Chronic illness and wellness

Last year, 140 million Americans, or 46 percent of the population, suffered from a chronic condition. By 2030, it is projected that more than half of all Americans will be chronically ill, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Last year, 140 million Americans, or 46 percent of the population, suffered from a chronic condition. By 2030, it is projected that more than half of all Americans will be chronically ill, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

by Richard Cheu — 

Wellness for chronically ill people is not an oxymoron — it is an achievable goal. Last year, 140 million Americans, or 46 percent of the population, suffered from a chronic condition. By 2030, it is projected that more than half of all Americans will be chronically ill, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Chronic illness affects people of all ages and makes no distinction among people of different cultures, economic status or gender. The older you are, the more likely you are to have a chronic condition. The Centers for Disease Control has concluded that 80 percent of seniors have one or more chronic illnesses.

When a patient receives a chronic illness diagnosis, many negative emotions, including fear, anger, grief, despair and anxiety, are unleashed. They can be overwhelming and paralyzing. The first step to wellness is to get rid of these negative emotions, which I call excessive emotional baggage.

The second wellness goal is to improve your physical health by adopting healthy habits that are appropriate for your illness. Four of the most important habits are a diet of healthy foods and beverages, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and doing something relaxing and enjoyable every day, even if only for 15 or 20 minutes.

The third wellness goal is to improve your spiritual health. You do not have to be a religious person to be spiritual. However, every major religion incorporates spirituality in its beliefs and teachings. Religion also provides community support, which is very important in overcoming the loneliness that often accompanies chronic illness.

Spirituality gives you the strength and courage to look forward and not backward. It uses your strengths to achieve meaning and fulfillment in life in spite of your chronic illness. This can assist you in attaining a calm mind and peaceful heart.

 

Richard Cheu is the author of Living Well with Chronic Illness: a Practical and Spiritual Guide, a caregiver, stress-management consultant and an ordained Catholic deacon. He is a hospital chaplain and has provided pastoral counseling in medical facilities in New York City. ChronicLivingWell.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 2, April/May 2013.

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