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Thriving With Chronic Illness — 12 Essential Strategies

Nick Bates is a seasoned chronic illness coach, dedicated to empowering individuals to navigate life's challenges with resilience and confidence. With a focus on holistic well-being, Nick provides personalised strategies for managing chronic illnesses and achieving balance in work, health, and lifestyle.

 
Executive Contributor Nick Bates

Living with chronic illnesses often feels like an endless uphill battle, but it doesn't have to dominate your life. After years of trial and error, I’ve developed a set of strategies that have enabled me to thrive despite my health challenges. If a chronic illness coach had been available 15 years ago, I would have eagerly sought their guidance and support, saving myself considerable time and effort. Let me be your guide on this journey to better health. In the meantime, here are the 12 strategies that have made the most significant difference in my life.


Man sitting on living room sofa holding his painful shoulder.

1. Educating myself about chronic illness

Understanding my illnesses has been a game-changer. I live with asthma, sleep apnoea, Tracheobronchomalacia, COPD, depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. Learning about these conditions has empowered me to make informed decisions about my health and treatment options.


Example: Reading resources from organisations like the Fibromyalgia Association UK and Asthma + Lung UK provided me with valuable insights and coping mechanisms.


2. Building a strong support network

Surrounding myself with supportive people has been invaluable. My parents have always gone above and beyond to help me, my partner and her parents have provided great support, and my daughter and dog Mabel bring immense joy and comfort to my life.


Example: My family’s unwavering support during hospital visits and tough times has been a cornerstone of my emotional well-being.


3. Prioritising self-care

Self-care isn't just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. I make time for activities that bring me joy and relaxation, like meditation and journaling. Eating healthily also plays a crucial role in managing my chronic illnesses.


Example: Meditation has become a daily must for me. Using apps like Headspace has helped me start my day with a clear mind and improved my overall well-being.


4. Open communication with healthcare providers

Having open, honest communication with my healthcare providers is crucial. By clearly expressing my symptoms and concerns, I've been able to receive the care and attention I need.


Example: Keeping a symptom diary helped me communicate more effectively with my doctor, leading to a better treatment plan for my conditions.


5. Seeking professional help

Therapists and counsellors have been instrumental in helping me manage the emotional toll of chronic illness. A couple of really decent nurses and consultants have also made a significant difference by actually listening to me.


Example: The compassionate care of a particular nurse helped me feel heard and understood, which greatly improved my treatment experience.


6. Setting realistic goals

Setting achievable goals has been essential. I consider my health limitations and set targets that are challenging yet attainable. Pushing myself to do something, even when I don’t feel like it, has helped me maintain a sense of accomplishment and progress.


Example: Aiming to engage in light physical activity, like stretching or a short walk, three times a week has been more manageable given my fatigue levels.


7. Managing stress

Stress can exacerbate my symptoms, so I've adopted stress management techniques like mindfulness and deep breathing exercises. These practices help me stay calm and centred, even during tough times.


Example: Practicing progressive muscle relaxation every evening has significantly reduced my stress levels and improved my sleep quality.[1]


8. Embracing adaptations

Using adaptations and assistive devices has allowed me to maintain my independence. I personally use a walking stick, which has been crucial in helping me walk despite the pain caused by fibromyalgia.


Example: The walking stick has made a significant difference in my daily life, enabling me to move around with greater ease and confidence.


9. Advocating for myself

I've learned to be my own advocate, especially in healthcare settings. Speaking up for my needs and rights ensures that I get the appropriate care and accommodations.


Example: Before being diagnosed with Tracheobronchomalacia, I had to persistently communicate with my doctors about my symptoms. Once they understood that something more was going on than just my asthma, further tests led to the correct diagnosis.


10. Embracing meditation and journaling

Keeping a positive mindset when you're constantly in and out of hospitals is tough. Meditation and journaling have become my go-to tools. Meditating helps me stay grounded and, in the moment, while journaling lets me pour out my thoughts and feelings.


Example: Guided meditations on Spotify and the Calm app have been instrumental in helping me manage stress and improve my mental health.


11. Changing careers for my health

I’ve had various jobs, including kitchen/bathroom fitting, commercial kitchen cleaning, and sign-making. Due to my asthma and other health issues, I had to give up these jobs. Transitioning to a career as a chronic illness coach has been incredibly fulfilling.


Example: My previous job as a sign maker ended after breaking my ribs, which significantly impacted my health. Becoming a life coach has allowed me to help others while managing my health more effectively.


12. Embracing positivity

Maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on gratitude has helped me navigate the ups and downs of chronic illness. Looking for the positives is crucial to avoid falling into a cycle of negativity and depression.


Example: Listening to motivational podcasts during flare-ups boosts my mood and keeps me motivated.


Conclusion

Thriving with chronic illness is about finding what works for you and sticking with it. By educating myself, building a strong support network, prioritising self-care, and embracing necessary adaptations, I've been able to lead a fulfilling life despite my health challenges. Each challenge has shaped me, each setback has strengthened me, and each victory has inspired me. I hope these strategies inspire and help others who are on a similar journey. Remember, it's not about the cards you're dealt, but how you play the hand.

 

If you're tired of letting chronic illness hold you back, it's time to take the first step towards a brighter future. Let me be your guide on this journey to better health and resilience. Reach out today to schedule a consultation and discover how personalised coaching can empower you to thrive despite the obstacles you face.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Read more from Nick Bates

 

Nick Bates, Chronic Illness Coach

Nick Bates is a passionate chronic illness coach based in Norfolk, England. With a wealth of experience in supporting individuals with chronic conditions, Nick empowers clients to build resilience, set meaningful goals, and cultivate healthy habits. Through personalised coaching, Nick guides clients towards a balanced and fulfilling life despite health challenges.

 

References: 

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