Managing Chronic Illness: Feel Remarkably Better Mentally and Spiritually
Dear Selfless Esteem,
I have chronic health problems. I feel so sad. What did I do to deserve this?
Sick of Being Sick
Dear Sick of Being Sick,
Health problems are so difficult because they affect every part of our being and our daily lives. They lead us to think, “Why me?” 🤔💭 Let’s explore that question and how to feel better spiritually and mentally while managing chronic illness and/or pain.
Managing Chronic Illness Spiritually
You asked if there’s something you’ve done to deserve this health problem. Pastor Chuck Swindoll has a daily devotional entitled “Insight for Today.” In “Healing Part One,” he explains that sometimes health issues are directly related to our personal sins, and other times, they’re just the result of original sin, which brought illness into the world.
I encourage you to bring your question to God in prayer because He’s omniscient (Job 12:13). (See the post, “How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps.”) Furthermore, express all the emotions underlying this question, including any anger toward Him. He cares about your feelings (Psalm 56:8), and He’ll walk with you through this (Deuteronomy 31:6). (For more details about God’s love and character, see the posts, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem” and “The Real Truth About God.”)
The late Rev. Charles Stanley emphasized the importance of our relationship with God during difficult times in his sermon, “Life Principle 1: Our Intimacy with God.” He states, “Anne Graham Lotz once told an interviewer about the many trials she had faced in previous years, including her parents’ serious illnesses and her son’s battle with cancer. She finally came to the point where all she wanted was Jesus. ‘Just give me Jesus,’ she declared. Anne realized that if she had a personal, intimate relationship with the Savior of this universe, then whatever problems she faced, He would face them with her. He would bring a sweet resolve and a peace to her heart.”
Managing Chronic Illness Mentally
Sometimes, people with chronic illness have suicidal thoughts. If you have any suicidal ideation, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Another option is to use the chat feature at Lifeline Chat. There are also suicide hotlines in each state. Of course, if you’re in imminent danger, call 911. For other countries, please see this list of suicide crisis lines.
Be sure to take care of yourself during this time, not only physically with medical care, but also mentally.
Use Your Support System
Identify a support system of friends and family. Then, think of what your needs are and ask for help. It’s unrealistic to assume that people can read your mind, and it’s unreasonable to think that only one person can be your go-to for everything. Thus, call upon your network of family and friends and see what they’re willing and able to do.
Find a competent therapist to discuss your experience and emotions. (See “What Is Wise Counsel and Good Therapy?” and “Why You Need a Therapist ASAP” for more information.) Your therapist can refer you to support groups of people (online and/or in person), who have the same health problems and can relate and offer tips.
I recommend checking out Aubrey Grace’s site about managing chronic illness. She writes firsthand because she’s been diagnosed with Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID). See her post, “When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.”
Express Your Emotions in Healthy Ways
In addition to therapy, journaling is a good outlet for your thoughts and feelings. See “6 Journaling Benefits and How to Start Right Now” by Healthline.
You can also use creative outlets, such as making art and music. If you balk at that suggestion because you think you have no talent in that area, see “12 Outstanding Creative Outlets for Non-Creative Adults” by Julie Hage.
Practice Self Care
Taking care of yourself is more than attending your medical appointments and following any medication plans. It includes boosting your mood.
First and foremost, sleep improves mood and overall wellbeing. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor and see “The Best Ways To Fall Back Asleep.”
Consider relaxation techniques, such as massaging acupressure points, and deep breathing.
Another idea is guided imagery, which is used to direct your thoughts to a calm scenario. See “What To Know About Guided Imagery” by WebMD to learn more. You could also try a healthy distraction, such as a riveting novel, movie or funny video clips.
Do something enjoyable regarding the senses, such as the following:
- Wear fuzzy socks/comfy clothes
- Drink a warm beverage
- Listen to the birds sing or to uplifting music
- Use home fragrance
- Watch the sunset
- Slowly sway on a porch swing or rocking chair
- Pet your cat and/or dog
- Massage your hands with lotion.
For more ideas, see “5 Simple Self-Care Rituals to Practice Now” by Sheenia Denae and the posts, “6 Effective Ways To Manage Stress” and “Mending a Broken Heart: 8 Methods to Ease Your Pain.”
In conclusion, I don’t know why you have a chronic illness, and I don’t know if, when or how you’ll recover. But one thing I do know is the truth of God’s Word, which hopefully is a consolation to you. “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:23-26). ✞
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Note: This post was originally posted in May of 2023 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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