Resilience and chronic illness

Written by Eileen Hopkins

My road to counselling and psychotherapy has been interesting. Having worked in a caring profession, nursing for over 30 years, I was always at my happiest when interacting with my patients & I have always been a people person.

Resilience and chronic illness.

When I visit my doctor for a routine check up, she checks my blood pressure, listens to my chest and perhaps will take some blood tests. When I met up with my personal trainer initially, she started by measuring my resting heart rate, BMI and weight to establish my level of fitness.

So, what about ‘mental fitness’?
Are you mentally fit?
You do not have to be physically able in order to be mentally fit. In fact, many people would say that their mental fitness actually increased following a serious physical illness or accident.
The three main areas of mental fitness are.
• Self-motivation and confidence
• Self-discipline and habits
• Self-resilience
For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on self-resilience.

Resilience is your ability to recover quickly from setback and disappointment. Resilience is like any other fitness in that you need to practice it regularly so that it is there when you need it.
For all of you with a chronic illness, each one of you in your own personal and individual way have faced life trauma, you have had to make significant lifestyle adjustments, while there are many things that you can no longer do, you are adjusting your life. You get up every day, you are adapting.
Each one of you is resilient.
There are certain things that we can all look at to help us to get back into the driving seat of our own lives even more, one major factor which we all have to some degree are self-limiting beliefs.

We all have self-limiting beliefs; these connect use with the world around us.
Well, we get these from a number of sources, our parents, our role models, our education, our culture, organization or group, our experience, our pain memory and our emerging self- awareness.
The problem with these is that we often are not aware of their presence & therefore fail to recognize them for what they are – Roadblocks that hold us back!

Here are some examples;
I’m not the type to be self-motivated.
I’m a procrastinator.
I should be better able to cope/manage my pain.
I must be doing something wrong.
I can’t get organized.
I’m not confident enough.

For each belief you subconsciously create mental rules that govern your behavior. Many of us who experience chronic pain can relate to an experience or event, which has triggered our pain. This is known as ‘Pain memory.’ We believe that if we do this again it will almost certainly bring on a ‘flare-up of our pain.

Does this resonate with you? The idea here was not to make you feel bad; the purpose here is to increase your awareness. There are times when our limiting beliefs keep us from harm and are worth keeping, however many of us err on the side of perceived safety.

Next time the event or experience presents itself, just see what happens first. Is it the thought? ‘I can’t, just in case’,
What if you changed that thought to something like…’I’m doing this and I’m really going to enjoy it’!

Henry Ford, the great motor industrialist once said: ‘Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you cannot, you are right.’ We act in accordance with our beliefs we defend them, so we need to ensure our beliefs serve our best interests.

Think of how a tiny plant shoot manages to grow through concrete layers, this is resilience. However, the resilience within you is no less amazing, for in spite of all the odds and everything that you have gone through-you are here right now, reading my article, still wanting to know more.

I ask each one of you to believe your health and your life can be better. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can and will happen.

Do you ever wear sunglasses as you go in to a dark room?
You can’t see anything and fumble around trying to figure out where you are.
This is the same as embracing your world. Your vision becomes so dark at times that you may miss all of the wonderful things right there before you.

Take my challenge now, lift those shades off now, have a good look around and embrace life!

Originally wrote in August 2019.

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