Resilience for managing chronic conditions

We're all living longer due to better healthcare and nutrition/sanitisation and much more likely to experience at least one chronic condition in our lifetime. Chronic means that the condition typically persists beyond 6 months. Millions of people are living with the effects of e.g., strokes, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Almost half (47%, or more than 11 million) Australians have at least 1 of 10 of the most common chronic conditions and 1 in 5 (20%, or 4.9 million people) have multiple chronic conditions, based on 2017–18 estimates.

Chronic conditions include illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and asthma. The figures, however, don't include rare chronic diseases.

In 2017–18, the most common condition(s) by age were:

  • 15–44 mental and behavioural conditions (22%)
  • 45–64 back pain and problems, and arthritis (25% each)
  • 65 and over arthritis (49%).

Many chronic conditions are largely preventable as they share risk factors that are modifiable—that is, action can be taken to reduce the effect of the risk factor.

These risk factors include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and overweight and obesity.

People experiencing chronic illness or disease experience a whole range of medical, physical, and psychosocial issues, here are just a few...

  • Having to self-advocate to get the help they need
  • Deal with other's reactions to their condition
  • Change behaviours that may be contributing to their ill-health e.g., diet, exercise, smoking, drinking, stress, etc
  • Manage expectations and uncertainties about the future
  • Overcome self-limiting beliefs, self-esteem, and/or negative thinking
  • Manage the treatment regime and un/expected changes because of it e.g., side effects, relapse
  • Creating better self-care routines e.g., eating, exercise, sleeping, relaxation methods
  • Dealing with their loss of identity through e.g., weight loss/gain, hair loss, feeling physically or mentally unwell, cognitive dysfunction, memory issues, dependence on others, surgery, disfigurement, unemployment, engaging with the medical profession, etc
  • Manage memories/flashbacks of previous identities before the condition i.e., ruminating on how things used to be
  • Putting things in perspective
  • Relinquishing control over things they can't control 
  • Gaining control over things they can control 
  • Asserting themselves with others who are taking away their control
  • Recovery during and after surgery e.g., less blood loss, pain, scarring, relapse prevention methods, etc
  • Preparation for surgery e.g., managing fears and anxieties around procedures
  • Decision making and procrastination
  • Managing physical pains
  • Managing emotional reactions e.g., anger, depression, hopelessness, denial
  • Feeling more confident and assertive during the process of managing the condition
  • Managing behavioural problems e.g., insomnia, lethargy, avoidance, overeating 

Building resilience enables chronic disease sufferers to shift the way they perceive and respond to adversity and change by having robust and sustainable strategies of coping and growing. The list above is not exhaustive and illustrates that it can be overwhelming for sufferers and very challenging daily living life.

There are some general principles we can use to develop resilience to manage all these issues more effectively to improve disease control and live a better quality of daily life. Learn more about how hypnotherapy helps to build resilience


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