When I talk with my clients about living with their chronic conditions, one of the phrases I often hear is “I’ve learned…” They often tell me about life lessons that have improved their outlook on life and their quality of life.
It seems to me that these life lessons are gifts for hard work and perseverance in coping with chronic conditions. Gifts that provide a new perspective on life. Greater awareness of what’s really important and what’s not so important. And what it takes to be happy.
Here are 13 – a baker’s dozen – life lessons that I have learned from conversations with my clients:
1. Make myself a priority. My self-care regimen has to come first. If I neglect my own health and wellness, I can’t be there for myself or for the people I care about. I listen to my body in ways that I never did before because I didn’t need to. This is the first time in my life that I actually allowed myself to put myself first.
2. Have compassion. I stopped being so hard on myself. After all, compassion begins with me. We are all doing the best we can, even on those days when it doesn’t seem that way. If I accept myself, I can accept others.
3. Be patient. The healthcare system … and my treatment … progress at their own pace. Not on my schedule. To demand otherwise is to invite more stress into my life.
4. Communicate. I can’t read other people’s minds, nor can I expect them to read mine. When I let other people know what’s I’m thinking and feeling, I invite them to do the same. Talk. Listen. With an open mind. The room is too small for you, me, and that big elephant.
5. Seize the moment. Life isn’t something that begins farther down the road when I finally have the perfect house, partner, job … it’s here right now. So why not live it? I’m enjoying today and worrying less about tomorrow.
6. Ask for help. I don’t know if I ever didn’t need anybody’s help, but there are certainly times now when I know I need it. But nobody knows if I don’t ask. And that also means I’m not trying to do everything. It’s time to share the load.
7. Feel how you feel. It’s okay to have my emotions, the “good” ones and the ones I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling. I stopped judging myself for the way I feel. I am not my feelings.
8. Be grateful. There is good in each and every day. I focus on what’s good, no matter how simple, and it helps me to keep my head up when I am faced with the challenges of the day. Attitude of gratitude.
9. Stay optimistic. I don’t know what the future may bring. But I am assuming life can go well, that good things can come my way. Why always assume the worst?
10. Watch your expectations. I have no control over how other people choose to think, feel, or behave. Even my own family members. If I constantly expect them to live up to my expectations, I am just going to be disappointed. Sigh of relief.
11. Accept change. Life never stays the same, it constantly changes. And most of those changes are out of my control, so why fight? Accepting what I can’t control frees me up to focus on what I can control.
12. Open up. I’ve learned to stop assuming that I know everything, and that my way is the only way. I’m doing more listening. Asking for suggestions. Trying new things. I’ve stopped trying to force the world to look the way I want it to. And the possibilities are endless.
13. Have a vision. I’m living life on life’s terms. And that means I’ve had to make some adjustments in what I thought my future would look like. But I still have a vision. And I still have a future.
What is your chronic condition teaching you? Listen. Reflect. There’s a gift for you, too!
To learn more about this topic:
Are You Happy Yet? Ideas to Get Started
"Mental Vitamin D:" Dr. Gary's Tips for Relaxation, Happiness