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Living with a chronic illness: Are you covered?

All around the world, including South Africa, millions of people live with some form of chronic illness. Diabetes, HIV, hypertension – the list of long-term conditions is an extensive one. Left untreated, chronic diseases can result in serious consequences, even death. And while proper treatment and medication is always a must when it comes to a long-term illness, the way you deal with a life-changing medical concern does the world of good, too. We’ve got five tips to help you remain positive in the face of chronic illness.

5 Ways to live your best life with a chronic illness

1. Separate yourself from your chronic illness

Unlike a cold or the flu, a chronic condition doesn’t disappear after a round of antibiotics. Chronic illness is something you live with every day, and learn to manage rather than cure. Without being able to escape from your condition, it’s easy to let the weight of it consume you. However, as anyone living with an incurable disease will eventually discover, to live your best life, despite your illness, you have to distinguish yourself from your symptoms. You are not your illness. Acknowledge it is there, but then detach yourself and move forward. The more you practice this mindset, the lighter you will feel.

But what if you’re really exhausted physically, mentally, and most of all emotionally? Here are some sources of motivation to prompt you in reaching the peak of accomplishment.

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2. Let go of your limitations

It’s true, coming to terms with chronic illness requires some resilience. But, as cliched as it may sound, acceptance is the key to living your best life. Once you’ve accepted the limitations imposed by your condition, you can let go and embrace a new way of living. Whether that requires re-organising your priorities or being honest with people about your capabilities, you’ll feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders once you re-adjust your mentality.

3. Practice positive affirmations

A healthy mindset begins from within. While it’s easy to get sucked into the pain, inconvenience and gloom of living with a chronic illness, it’s not healthy to dwell only on the negative. There’s plenty to be said about the power of positive thinking. A simple practice you can adopt (even if you aren’t ill), is to remind yourself of the positives. Every morning express three things you are grateful for, and every night before bed think of three good things that happened during the day. By doing this daily, you’ll slowly reinforce the affirmation that there are reasons to be happy, despite your illness.

4. Meditate daily

Another healthy practice everyone can introduce into their routine is meditation. The mind is a powerful tool, and taking the time to quieten your mind each day does wonders for your overall wellbeing. Even if you start with as little as twenty minutes a day, you’ll soon begin to feel a greater sense of calm in your daily life. Not only does meditation reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, but studies have shown it can help boost your immune system and promote better sleep – both valuable to anyone living with a chronic illness.

5. Connect with others

Whether you have a handle on your chronic illness or not, it helps to share your feelings and experiences with like-minded individuals. Connecting with people in the same situation as you, joining a support group, or even talking to a professional, can all help you come to terms with your condition. And, once you’re at peace with your body, you can start living your life to its utmost fullest.