As part of our membership qualification criteria, we require our members have an advocate to help them while they are going through the health restoration process. This can be a family member or close friend who can provide support during challenging times throughout the healing journey. There are times when the demands of a self-driven protocol can be overwhelming. Having an advocate to provide support can help. This type of social support is critical and has been shown to enhance the quality of life for the both parties.
Social support can come in many forms. According to the University of Minnesota, the most common forms include:
- Emotional or “Non-Tangible” – referring to actions of people.
- Instrumental – referring to physical support such as money, housekeeping, etc.
- Informational – referring to providing information to help someone.
When suffering from a chronic illness, it is nearly impossible for you to balance all the demands that are upon you. If you are like most people, you have family members, friends, employers, and other individuals counting on you to fulfill specific agreed upon activities or duties. On top of that, you are also trying to implement lifestyle changes that support your health. It is logical that you would need additional support. But how do you ask for help? Especially if you are fiercely independent and like to do things on your own. Let’s explore ways to help you find the support you deserve.
Expand Your Circle
From your experiences, you may feel that people who do not understand chronic illness tend to appear tired of hearing about your struggles. Often times, this cannot be further from the truth. Your friends and family members often feel helpless. They may have a difficult time relating to or understanding your condition. Understand this does not mean they do not care about you or have become tired of you. They may be tired of hearing about your condition simply because they cannot fix it and that is frustrating for them.
Make a conscious effort to only provide brief updates on your condition if they ask. Find a counselor, therapist, physician, religious or spiritual guide, support group, case management team or some other outlet to discuss your condition with. When you spend time with friends and family, focus on common interests. Enjoy the break from your illness, even if it is only for a brief five-minute phone call. These breaks can be just enough to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit temporarily. You are deserving of a break, why not take it?
Educate Your Circle
Your circle may not fully understand what your condition is, or how the symptoms of your illness affect you. It is important to share information with them so they better understand how you are impacted. Some chronic illnesses do not manifest outward physical symptoms so people assume your condition is not severe. They may have difficulty understanding why are behaving the way you are, and may not recognize it is directly related to your illness. Providing brochures, links to educational websites, sharing information with them that your doctor has provided, and simply explaining your symptoms may help them better relate to you.
Allow Your Circle to Say “No”
For many of you with chronic illnesses, it can be very difficult to ask for help. It becomes almost paralyzing when you ask for help and the person responds with a “no”. They may have a good reason, but you may internalize or personalize their response. You may question your importance to them. It is essential you understand that they likely want to help, but are being pulled in another direction. We all have daily demands that may keep us from being able to help someone, no matter how much we want to. Try to be understanding and be brave enough to ask someone else to assist you!
Responding poorly may alienate us from our supporter. It could also leave them feeling obligated to say yes at all times. This can lead to unhealthy, codependent, resentful relationships. You may even find that your advocate(s) suffer from burnout and become ill themselves. It is important to understand that even our strongest supporter may have to say “no”, and that is okay. It does not mean they do not love or care about our wellbeing.
Find Healthy Coping Skills
There are times when the symptoms of chronic illness can become unbearable. It is important to find healthy coping skills that allow you to escape. Sometimes simple distractions can do the job. Other times you may need coping skills that are far more complex. It is crucial that you develop a coping skill toolbox. Having coping skills outlined and ready to go in your time of need will help you feel more self-sufficient during times when caregiver support is not readily available. Some coping skills include:
- Reading a book
- Watching a funny movie
- Writing a short story or poem
- Journaling what you are grateful for
- Post supportive responses and sharing best practices on forums with others who suffer from your condition
- Write “I am healed” over and over again on a piece of paper until the paper is full
- Take a warm bath with essential oil and Epsom salts (great for relaxation and detox!)
- Allow yourself to cry
- Play or talk with your pet
- Take a short walk
- Visualize yourself in perfect health. Engage all your senses. Imagine yourself engaging in an activity you haven’t done in a while due to your illness
- Play solitaire
- Write yourself an “I love you because” letter
- Find and complete a deep breathing or meditation video on YouTube
Remind yourself that you do not have to travel the road to health restoration alone. By expanding your circle, educating your circle, allowing your circle to say “no”, and creating a coping skill toolbox, you can better navigate through the difficult times during the healing process. As a Delta Institute member, you will find that your circle will automatically expand when you begin working with our case management team. We will be here every step of the way to offer guidance and support.