Steps to maintaining a positive mindset when living with a chronic illness

Elin shares her experience with how to create a positive mindset when dealing with a chronic illness, to raise awareness, and help others who are in a similar situation.
I’m Elin, a 21-year-old disability and lifestyle blogger, living with chronic illness; a vision impairment, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. I write about living life as a disabled person on my blog, My Blurred World, with my main aim being to raise awareness and help others who are in a similar situation. I’m also currently undertaking a degree with The Open University, studying Arts & Humanities (specialising in English Language and Creative Writing).
I was diagnosed with CFS/ME about five years ago. In the years leading up to that diagnosis, my life evaporated into a haze of exhaustion, light-headedness, and confusion; I had no clue what was happening to my body. I missed over half of my first year in the sixth form and some days, the only words I could muster were unintelligible mumbles. It felt like my life was crumbling around me and I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the energy to slot the pieces back together.
Living with a chronic illness is tough. However, I consider myself to be quite the optimist, having a positive mindset; although there are days when I want to hide away from the world, I will admit to holding on to any glimmer of light when it’s shown to me. There are certain things I do in order to foster maintain a positive mindset and combat the negatives, motivate myself, and keep my spirits up during the difficult times, and I’d like to share a few of these with you today…

Things that can help create a positive mindset amidst chronic illness

Setting small goals

If there’s one thing I’ve been guilty of in the past, it’s setting myself unrealistic goals. In the past few years, I’ve truly recognised the value of setting smaller goals that I know are closer within my reach. Whether it’s walking a small distance, outlining a new blog post, or writing a few paragraphs for my latest university assignment, I find that there’s always something that can be achieved. Some days are better than others, that’s a given, but I find that when I achieve the small goals I’ve set myself, it reassures me that I am capable and gives me the motivation to go on. Plus, ticking a task off my to-do list, no matter how big or small always lifts my spirits.

Celebrating the small victories

Under the same banner, I’m learning to celebrate these small achievements and victories. I might only be able to write this guest post today, but I recognise the value in ticking it off my to-do list and feel all the better for it. It’s not always about achieving big things or pushing yourself too hard. When living with a chronic illness, the smaller, everyday achievements are just as important as the bigger ones.
Sometimes walking up the stairs unaided makes me feel bulletproof because there were moments where I didn’t think that could ever be possible again. Now, every time I manage to reach that little bit further, there are hints of new possibilities; those are the things that I try to focus on. Little victories can definitely make the biggest difference!

Knowing that it is ok to slow down

I’m a workaholic, and I put a lot of pressure on myself – traits that don’t compliment my chronic illness very well. I used to try to manipulate my body into doing more than it was capable of, and I found myself feeling deflated and unmotivated, whenever my system prevented me from doing anything beyond the smallest of tasks. I used to give myself deadlines for when I needed to feel better, unaware that this was adding unnecessary pressure to my life, and I had no control over the consequences of that strain.
As I’ve grown and adapted to life with a chronic illness, I’ve realised that so much comfort can be found in the art of slowing down, pacing myself, and giving myself the opportunity to breathe. I find that cramming too much into my ‘good days’ only results in slower productivity during the days to come, something which stunts my positive thoughts. Therefore, I’m learning how to balance my workload, and equally recognising that it’s okay to take some time away from my keyboard.

Practicing gratitude

One thing that helps to encourage a positive mindset during difficult moments is practicing gratitude towards the things I have, and the opportunities I’m granted in my life. Identifying these things, no matter how significant they are, allows me to focus on the good. Noting them down gives me the opportunity to revisit them whenever I experience another difficult spell.

Focusing on what I CAN do

My fluctuating physical capabilities have been a source for many conflicting thoughts, but I’m learning to be more honest with myself, and focussing on what I can do rather than what I can’t. This affords me the opportunity to learn more about my illness and to be grateful for what I am capable of; which helps me to maintain a positive mindset.
These are just a few of the things that help me to renew my spirits and bring a little light to the darker moments. I can’t deny the difficult times, but I can be honest and level-headed about them. Whilst I can only achieve small things some days, every achievement counts, and I try to make the most of anything I can plausibly call a win.
Astriid’s mission is to help people with chronic illnesses and long-term conditions find meaningful work, by bridging the gap between the Invisible Talent Pool (people who have long-term conditions but who still wish to use their skills and experience in work), and the UK skills crisis. You can find out more about us, register your skills as a candidate, and sign up as an employer, by visiting this page