Turning Frustration into Motivation with Chronic IllnessMay 17, 2023
Do you ever feel left behind while living with your illness? Those around you continue on with their lives, but your illness is holding you back. You’re definitely not living the life that you assumed would be yours. It is beyond frustrating. For instance, you might find yourself unable to attend social events, keep up with your life at home, or maintain your career.
Embracing Change to Live Well with Chronic Illness
I get it! Living with MS, my body at times, has definitely not kept up with what my mind was wanting to do. It wasn’t fair. Life began to become increasingly difficult physically but also emotionally. A couple of weeks ago, this feeling of frustration surfaced again.
This is a beautiful photo of my partner Andrew (and our dogs Paddy and Lori) showing my parents our new block of land (one we recently purchased to connect more with nature). I sat back by our campfire, looking on. Really happy that they loved our new oasis, but it was tinged with a feeling of being left behind.
Fortunately, in the days following, as I looked at the photo, I was reminded of an insight I gained years ago.
“The experience of agitation signals to myself and the universe that I’m not content with the status quo.”
My experience with MS has definitely taught me the importance of embracing change. Since being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, my MS took a back seat, but this was the wake-up call I needed to give my MS some attention. To do whatever it takes to start moving more again and focus on the mental aspect of living with a chronic condition.
Harnessing Frustration as a Catalyst for Change
Over the years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with walking aids. Early on, aggressive MS relapses meant weeks and sometimes months in a wheelchair, having to learn how to walk again. I was also reticent about using a walking stick. I was worried about what other people would think. But years later, Andrew would say who cares what others think? So true, why let the reactions of others stop me from embracing my life? I want to enjoy this new adventure. Not by sitting back on a camp chair, but by exploring our surroundings.
Using a walking stick wasn’t going to cut it on our new block. The uneven surface, rocks, and sticks aplenty definitely created a fall risk. And MS and cancer are enough for me to deal with at the moment. I didn’t need to visit the hospital for any other issue. I knew what needed to be done. I needed to buy a walker.
Years ago, the thought of this made me sick to the stomach. But not this time. A walker spelled FREEDOM. It would mean that instead of watching on, I could join in.
Living with a chronic illness can often leave you feeling trapped and frustrated, as your condition prevents you from fully participating in various aspects of life - be it at home, socially, or at work. However, you have the power to choose between letting frustration consume you or using it as motivation to instigate change.
3 key steps to transform your chronic illness frustration into motivation to change
Following are 3 key steps you can take to turn your frustration into motivation and create a more fulfilling life, despite your chronic illness.
1. Recognise when you are unhappy with the status quo.
Reflect on your daily life and pinpoint areas where you feel limited or dissatisfied. For example, if you find that your illness prevents you from enjoying outdoor activities with your friends or family (like I did), recognise that this is a source of frustration for you. Acknowledging your frustration is the first step toward addressing it.
2. Set achievable goals and celebrate small victories.
Break down your desired changes into smaller, manageable objectives, and create a realistic timeline for achieving them. For instance, if you want to improve your physical strength to participate in more activities, set a goal to exercise for 15 minutes a day, gradually increasing the duration as you build stamina. As you accomplish these smaller objectives, celebrate your progress to stay motivated.
3. Learn from setbacks and adapt for continued growth.
When faced with challenges, remind yourself of your progress and the reasons behind your goals. For example, if a flare-up of symptoms forces you to take a break from your exercise routine, use this setback as a learning opportunity. Explore new ways to maintain your physical health, like spending time stretching in the morning to keep you moving. By learning from setbacks and adapting your approach, you can continue growing and making progress.
You have the power to challenge the status quo and make the most of your life, even with a chronic illness. By recognising and harnessing the energy of frustration, you can create positive changes and overcome obstacles that come your way.
Remember to acknowledge your dissatisfaction, set achievable goals, and embrace setbacks as learning opportunities. By following these steps, you can transform your challenges into opportunities for growth and improve your emotional wellbeing, mental health, and overall experience with chronic illness.
Embrace your inner strength, and take charge of your life, regardless of the challenges that living with a chronic illness may present.