7 Habits For Managing Chronic Illness
Chronic illnesses last a long time, often for a year or more. You may also have a need for ongoing medical care and difficulties doing the things you need to do every day. Chronic illnesses can bring disease-specific symptoms and also other general discomfort like pain, fatigue and mood disorders. Chronic illness can also influence your ability to work. You might have to change the way you work to cope with a number of symptoms. If you aren’t able to work, you might have financial difficulties.
To cope the chronic illness, one must look beyond only medications. The treatment starts from yourself, and the change of self starts from the change of habits. Habits can play an important role in multiple aspects of your life, including mental and physical health, productivity, relationships, and self-esteem. It's always possible to build new, helpful habits and change habits that no longer align with your needs.
The 7 Habits—Proven to transform lives
Stephen Covey's phenomenally successful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. I am one of the lucky ones who was first introduced to his book in the first year of university. These principles have shaped my career and life ever since.
The key messages of this book include the helpful advice to develop and maintain good ‘habits’, based on sound ethical principles; to create a personal strategy for success, and to constantly review progress with this, while keeping the longer-term plan in mind. Although 7 Habits was originally written for business school, it contains a number of important lessons from which also the healthcare industry can benefit – we will consider some of them here.
From Dependent to Independent and finally interdependent, then restart everything again
Behavior has a tremendous influence on our health. Even the most comprehensive lifestyle plan, including detailed diet and exercise instructions can still fail unless it includes a sound behavior modification component. One of the largest aspects of behavioral change centers on our own habits. If we can develop and focus on the right kind of habits, this gives us the power to turn our best intentions and knowledge about lifestyle (like diet and exercise) into reality. Mr. Covey’s 7 Habits is moving from being dependent to independent to interdependent. Let’s take a closer look at each of these habits below.
1. Be Proactive.
Take charge of your health management and choose to make neccessary changes: choose to eat healthily, choose to adopt an active lifestyle, choose to monitor your health indicators regularly, choose to take your medication, choose to reduce your risk of complications and choose to be a openminded and respectable person with joy, gratitude, kindness and more many positive virtues.
2. Begin with the End in Mind.
Create a vision for your life, based on what is more important to you. Set one manageable goal at a time. If we take the goal of Being Active, you could start by walking up the stairs instead of using the escalator. Monitor and remind yourself about your targets. For example, write down your plans and post it somewhere very visible; share them with your love ones; make a chart or timetable with measurable parameters to things on track. Look in the challenges and problems that stand in your way (habit 3), then find a way to tickle it within a reasonable time.
3. Put First Things First.
Prioritize your tasks based on what is truly important. Sometimes you might be clouded with some noises. For example, you think that you do not have time because you need to take care of your kids. But you do not realize that your kids are not babies anymore and they need to learn to take up their own responsibilities. Or, sometimes you think your work is more important, but no one can work unless they have a healthy body. Keep your vision in mind (habit 2) when tackling this challenge, and it will seem much easier to deal with.
4. Think Win-Win.
Build strong relationships with others by helping them succeed as well. This is the first habit of interpersonal leadership - the first three habits are geared to help you master personal leadership. This is one of the less tangible habits since it is based more on a mindset than a set of actions. To make this habit more relatable, just think of this as being considerate to others. Helping others to succeed is also a personal achievement. Have a bigger picture in your head that the world is not just about you.
5. Think First to Understand, then to be Understood.
Listen with your mind and heart, then make yourself understand. It is important to truly listen to advice from your health care team and make a conscious effort to understand their messages.
1 plus 1 could be greater than 2. Build relationships with others to help you make progress in every area in life. Instead of letting your boss, your son, your wife, your neighbour be obstacles in your life, make them your power by building trust, being kind/ considerate/ respectful/ helpful, etc. This follows directly from Habit 5 and emphasizes the importance of working in concert with your health care team and other support groups in the quest for good health/ business/ family management. Remember, "always synergize with the goal of progress, not perfection!"
7. Sharpen the Saw.
Remember, these habits are NOT LINEAR, they are intercrossed and it could takes years of practicing. Keep all parts of yourself sharp: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. The idea here is maintaining the balance between these different spheres of your being. Let these principles be your guide and take actions as your habits. The closer you are to attaining this equilibrium, the clearer you will see that chronic illness has not changed your life... you have changed your life.