Handling the Stress of Having a Chronic or Terminal Illness

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2001 

You will learn early-on that you will needed superior coping skills.  The following are the things that can help you to cope:.

         Figure why you are stressed and reduce the stress.

         Use Lamaze Breathing techniques to cope with both mental and physical stressors.

         Ask God to help get you through the immediate situation.

         Talk over your feelings over with God and others.

         Do something to occupy your mind when unproductive or negative thoughts enter.

         Realize that you cannot change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others, but you can change yourself.

         Do not wait for things to change to make your life better, instead actively do something to make it better.  Take control, even if it is only over your own thoughts.

         If you can, exercise.  It will cause the production of natural endorphins to lift your mood.

         Play music. Singing or humming with the music causes a natural lift in mood.

         Listen to, read, or watch something humorous. Laughter causes a lift mood.

         Mentally relax each part of your body, one part at a time. Then use deep breathing to totally relax.

         Write your feelings or thoughts in a journal.

         Take a shower to relax tense muscles.

         Take a walk or sit and enjoy nature.

         Take a drive.

         Use scream therapy (scream into a pillow) to relieve tension.

         Use a heating pad, electric blanket, or hot water bottle to reduce aches and pain. For swelling like migraines, use ice packs.

         When the occasion warrants it - cry!  It reduces stress, while releasing toxins, which causes you to feel better.

         Stay in the moment or look to the future.  Do not dwell in the past.

         Donít obsess on your pain or disabilities, instead capitalize on what you do have and ignore pain and disabilities as much as possible. 

         If you canít handle physical pain any other way, use ibuprofen or a prescribed pain killer as needed.

         Surround yourself with things that make you happy. For two weeks make a list a list of your favorite colors, smells, sounds, things, and people.  When you feel down, gather these things around you to make you feel better.

         There is almost nothing that can't wait for a few minutes for an answer. Buy yourself some time and reduce stress by just breathing and thinking things through.

         Refuse to dwell on things that makes you sad or bitter. This is not to say that you should refuse to deal with it. Just get in and do what you must immediately, and get out. Then put it out of your mind.  One of the best ways to get rid of thoughts and worries is to compartmentalize them. To do this visualize yourself putting a particular problem in a hat box up in the top of your closet.  When you need to deal with it, bring it down, deal with it, and put it back up and out of your conscious thoughts so you donít obsess on it.

         Make peace with God, others, and yourself!  Repent from wrongdoings.  To do this, use the 5 Rís of repentance: 

1.      Recognize that you have done something wrong.

2.      Remorse feel sorry that this has occurred.

3.      Renunciation Ė Stop doing the thing that you are doing wrong.   

4.      Resolve never do it again.

5.      Restitution & Reconciliation Ė Make restitution for what you have done as far as possible.  Clear the air with those you have offended, especially God.  Ask them and God to forgive you!  Forgive yourself!

         Never procrastinate!  It is poison to your well being!  Just get things done as soon as possible.  Tasks that  used to be easily often seem monstrous.  When things seem too big, divide the project is to smaller doable parts and do them over time.  By small things, great things can be accomplished!

         Finally, and most importantly, trust in the Lord.  Whether things are at their worst or just normally lousy, remember to discuss these things with the Lord in your daily morning prayers. Discuss strategies to handle them for the day. Then, invite the Lord to go with you throughout your day to help you handle the dayís problems as they arise or multiply.  Then, at night, examine the problems of the day and on-going problems with the Lord in your nightly prayers. Look to see how well you did in handling them and how you could have done better. Strategize ways to deal with them better, tomorrow.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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