed, I feel like I have to re-learn  how to live and how to cope.   So, I keep lists.  I have lists reminding me what foods I can get for myself at different levels of health.  I have lists reminding me how to be a friend.  I have lists reminding me how to contribute to a good atmosphere in my home life.  And I have a list reminding me of what helps when I am down.  These lists are really plans of action, or battle plans, for when I have the energy to fight.

So here is my battle plan for when I am sad: 


• First, I say, let yourself feel a little down.  It’s OK and normal every now and then and I think suppressing emotion is bad.  But, after a while, it’s not really beneficial to let yourself wallow.  So move on to the next step.

• If you are physically able, get up and do something.  Do a chore; take a walk; perform some stretches or calming exercises.  Sometimes just movement or a change of scenery can help.

• Sit outside or at least open the curtains and sit near a window.  Nature can be very soothing.  It can calm your mind and emotions. 

• Write in a journal.  I often don't understand what I am feeling until I have written for a while.  It helps me figure things out.

Talk to a friend.

• Talk to a friend about how you are feeling and why.  Often just the act of talking to a trusted companion can do a lot to alleviate our emotions.  The act in itself is therapeutic.

• Talk to a friend about something else.  Sometimes its really helpful to just forget about things for a while.

• Sit up and say a prayer (if you are religious). 

• Read something encouraging or funny or engrossing.  They say that laughter is the best medicine.

• Do something useful

• Work, if you can.  I find that I get a certain amount of self-respect from working.  I can't do it consistently - and never more than a day or two a week (from bed at that).  But it gives me a sense of accomplishment and contribution.

• Do something nice for someone else – write a card; send flowers; cook; call.  I feel better about myself when I am affecting the life of another - or even just thinking about someone else.

• Logically reason with yourself (because I know my thoughts and feelings are not always logical).  That being said - we do often have logical reasons to be sad.  Who wouldn't be sad sometimes dealing with chronic illness or other difficult life situations?  But, this can still be an effective coping method.  Because we can often blow things up in our mind until they are even worse than reality.  We use terms like never and forever and always.  Being logical with yourself can help put things in perspective and lessen fears.

• Systematically push out negative thoughts with positive ones.

• Think of three things you appreciate about your life.  Write them down.

• Think of three things you appreciate about others.  Write them down.  (This can be especially helpful if some of your sadness springs from your relationships with others.)

• Use your imagination in a positive way (instead of negative).  Once or twice a day imagine your favorite place, an imaginary place, or a place you would like to visit.   Be detailed.  If you are an artist try to draw the scene. 

 • If sadness lingers – seek help.  I seek help through an alternative healthcare practitioner who has proven absolutely invaluable and always beneficial.  But whatever method you choose, seek some kind of help.  

Keep in mind that sadness can often be the result of something going wrong physically.  Heart problems, kidney problems, thyroid issues - all can cause sadness.  And the combination of heart problems and kidney infection can lead to an extreme darkness from which it is almost impossible to remove yourself.  You must have help.  Also, if you are suffering from serious depression or bipolar disorder seeking help is essential and should actually be number one on the list.


• Don’t lay in bed all day if you are capable of moving.  Sometimes change of scenery or being active does wonders.  (When you have to lie down, maybe you could move to a different room for a while.)

• Don’t isolate yourself  (See How to be a Good Friend When Chronically Ill)

And that’s it.  That is my battle plan for fighting negative feelings.  After years of working on it (off and on, because I am anything but consistent) many of these reminders have become natural habits.  Others on the list still take extra work.

I notice a difference in the quality of my life when I consciously work at pushing away negative thoughts with positive ones.  I’m not saying positive thinking will cure our illnesses.  Our problems are not so easily fixed.  But it can have an impact on how well we cope with our disease and the rate at which our bodies heal.  And on the flip side, continuous negative thinking can do actual damage.

Positive thinking is not my natural proclivity.  I easily slip into negativity.  And I don’t believe in faking or forcing emotion.  But, I do believe in retraining my brain so that the thinking patterns and grooves are more pronounced in another, less negative, direction.   That’s how I view this battle plan – as a training camp for my brain.

These are just my personal coping tools.  But I hope at least one or two of these battle methods resonate with you as well.

And now it’s your turn.  Is there anything in the list above which you especially like or have already been doing?  Do you have any techniques to add?  What is your battle plan when you get down?

Coming up:  Friendship is a basic human need - Part 4 - How to be a good friend to a friend with a chronic illness .

Other Coping With Chronic Illness posts: 
It’s ok to grieve your losses
Knowledge is power
Do not eat, sleep, and breath your illness
Friendship is a basic human need – Part 1 – The dilemma
Friendship is a basic human need – Part 2 – Rethink who can be your friend.

Friendship is a basic human need - Part 3 - How to be a good friend while chronically ill
2 Reasons why lying keeps you sick
Let go of the dream, accept reality, and be happy.  (It breaks your heart and then rebuilds it.)
Accepting reality - what it does not mean.
3 Ways to advance in a new direction.

And the growing list on Energy Economy for suggestions on dealing with everyday things in an energy efficient way.

photo credit: <a href="">ValetheKid</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="">Dani_vr</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. These suggestions helped me tonight. I have compiled a book of articles that I find uplifting. I will admit that sometimes it is hardest to read those articles when I am very depressed. I also keep a running list of blessings and try to pray in thanks for those blessings. I try to set aside time for simple things that make me feel like I am caring for myself-- spending a little extra time on my hair, doing my nails-- luxuriating in a long bath, having a nice cup of tea-- little things can go a long way. I also try not to beat myself up too much about wasting time on harmless distractions that take my mind off of my problems-- when I come through a dark time, I am thankful very often for distractions. I also am very, very careful about who I associate with when I am down. When I am vulnerable, I need to be around people who make me feel good.

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments Emily!
      I appreciate the suggestions! Especially keeping a book of uplifting articles and a running list of blessings. Also, what a good idea - set aside time for little things to take care of yourself that make you feel better. I find that putting on blush and earrings make me feel better instantly. Also a nice bath
      I agree 100 percent - when you are depressed it is sometimes the hardest to do things that are good for yourself. I'm so glad this post was a nice reminder for you. I have to say it was a good reminder for me as well. That's one reason I love writing this blog.
      If you don't mind I would like to use some of your suggestions in a future post. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  2. There are several things that have helped me to combat sadness. One thing is my morning routine. I cannot be rushed. It will ruin my whole day so I have to be up 1 hour before leaving the house. That way I can take my time with my morning routine and enjoy it. Especially putting on my makeup and jewelry. Even though I don't do much of either. That is for days I leave the house which are easier emotionally.
    The days I am at home, what helps is to think the night before of something I WANT to do the next day along with what I HAVE to do. When I wake up I map it out my day in my head keeping in mind the thing I want to do. This helps me to get up if I can or move to the couch to do what I am looking forward to. It can be anything, something small, but it's what I look forward to and helps me do what I don't want to. When I am super down I will listen to a song over and over that builds me up, and read helpful articles on depression if i can manage it. But what helps me most is constant prayer, talking to my sisters and neice, and homeopathy.

    1. Thank you for sharing Joanna. It sounds like you have given the matter some thought. I appreciate your insights. The morning routine idea is a new one for me. I think it makes a lot of sense, as does everything else you said.