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Overcoming the Mental Challenges of Life-Altering Diseases

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Whether you led a healthy lifestyle or not, finding out that you have a life-altering disease is devastating. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that this physical or mental ailment will forever impact your well-being. In the beginning, it can feel all-encompassing as your emotions take over. Eventually, you turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms from isolation to substance abuse, which only brings you temporary relief. Though you realise you need to do something, coping is more challenging than you ever imagined. 

While being diagnosed with a life-altering disease or illness is scary, allowing it to consume you will only make matters worse. If stress, anxiety, or depression is taking over, you must do something about it. Here are some suggestions. 

Educate yourself

Hearing that you have heart disease, lupus, diabetes, or cancer is shocking. However, your mind will have you on your death bed if you’re not careful. As traumatic as the information may be, educate yourself before you go off the deep end. Find out as much as you can about your condition, management practices, and alternative therapies for treatment. Modern medicine, science, and technology have come a long way. You never know what’s possible these days. 

Follow doctors advice

Denial and even disobedience are common when diagnosed with a long-term condition. Your mind refuses to let you believe this is happening so, you ignore the doctor’s orders and continue life as usual. Though it may be a hard pill to swallow, not following experts’ advice will only cause your condition to worsen. Your best chance of prolonging your lifespan is to follow instructions. 

Share the news with family

While you don’t have to run home from the doctor and call a family meeting, you do need to inform others of your condition. Keeping this news to yourself will result in isolation and ultimately depression. As you go through these overwhelming emotions, your family are the people that will be by your side. They can assist you when you’re not feeling well and offer a shoulder to cry on when you simply want to vent. 

Get your affairs in order

The hope is that you’re able to manage your health condition and live a long, happy life. However, you have to be realistic. Start getting your affairs in order. Draft a will, look into life insurance costs, and develop an estate plan. Although sad to think about, this step can provide peace of mind knowing that those you love most are taken care of after you’re gone. 

Continue self-care

When you feel like you’ve been hit with the worst news in the world, you can’t help but want to give up. Unfortunately, this does nothing to help you feel better (mentally or physically). No matter how hard it is, ensure that you continue self-care practices. Eat a well-balanced diet every day, exercise regularly (within reason), and get at least 7–9 hours of sleep. You should also find ways to do things you enjoy. Whether it’s spending time with family, reading a book, or making handmade crafts, they can be essential to help keep your emotions under control. 

See a therapist

Depending on the severity of your conditions and your ability to cope, it may be necessary to see a therapist. If you’ve started isolating yourself, neglect personal hygiene, or abuse substances, for example, you need to talk to a professional. A therapist will work with you to identify your emotions and triggers and develop healthy ways to cope. 


When you find out that you have a serious health condition, it hurts. Though there’s no way around your diagnosis or your feelings, allowing it to consume you makes everything worse. While it might take a moment to wrap your head around it all, you must take steps like those recommended above to avoid turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. These tips will help ease feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression while helping you create a new normal despite your circumstances. 

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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