If you struggle with chronic illness, it’s hard to be certain. You may not know what tomorrow will bring – you may not even know how many more tomorrows you have left. Having an illness brings up a whole lot of scary questions: What limits should you expect on your everyday life? What will the future look like? Will you and the people you love be okay? Chronic illness creates a new level of anxiety. Here are four ways you can work to manage it:

1. Knowledge is Power

The more you know about your chronic health condition, the more you can plan accordingly. Even if knowledge doesn’t allow you to take any concrete steps, just having this knowledge itself can make a chronic health condition seem less terrifying. Educate yourself fully about your condition.

2. Choose Your Sources

For almost any condition you can imagine, there is a horror story online. This means that when you’re searching for information, you’re likely to find things you wish you hadn’t. Remember: not every person will be the worst-case scenario you read about online. Ask your doctor for recommendations or visit authoritative sources like hospital websites to learn about the disease.

3. Get help from Child Life Services

If you spend a lot of time in the hospital, take advantage of a great resource: child life services. Child life specialists are trained in the use of therapeutic play not only to help children and teens understand their illness, treatment, procedures, etc., but also to work through their thoughts, fears and concerns about having a chronic illness.

4. Permission to be a Whole Person, Not Just an Illness

When an illness impacts your everyday life, it can be hard to look past the disease and remember all the things that make you, you. You are so much more than your disease—your illness is but a small detail of the “whole” person you are. You still have dreams and aspirations. You can still make plans and have fun. Whenever possible, try to leave the illness behind to do “normal” things that you did before. Spend time with friends, take the dog to the park, and if you are able, enjoy a walk in nature. Doing activities you love will remind you that these are the things that truly define you and in fact, these are the certainties you can count on in life. After all, your illness doesn’t get to call all the shots!

Kristi Pikiewicz
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.