Mental Health Support In Chronic Illness

self care isn t selfish signage
Photo by Madison Inouye on

Yesterday, the 10th October 2021, was World Mental Health Awareness Day, with mental health affecting 1 in 4 people in their lifetime. Those living with chronic conditions, especially those that are pain-inducing, are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. A link has also been found between those living with PCOS and an increased risk of developing an eating disorder.

self care isn t selfish signage

The correlation between the two disease states may stem from a lot of areas including, but not limited to, poor body image related to body changes with female/afab health (bloating, excess facial hair, oily skin), and limitations in life due to chronic pain, insomnia and fatigue. Navigating the world with a chronic illness can be lonely and isolating, amplified by feelings of anxiety and depression that may be experienced when living with a chronic illness.

Protecting and supporting your mental health can look different on everyone, and finding what works for you is key to living a happy, well-supported and enjoyable life – even if you are dealing with chronic pain. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks that can be implemented into our daily lives to ensure we are supporting our mental health as best we can.

  • Increase gentle movement. It’s cliche, but endorphins really do have a place in making our mood feel better. Incorporating some form of gentle movement into your everyday life that you enjoy not only gives you something to look forward to, but also gives you an endorphin kick and some time to focus on yourself.
  • Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night. Anyone that’s ever had a poor nights sleep knows how it feels to wake up the next day and feel a bit worse-for-wear. Our stress levels naturally increase on less sleep which is known to alter and affect our moods. Getting a solid 8 hours a night may help lessen feelings of anxiety.
  • Be kind to yourself. Living with a chronic illness is hard, there’s no denying that. Being kind to yourself and knowing that some days may not run as smoothly as others is key to accepting elements of the illness that you may not want to accept. Adding enjoyment into your daily routine can be a great way to increase your mental wellbeing as you look forward to some you-time.
  • Talk to your friends and family, or a professional. Talking can be fundamental in supporting your mental wellbeing. Using therapy or a friend as a non-judgemental space to explore how you’re feeling can be really beneficial in understanding our feelings and exploring tactics to help support them.

It can be difficult coming to terms with the reality of living with a chronic condition and our mental health can fluctuate throughout this time. Mental health charities such as Mind, Rethink and MentalHealth UK can be great in supporting you if you’re in need of extra help, and support groups are often available for most conditions.

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Facchin, F. et al. (2015). Impact of endometriosis on quality of life and mental health: pelvic pain makes the difference. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 36(4), 135-141.
Iris Lee, B.A. et al. (2017). Increased risk of disordered eating in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Fertility and Sterility, 107(3), 796-802.
Mason, L. et al. (2017). Brain connectivity changes occurring following cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis predict long-term recovery. Translational Psychiatry, 7, 1001.
Zochil, M.L. & Thorsteinsson, E.B. (2018). Exploring poor sleep, mental health, and help‐seeking intention in university students. Australian journal of psychology, 70(1), 41-47.

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