WellMinds top tips for managing long term physical health difficulties
When you have been diagnosed with a long term physical health condition such as Chronic Pain, COPD, Diabetes and IBS, they can sometimes be difficult to manage and therefore affect how we think, feel and behave. Managing long term health conditions can make us feel low in mood or more anxious at times, leading to social isolation and lack of motivation to engage in the things that we usually enjoy. When we feel ‘well’ in ourselves or for example our pain is lower, we might find that we ‘over-do’ things. However when we over-do things, this can sometimes lead to a ‘crash’ or a period of feeling low or too tired to do anything at all. We refer to this as the ‘boom and bust’ cycle. It can also be common for many people to feel that they should be able to do all of the things that they have previously done and therefore might find it difficult to ask others for help.
Often when we have an increase in symptoms from our long term physical health condition (such as an increase in pain), this can lead to an increase in inactivity. However doing nothing at all can lead to low mood, which can further exacerbate the symptoms of our physical health condition.
Here are some suggestions that you might find useful when considering how to manage your long term health condition and the impact this has on your mental health:
- Keep a diary of what you are doing throughout the day and rate how this affects your mood (0-10) and your long term condition symptoms (e.g. pain – 0-10). This will help you to start to establish a pattern of what is helpful and what is not.
- If you are noticing large periods of activity, followed by large periods of inactivity, it may be that you are stuck in a cycle of ‘boom and bust’. Try pacing yourself so that you do less on the days when you feel good as this will preserve energy for the days when you don’t, meaning you will get a better overall balance.
- Take regular ‘stretch breaks’ and schedule these into your daily routine. Even when you feel you don’t need it, take it!
- Increase your exercise gradually, at a paced level. Again take regular breaks during exercise.
- Engage in social interaction, whether in person, by phone or message.
- If you are having difficulties with sleep – please refer to our article on top tips for managing sleep.
If you would like to explore further support to manage your long term physical health condition and the impact on your mental health, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an evidenced based intervention that can support you with this. Please reach out to Well Minds at the White House to book an assessment if you would like to explore this further.
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