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  • Writer's pictureMyriame Lyons

Coping with the Emotional Impact of Declining Chronic Health: A Guide for Therapy Clients

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Takeaway: Coping with a chronic health condition is an ongoing battle that often involves dealing with a continuous decline in physical health. This journey can take a significant emotional toll, and therapy can be a crucial support system for individuals navigating this difficult path. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore how therapy clients can effectively cope with the emotional impact of declining chronic health conditions, offering strategies, insights, and practical advice to help you maintain a positive mindset and improve your quality of life.

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Understanding the Emotional Impact


Living with a chronic health condition can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. It is very common to roll through different emotional experiences, such as fear, loss and anger, or get stuck in one, like depression. No matter your experience, your feelings are valid.


It's important to recognize and acknowledge these feelings, as they are a fundamental part of your human experience. Some common emotional responses that you might feel about a declining health condition may include:


1. Grief and Loss: As your health deteriorates, you may experience feelings of grief and loss for the life you once had or the activities you can no longer enjoy.


2. Anxiety and Fear: Uncertainty about the future, medical procedures, and potential complications can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks. The fear of what the future holds, the fear of dependency, or the fear of becoming a burden to loved ones can be overwhelming.


3. Depression: Chronic pain, fatigue, and the daily challenges of managing your health can contribute to depressive feelings.


4. Anger and Frustration: You may feel anger at your body, frustration with the limitations your condition imposes, or anger at the unfairness of it all.


5. Isolation: Living with a chronic health condition can sometimes lead to social isolation as you may find it challenging to engage in social activities or maintain relationships.


Feeling emotions like these when living with a chronic health condition can be scary, but they are normal. When you learn to properly express your emotions, like when with a counselling therapist, you start to undo the sense of aloneness that many people experience when living with a chronic health condition.


Therapy as a Support System

While counselling therapy might not be for everyone, therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to deal with the challenges of living with chronic health conditions. If you're new to the counselling experience or are looking for a different approach than you had in the past, you might feel hesitant to start anew.


Here's how therapy can help if you're feeling hesitant:


1. Emotional Outlet: Therapy offers a space to express your emotions openly and without judgment, helping you release pent-up feelings.


2. Coping Strategies: Therapists can teach you effective coping strategies to manage the emotional challenges of your health condition.


3. Improved Self-Awareness: Through therapy, you can gain a deeper understanding of your emotional responses, triggers, and thought patterns.


4. Stress Reduction: Therapy can help you develop stress management techniques, which are crucial for managing chronic health conditions.


5. Strengthening Resilience: Therapy can enhance your resilience, enabling you to adapt to the changing circumstances of your condition.


The counselling therapy experience offers a wide range of approaches and benefits. Not every therapy approach (or style) will work for you. So while it can be hard to find the motivation to find a new counsellor, it can be life changing in the end.


Counselling Approaches

You might already know that you gravitate towards a particular counselling approach because of past experience or self-awareness. That said, there are a variety of therapeutic approaches that can be effective in helping clients cope with declining chronic health conditions. Some popular choices have been:


1. Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP): AEDP is a relationally focused model that helps clients focus on their emotions, and identify and express their feelings in an effective and supportive way.


2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help you identify and modify negative thought patterns and develop healthy coping strategies.


3. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR techniques can help you stay grounded in the present moment and manage stress and anxiety effectively.


4. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT encourages acceptance of your condition while helping you commit to living a meaningful life despite the challenges.


5. Support Groups: Group therapy or support groups can provide a sense of community and connection with others who share similar experiences.


Importance of Having Coping Strategies

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Coping with declining health is a critical aspect of maintaining one's overall well-being, and finding effective strategies to address this issue is of paramount importance for several reasons.


1. Improved Quality of Life: Coping strategies enable individuals to maintain a higher quality of life, even in the face of deteriorating health. By managing emotional responses and finding ways to adapt, individuals can continue to enjoy meaningful experiences and relationships.


2. Reduced Emotional Distress: Declining health often brings about a wide range of emotions, from grief to anxiety. Coping strategies, like mindful breathing, help individuals process these emotions, by reducing psychological distress and promoting mental well-being.


3. Enhanced Resilience: Developing coping strategies enhances one's resilience, enabling them to better withstand the challenges of declining health. Resilient individuals are more adaptable and better equipped to face adversity with strength and determination.


4. Positive Outlook: Coping strategies can help individuals maintain a positive outlook on life, even in the presence of chronic health issues. This positive attitude, not to be mistaken for positive toxicity, can lead to increased motivation to engage in therapies, adhere to treatment plans, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


5. Stress Reduction: Effective coping strategies, like butterfly hug, can significantly reduce stress levels. Chronic stress can exacerbate health conditions, so managing it is essential for overall health and well-being.


6. Better Communication: Finding strategies to cope with declining health can improve communication with healthcare providers and loved ones. Effective communication can lead to better treatment options, a stronger support system, and a sense of control over one's health.


7. Empowerment: Coping strategies empower individuals to take an active role in managing their health. This sense of empowerment can lead to greater self-efficacy and the ability to make informed decisions about their care.


8. Maintenance of Social Connections: Maintaining relationships with friends and family is crucial for emotional support. Coping strategies help individuals stay engaged in their social lives, preventing isolation and depression.


9. Potential for Health Improvements: Coping strategies can positively impact physical health. By reducing stress and anxiety, individuals may experience fewer complications and better outcomes in their medical treatment.


10. Long-Term Adaptation: Coping strategies provide a framework for long-term adaptation to changing health conditions. By continually assessing and adjusting these strategies, individuals can navigate the complexities of declining health with greater confidence.


Engaging in healthy coping strategies benefits both short term and long term health. Finding strategies to cope with declining health is essential for preserving one's overall well-being, managing emotional responses, and ensuring a better quality of life.


Strategies for Coping

Here are some practical strategies that you can integrate into your daily life to cope with the emotional impact of a declining chronic health condition:


1. Set Realistic Goals: Adjust your expectations and set achievable goals to maintain a sense of accomplishment. While it can be hard to make the adjustment from what you used to be able to do, keeping unrealistic expectations can increase stress, reduce self-confidence and increase negative self-talk.


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2. Social Support: Maintain your social connections and lean on friends and family for emotional support. You might even start prioritizing individuals in your life that lift you up, rather than stress you out. While social support is vital to good mental health, anxiety provoking interactions demand a lot of emotional and physical energy that you might want to save for other people and activities.


3. Gratitude Mindset: Practice gratitude and focus on the positive aspects of your life, no matter how small. While this can feel trivial at first, practicing gratitude helps to shift perspective-giving more space to acknowledgement and appreciation.


4. Journaling: While not for everyone, keeping a journal can help you process your emotions and track your progress. Journaling can be both messy and organized. There is no right way of doing it, as long as you put down on paper what you are thinking and feeling about your experience.


6. Advocate for Yourself: Be proactive in your healthcare by asking questions and seeking the best treatment options available. Use the PACE model to increase your confidence when talking with your healthcare professionals.


Finding Therapy When Dealing With a Declining Health Condition


Dealing with a declining chronic health condition can be emotionally challenging, but it's important to remember that you are not alone. Therapy can be a valuable resource to help you navigate this journey and maintain your emotional well-being.


By acknowledging your emotions, seeking professional support from a counselling therapist, and adopting coping strategies, you can lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges your condition presents. Remember, you have the strength and resilience to face this journey head-on, and therapy can be a valuable partner on your path to emotional well-being.


Be well,


Myriame

Founder and Counsellor

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