With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. —Eleanor Roosevelt
When illness appears in our lives, rarely do we feel equipped to handle the changes it brings to our day to day. Instead, we can feel overwhelmed, lost, and dependent in light of the situation.
If only we had a moment to catch our breath, we would see that we have many strengths to carry us and our loved ones through the difficult time ahead. If we could tap into the many strengths we already possess (which don’t just disappear at the first sign of illness), we could empower ourselves to take our health into our own hands.
I know—easier said than done. But, stay with me. By building on the following skills, you will empower yourself to manage the difficult day to day as an individual affected by illness. We even added a few techniques to help you lean into these strengths.
Building Supports—Advocate and Communicate
Advocacy and communication go hand in hand. Self-advocacy, to me, means having the self-awareness and the knowledge of right and wrong required to communicate one’s needs, concerns and ideas to others. Self-advocacy means taking your experience into your own hands. Communicating to others the messages you believe in is key.
With your care team, self-advocacy and communication involves taking a spot at the head table to make the difficult decisions about your care, plan for increased well-being and speak up for what you believe and want for yourself and your loved ones.
With your loved ones, self-advocacy and communication will certainly look different. It can mean listening to those you love, learning to say no, understanding your own values and defining them to others, and problem solving.
Ways to build self-advocacy and communication skills:
- Be curious
- Problem solve
- Be informed
Foundational Work—Organize and Manage Time
Organizational and time management skills are the foundational work in the lives of any individual affected by illness. In a reality where a lot of the control seems to be unattainable, being organized and controlling your own time can help you take part of the control back.
Organization is associated to implementing systems in your life to help keep order. For individuals living with illness, this can be organizing a binder with all important information, tracking medications and other daily tasks, and having regular tasks automated. The more organized your life, the least amount of time and energy will be required for these tasks.
Time management is also of importance in the life of individuals living with illness. Its important stems from its ability to make room for more living. Time management can be associated to daily planning _(link to daily planner)_. However, it can include much more, such as setting boundaries for yourself, saying no to activities that do not add joy to your life, and regularly reviewing your progress.
Ways to build organizational and time management skills:
- Ask for help
- Set boundaries
- Learn to say no
Growth—Empathy, Motivation and Confidence
To achieve growth as an individual living with illness, three skills should be developed—empathy, motivation and confidence. Empathy allows for self-compassion and connection with others. Motivation allows space for dreams of the future and consistent improvement. Confidence allows for reassurance in our ability to live.
These skills are never fully developed. They require constant attention. They do, however, have the power to change your current situation on a physical or psychological level.
Ways to build empathy, motivation and confidence:
- Make plans
- Take action
- Believe in yourself
Before you leave, let me repeat an important statement: THE MANY STRENGTHS YOU HAD PRIOR TO ILLNESS, YOU STILL HAVE. YOU MIGHT HAVE JUST LOST SIGHT OF THEM.