When first diagnosed with a chronic condition it can be overwhelming, challenging, and frightening. There will be medical appointments to attend, as well as a change in your daily medications and routines. With some changes to your lifestyle, and a positive attitude, this transition can be made easier. I can relate to this on a personal level because when I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with Type One diabetes. This diagnosis came with several obstacles, both physical and emotional, but ultimately, it has made me healthier and a more well-rounded person. Below are some strategies and tips that I have found helpful when living with my chronic condition. I hope that you will find these helpful too.
Support: It is essential to have a support system in place made up of people who empower and encourage you through this change in your life. A support system can be comprised of family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, community groups and your health care team. It is normal to feel afraid or upset about this change in your life but it is important to be able to reach out to somebody about it. Communicating your feelings about your diagnosis, how you are coping with these changes, and help you may require, is key to effectively managing your condition. This can be accomplished by exploring many different avenues. Some as formal as talking to Registered Health Care Professionals, others involve attending community-based support groups filled with individuals going through similar situations. These people understand what you are going through and can answer any questions you may have. Not only could you meet someone who will have a positive impact on your life, but you will have the opportunity to be that person for others as well.
Education: In order to safely live with your condition, it is essential to educate yourself about the condition and what you can do to manage it. Are there signs and symptoms you need to be aware of, or watch for? Are there things you can do to prevent your condition from worsening? Your health care team is there to provide you with the answers to these questions in a supportive and caring environment. Please reach out to them if you find you are not understanding your condition or if you have any questions or concerns. It is our job to ensure you have the knowledge and skills to lead a healthier lifestyle while living with your condition.
New Routine: When diagnosed with a chronic condition, your daily routines will need to change. Because of this it is important to incorporate self-management strategies into your daily routine. Everyone’s self-management strategies will be unique to themselves and it is essential to discover what works best for you and to stick to it. This may include weighing yourself daily, testing your blood sugars, and/or reading nutritional labels (to name a few). Eventually your self-management strategies will become habit. Personally, I test my blood sugars before eating, adjust my insulin accordingly, and monitor my dietary intake and portion sizes without even thinking about it. With some dedication and determination, your self-management strategies can become second nature as well.
Healthy Lifestyle: Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular activity is important for everyone’s health, but did you know it can also improve and prevent some chronic conditions?
In order to ensure I live an active lifestyle I take part in exercise programs that I actually enjoy. By doing this my activity is less of a “chore” and becomes fun. I also follow the recommendations outlined by my Registered Dietitian, and use this information to discover new recipes that are not only healthy but delicious as well.
Living with a chronic condition takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication. It is easy to become discouraged, however by keeping things manageable, becoming educated about your condition, integrating self management strategies into your daily routine, and having a support system in place, success can be achieved. It is important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and to know the effort you are putting forward is having a positive impact on your life. For me this means celebrating the day that I was diagnosed with diabetes. I celebrate the fact that I have continued to take care of myself for another year. I celebrate all the hard times I have been through and the challenges I have overcome. I celebrate my strength, my perseverance, and my positive outlook on my life.
Be proud of your hard work and dedication to yourself. You are worth it.
For more information about any of the free services offered by the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team, visit www.mmfht.ca or call the Drayton/Palmerston office at 519-638-2110 or Clifford office at 519-327-4777. Like the FHT on Facebook (Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team) and follow on Twitter (@MintoMapleton) for healthy living tips and information on upcoming programs and events in the area.
Danielle Parsons, is a Registered Nurse with the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team