A diagnosis of a chronic illness can be overwhelming. Common feelings include fear, frustration, anger and hopelessness.

Unlike a broken bone or ruptured appendix, chronic diseases have no quick cure in sight. However, there are ways to cope with chronic illness stress and regain control of your life. Here are some tips:

1. Take a Break

Many clients who seek Dorn’s help are struggling with a new reality of living with chronic illness, especially one that doesn’t have a quick and clear-cut cure. This can be incredibly stressful for her patients, says Dorn, as it forces them to reconsider their daily lives and future plans.

One technique she uses with her clients is called “pacing.” It involves scheduling their tasks and estimating how long they can engage in them before experiencing symptoms such as pain, fatigue and difficulty breathing. She also teaches her clients to be more insightful about what drains their energy. This could include letting go of unnecessary obligations, such as volunteer work. It may also involve outsourcing certain chores, like cleaning. It can also be helpful to identify “burn out” signs, such as irritability or anger. This can be a sign that it’s time to take a break.

2. Meditate

Dealing with chronic illness can feel like a full-time job, often requiring multiple coping strategies at once. Meditation is a tool that can help you manage your emotional and physical well-being by taking the focus away from the pain.

There are many different ways to meditate, but one common technique involves focusing your attention on an object, image or sound to reduce stress and negative feelings. Other methods involve mindfulness, which encourages individuals to observe their thoughts and sensations without judgement to achieve a sense of peace and well-being.

Another type of meditation is sending yourself compassion and kindness, which can alleviate the negative emotions associated with pain.

3. Talk to a Psychiatrist

One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to seek psychiatric help. If you haven’t yet, ask your doctor for a referral to see a specialist or seek teletherapy options if you can’t make it into an office.

Psychotherapy can also be helpful in coping with chronic pain, whether on its own or alongside a chronic illness. These conditions can strain your view of yourself, your relationships and your plans for the future.

Talking to a therapist can give you space to express difficult thoughts and feelings, learn new coping skills and grow through a challenging experience. It can also help you understand how your illness affects you and others. Your therapist can guide you through this work, often in collaboration with your medical team.

4. Exercise

In a world where people talk about “getting fit” for a specific look, it’s easy to forget that one huge function of exercise is to improve our health. It can enhance sleep; develop and maintain bone, muscle, heart and other body tissues; and reduce the risk of a range of chronic illnesses.

For those with a chronic illness, exercise is especially important. It can improve the condition by boosting the immune system, releasing endorphins, elevating mood, increasing circulation, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. But it’s important to be cautious and to start slowly. A medical professional can help guide you to the right level of activity for your condition. Also, try to find an activity you enjoy so you’ll stick with it. Even walking briskly for short periods of time throughout the day can have health benefits.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Living with a chronic illness can feel overwhelming at times. In addition to coping with physical symptoms, it’s also common for people to feel stressed and anxious about their condition.

Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It can help decrease cortisol, a hormone that increases during stressful situations.

Try to set a consistent schedule for bedtime and wake up. This can help your body and mind get used to the routine. It’s also helpful to avoid stimulants, like caffeine and alcohol, and eat a light dinner before you go to bed.

Getting enough rest is important because it gives your brain a chance to reset and stop perseverating over worries. It can also help lower unpleasant feelings, such as stress, anxiety, and sadness. Experiencing these unpleasant feelings is part of life, but it’s important to find healthy and effective ways to deal with them.

6. Eat Healthy

Keeping your body strong can help you cope with chronic illness. Try eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated and exercising as much as your condition allows.

Many people with chronic illness find themselves in a cycle of negative thoughts, which can lead to emotional problems and physical pain. Avoid self-judgment and remember that you are not the cause of your illness. Moreover, with a symptoms tracking app, you can know what your symptoms are and alert people near you if you ever need immediate medical attention.

Staying positive won’t cure your chronic disease, but it can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself. Distracting yourself with activities unrelated to your illness can help you detach and reduce stress. Examples of active coping methods include going for a walk, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, playing a game and thinking about your favorite place or memory. You can also find support groups by contacting organizations that are specific to your disease.

7. Go for a Walk

Living with chronic illness can feel overwhelming, even when you’re taking good care of yourself. You might be constantly feeling fatigued, stressed or irritable.

Having an illness can also affect your social life, which can lead to depression or anxiety. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it might be helpful to join a support group. This can help you learn new ways to cope with your illness and realize that you’re not alone.

Take regular walks outside to get some fresh air and get your blood pumping. This will improve your energy levels and reduce stress. In addition, make sure to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you’re having trouble remembering to do so, consider working with a pill pack pharmacy that delivers your medications in an easy-to-use delivery system. This will ensure that you never miss a dose.

8. Take a Bath

Dealing with a chronic illness can make you feel overwhelmed and powerless. One of the best ways to regain control is to practice self-compassion, or treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you would someone else.

Sleep deprivation can be a major stressor when dealing with a chronic condition. It can cause you to feel tired, anxious, and sad. It can also increase the risk of a mood disorder. Fortunately, listening to music has been shown to be effective in reducing pain.

Whether the music has lyrics or is instrumental only, it can help reduce your discomfort and anxiety. It can also be used in conjunction with other treatment options. It is safe, inexpensive, and accessible. It is worth adding to your coping toolbox! Research has found that immersion bathing is a more effective strategy than shower bathing.

9. Listen to Music

When sleep evades you because your pain is too much or you can’t calm your mind, turn on a soothing tune. Studies show that music boosts the immune system and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.

Chronic pain can be isolating, especially if you live alone or if the illness makes it difficult to travel. Seeing friends in person may be impossible, so FaceTime or Zoom can help keep you connected to loved ones.

A board-certified music therapist can teach you how to make and play your own music. They will also work with you to create a music plan that decreases unpleasant feelings like anger, fear and depression. This plan can include singing and moving to music. You may even create a song to express how you are feeling. It is a way to feel more like yourself and connect with others.

10. Talk to a Friend

If you have friends or family members who live with chronic illness, try to remain as open and honest about their struggles. It can be difficult to talk about these issues, but it is vital for maintaining a healthy relationship.

Avoid making statements that minimize their pain or symptoms, which can be hurtful. Also, do not attempt to offer advice or solutions, as it is important for them to develop their own coping strategies.

Instead, ask them how you can help, such as cooking meals, offering a ride or accompanying them on doctor’s appointments. It is also helpful to cut them slack when they have to cancel plans, as their symptoms can flare up at any time. You can also encourage them to join a support group for their disease. Many hospitals and organizations run these groups.