Overcoming Self-doubt while Living with a Chronic Illness

(BPT) - Many people impacted by rheumatoid arthritis experience feelings of self-doubt – but a head-on approach can lead to self-love.

The mind is directly interconnected with your physical body, and while this stands true for everybody, it is something people living with a chronic illness are reminded of every day.

For people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune disease of the joints that impacts approximately 1.6 million people in the United States – it can be challenging to stay mentally and emotionally positive when your health is always on your mind. The symptoms of RA and their effect on physical functioning can impact overall well-being, which can lead to feelings such as self-doubt.

Does our physical health affect our mental health?

When first diagnosed with a chronic condition like RA, many patients may struggle to accept their disease. The emotional process to acceptance can be difficult, but try to understand your condition better and make a conscious choice to face it head-on.

Further, managing symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, and fatigue can make it difficult to do common everyday tasks, which can lead to mental and emotional impacts.

So how can you overcome self-doubt?

Turning self-doubt into self-love

For people living with a chronic condition like RA, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to settle. That’s why taking one day at a time is critical in any approach to self-care.

Take the first step by becoming more aware of your emotions and feelings when it comes to the management of your RA. Own your experience with the disease by recognizing and accepting feelings of frustration, anxiety, or guilt about your RA in order to refocus your emotions toward resilience, hope, and joy.

Here are some additional tips and tricks to combat self-doubt:

* Ground yourself: Balance out the negative by thinking about the positive aspects of your life. In doing this exercise, remember that sometimes the positive things are small and simple: a bouquet of fresh flowers on your dining room table, a book that makes you laugh out loud, or a phone call with an old friend. Directing your focus toward these positive aspects of your life can make a huge difference!

* Set a timeline: It’s okay to acknowledge negative feelings sometimes, but don’t let this go on for too long. Give yourself a deadline for when it’s time to mentally shift your focus.

* Invest in yourself: Take some time each day to read, listen, or watch something that uplifts you.

* Set the mood: Create a set of your own soundtracks! One playlist might bring back good memories, another might make you feel motivated to take on a busy day, and perhaps another makes you feel calm and relaxed. Music is a powerful tool, and setting the mood through music is a fun and easy way to practice self-care and redirection of your energy.

* Reflect on your self-perception: Focus on what defines you as a person and learn to accept who you are. Remind yourself of a time when you overcame self-doubt. Ask yourself, “Am I talking to myself the way I would talk to my spouse or my friend?

* Connect with others: Surround yourself with people who love and encourage you. You may also find solace in connecting with others living with RA, whether it is online or in-person.

* Most importantly: Understand your own body and your own needs on your journey to self-love.

Above all, make time for yourself; this alone is an act of love toward yourself! Making time for yourself can take on many forms, including those listed above as well as things like going for a walk, taking a bath, even taking a moment to enjoy the view out of your kitchen window! Making “me time” happen is what can ultimately help you look beyond the negative!

“When I was first diagnosed, I struggled to keep things going,” says Elaine R., patient advocate and administrative assistant living with RA. “Even though I was unable to do my usual yoga routines, I did feel a sense of relief from my yoga music and deep breathing. I think focusing on the positive things in your life, no matter how small, is a great idea. Little joys are a necessity.”

If you have a chronic disease like RA, it’s important to remember that it does not define you and there are steps you can take to better manage lifestyle challenges as a result of your condition. With research and communication with your rheumatologist or other healthcare professional, there are ways to prioritize your health and choose self-love over self-doubt.

For more tips on how to overcome self-doubt and negative emotions, and choose self-love while living with RA, visit www.Arthritis.com.

Content was provided by Pfizer.