One of the biggest things that being chronically ill or having an illness like cancer can do to you, is take away your control. Maybe you’ve had to quit your full-time job because of your health. That choice on how you want to decide on your work-life balance is then taken from you. It may well be that you’d have come to decide you wanted to leave anyway. But when you’re just too ill to work, that choice is taken away from you. And it sucks. You just want to regain control when your chronic illness has taken it.
I hang out in a few Facebook groups for people living with health conditions (if you like the sound of that you can join ours here) and the loss of control is something that comes up time and time again. Though it isn’t so obviously mentioned that control is what the issue is, often whatever the person is struggling with is linked to a loss of control, a lack of choice on the poster’s part. The correlation between our health and our work is something I see often. I want to share with you all about me and how I deal with this. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. For more information check out my full affiliate disclosure.
I was originally diagnosed with cancer at 21. I ended up quitting university as I just couldn’t keep up with it all, and when I went back to try and repeat my third year it just wasn’t working. My Dad opened a new business and so it was decided that I would work for him because it gave me a job. If you were to ask them, they are adamant that they started the business for me. I don’t feel quite the same way about it as they were in a position that they needed work, too. So they did it just as much for them.
However, I have felt for many, many years that my cancer took away any choice and control I had over my career. I was given this job because it meant it would be OK if I needed time off for my health. It could be flexible if I needed it to be. This brings on some pretty strong emotions about feeling lost, and out of control of your own life. It’s not a fun feeling. This job could be the best thing in the world, but I never chose it. My cancer did.
So, I am sharing with you how I deal with this, and three things you can do to help regain control when your chronic illness has taken it. Whether you’ve just had to leave your job, or you’re in one that you didn’t choose. These can help ensure your way to better emotional well-being and mental health.
1. Be Positive
Now, I know that is easier said than done. And I don’t get me wrong, sometimes all that positivity you see online and from spiritual self-help gurus is a pile of crap! Not all of it, but some of it is just too much, right? However, I do have some practical tips here you can do to raise your positivity in a non-bull-shitty way 😉
It’s not helpful or healthy to dwell on the negatives of your situation. As much as it is the easiest thing to do, it’s not always the best. There are times when it is necessary to be realistic, and it’s good for us to be honest with ourselves about it all, and have a good cry if we need to. But, when it comes to your workplace/job you need to be able to see the good in it to help you manage your daily life.
So, what I encourage you to do is to make a list. It is easy to think of all the things you hate about your situation. What about the positives? Say you’ve had to quit your job. You’re frustrated at the loss of control and that you didn’t get to make that choice. The negatives list could be long, right? Well, let’s make a list of those negatives, and then let’s do the positives, too.
Here’s an example of what that might look like:
You can download your very own workbook of this whole article, including the printable list and with clear instructions on how to use it, if you think it will be helpful. The goal of this exercise is to end up with far more positives than negatives. If, however, you’re left with more negatives, then go back over those and ask yourself if they’re really true. Ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Spend some quality time with yourself doing this activity and you should come away feeling much happier about your situation.
2. Be Grateful
Now, once you’ve performed the task above the key here is to be mindful of these positives on a daily basis. And the way to do this is through gratitude. I encourage daily gratitude, in fact, we even have a #threegoodthings daily thread in our facebook group. There are always at least three good things in any day, I promise you.
Look at your list of positives and use those on a daily basis to be grateful for the situation you’re in. For example:
I am so thankful today that I get to stay at home and take the time my body needs to heal itself.
Doesn’t that sound pretty awesome? How do you feel after saying something like that? For my situation I might say:
I am grateful that I can work flexibly and start my day at work later than ‘the norm’ to be gentle with myself.
If positive affirmations and gratitude are new to you, then I encourage you to check out the app ThinkUp. It’s really helped me reframe positive affirmations and feel emotionally happier.
3. Deal with Negative Thoughts
This is the last part of my tips for how to regain control when your chronic illness has taken it away. Negative thoughts are still going to creep in. It’s impossible for that not to happen. We’re human, it’s who we are and part of human nature to have fears and doubts. It’s how we’re made. So, the first thing to do is to acknowledge that we all get them, accept that and that it’s OK to feel the way you feel.
It’s OK to feel the way you feel.
Secondly, when you get a negative thought make its way in, greet it. Yep, you read that right, I said greet it. Lol! Say hello, don’t be too friendly, mind. But be aware of its presence and know that it’s there. I find saying something like;
‘Hello negative thought, I hear you, and I know you are just my fear talking. Fear is a valid feeling and it’s OK that I am feeling it. But fear is not truth. This negative thought doesn’t have to be my truth.’
I mention this more in my article on why asking for help is a sign of strength that you can check out. Acknowledging your negative thoughts for what they are takes away their power over you. It takes practise, and you’re not always going to get it right. That’s OK, too. The more you do this, the better you will start to feel, and the more in control you will feel, too.
So, that’s about it for my advice on 3 things to do to regain control when your chronic illness has taken it away. Remember to be positive, practise gratitude, and deal with those pesky negative thoughts. I’d love to hear how you get on with this practical advice and whether it helps you regain control. Comment and let me know, or come along to our Facebook group and join the discussion!