How To Keep Your Mood Steady During A Chronic Illness Flare Up
A chronic illness flare can affect your mood – changing it from happy to sad or angry within minutes. Here are some ways to manage your mood during these tough moments.
#1. Understand Your Symptoms
What does a flare mean for you? Most people with chronic illnesses have a certain number of symptoms that happen consistently, but your symptoms can look completely different from a “regular day” to an active flare day. Take time to research what is to be expected with your chronic illness at varying levels so that you understand what is likely to happen. You are more likely to feel confident and less worried when symptoms happen when you have this information.
#2. Be Clear About Your Treatment Plan
On the flip side, you are more likely to panic and feel intense vulnerable emotions during a flare when you are unsure of how to support yourself. Discuss with each of your treatment providers how you can maintain your health condition on a “regular day” and during a chronic illness flare. Be sure to ask if any prescribed medical treatments increase mental health symptoms (i.e., depression, suicidal ideation, irritability, etc.). Have this information documented so that you and your loved ones can follow that plan at a moment’s notice.
#3. Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
Let’s be real, chronic illness flares tend to make things much harder to accomplish, and it’s understandable that you’d feel angry, overwhelmed, sad, lonely or even helpless. There’s no need to hold that in. Give yourself a moment to let that all out so that the rest of your energy can be used to focus on getting through the flare, because these emotions can zap all of your energy if not careful.
Here are some consequences of ignoring your emotions:
- More body tension
- Headache or migraines
- Increased blood pressure
- Mood swings and bigger, uncontrollable emotions
- Difficulty communicating your needs
- Others don’t understand how you feel or what you need
Check out my blog post for more ways to help you cope with your emotions and on the hard days.
#4. Adjust Your Expectations
Change is uncomfortable for anyone, but for the chronically ill person, it can feel like you are letting yourself and others down. This is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you have to change your plans and miss out on things important to you. Some of those adjustments may include taking time off of work, canceling plans, allowing others to help more, or even scheduling emergency care.
Adjusting expectations for yourself is necessary because you cause more harm forcing yourself to meet unrealistic standards. That leads to more frustration and lower self-esteem. It is more helpful to show yourself compassion when you make those tweaks during a flare. Compassion in this situation looks like giving yourself permission to pull back and give your body what it needs without judgment or self-criticism.
#5. Focus on Hopeful Thoughts
You are likely to think a lot of negative thoughts during a chronic illness flare. Thoughts like: “This isn’t fair,” “Why won’t my body…,” “I’m so tired of…,” and a host of worst case scenarios and worries flood your mind. This alone brings on more negative feelings (i.e., depression, panic attacks, angry outbursts, helpless and hopeless), keeping you stuck in a funk. Once you have allowed yourself to be present with your feelings, gently redirect your thoughts to more encouraging and hopeful things.
It isn’t always easy or possible to just flip the light switch and think all positive thoughts (and I would never tell you that you should). Instead I encourage you to focus on things that bring on positive thinking.
Here are some activities that help boost hopeful and positive thoughts during a flare:
- Read a juicy or inspiring book
- Write in a journal
- Engage in spiritual or religious practices (i.e., prayer, religious reading, etc.)
- Get some fresh air (open a window, sit outside in comfortable temperatures, listen to nature sounds, count the stars)
- Watch a funny movie
- Talk with someone who inspires you
- Play a game
- Take a nap
Another way to boost your mood or keep it steady is to find more ways to help yourself feel more comfortable. Check out this list of chronic illness flare essentials to have on hand to make things more manageable.
#6. Communicate Your Needs
Remember that your loved ones can not read your mind (although that would be nice in times like these). An essential way for you to be emotionally supported by others during a chronic illness flare is to communicate what’s going on with your body and be very specific about what you need. If possible, review your treatment plan with them ahead of time. Otherwise, informing them as your needs arise helps as well. This minimizes your worry and allows you to focus more on getting through your flare as best as possible.
Next Steps for Chronic Illness Management
I provide mental health therapy to adolescents and adults who are living with chronic illnesses and the emotional toll that it can bring. We can talk through your personal experiences, build more supports and help you bring more function in your life – even with a chronic health condition. Although you cannot control certain aspects of your illness, your mindset and intentional response to your circumstances are big steps for feeling in control and having more “good days” even during a chronic illness flare.
You can schedule your first appointment with me by booking a free 15-minute consultation.