“Managing physical and mental health for the long term”
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 11, 2023
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Living with long-term physical conditions can be challenging, both physically and mentally. It’s not uncommon for individuals with chronic illnesses to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. However, do not lose hope! There is support available, and there are steps you can take to improve your overall well-being.
What are long-term physical conditions?
Long-term physical conditions, also known as chronic conditions, are ailments that can’t presently be cured. However, they can be effectively managed with the help of medication and other appropriate treatments. Examples of such conditions include diabetes, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, and high blood pressure.
In England alone, more than 15 million individuals live with one or more of these long-term physical conditions. While they are more prevalent among older age groups and individuals from deprived backgrounds, anyone can be affected. It’s important to note that these conditions can greatly impact various aspects of your life, such as relationships, work, finances, and mental health.
The link between physical and mental health
Living with a long-term physical condition often brings about social isolation, low self-esteem, stigma, and discrimination. The struggle with pain, tests, treatments, or flare-ups can leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, worried, or stressed. These factors elevate the likelihood of developing mental health problems like depression or anxiety. Research even suggests that individuals with long-term physical conditions are more than twice as likely to experience mental ill-health. And unfortunately, mental health issues can further complicate the management of your physical condition.
However, you don’t have to accept these challenges as an inevitable part of your life. Reach out to your GP and discuss how you’re feeling. There are various treatments available, and finding the right one for you can significantly improve your well-being.
Seeking support for a fulfilling life
While managing a long-term health condition can be overwhelming, there are ways to alleviate the burden and improve your quality of life. Here are a few strategies that might prove helpful:
Talk to friends and family
Living with a long-term condition often involves dealing with invisible symptoms like fatigue and pain. It’s crucial to confide in someone you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. By expressing your needs and seeking support, you can lighten the load and foster understanding.
Communicate with your GP
Building a strong, supportive relationship with your GP is essential. Consider asking them the Patients’ Association’s suggested questions for a long-term condition. If you don’t feel supported or understood by your current GP, don’t hesitate to explore other options or voice your concerns.
Join a support group
Connecting with individuals who share your long-term condition can provide immense comfort and support. In support groups, you can share experiences, exchange tips, and find solace in knowing that you’re not alone. The Befriending Directory is an excellent resource for finding support groups specific to your health condition.
Utilize talking therapy
Engaging in conversations with a counselor or therapist can greatly assist in managing your symptoms and accepting the reality of your condition. Whether you prefer in-person sessions or remote options like phone or video calls, talking therapy can offer valuable tools for coping and finding peace. Consult your GP to inquire about counseling services.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for pain management
If you’re struggling with chronic pain, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be an effective approach. CBT helps you change your thinking patterns, emotions, and behaviors related to pain, enabling better pain management and a sense of control. Don’t hesitate to ask your GP if they can refer you to a qualified CBT practitioner. NHS Inform also provides an online self-help guide for chronic pain.
Seek support from condition-specific organizations
Accessing reliable information about your condition, treatment options, and management techniques can empower you to take charge of your health. Many organizations offer practical, financial, and emotional support tailored to specific conditions. Some notable examples include Asthma + Lung UK, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, Epilepsy Action, Macmillan Cancer Support, The ME Association, and Versus Arthritis.
By proactively seeking support and incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can effectively manage your long-term physical condition while safeguarding your mental well-being. Remember, you are not alone on this journey, and there are resources available to help you lead a fulfilling life.