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Adjusting to life with a chronic illness

When you've been diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness, the immediate focus is usually on the physical effects of the disease. There's testing, more testing, visits to doctors, consultations with specialists and new medications or treatments to try.

That doesn't give you a lot of time to make the mental and emotional shifts that are necessary when you're facing a lifelong illness. Eventually, however, you have to take some time to make adjustments to your thinking in order to live your best possible life. Here are some tips about how to adjust to life with a chronic illness:

1. Take time to grieve

Your life has been drastically altered by your illness. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be angry. If those feelings persist for too long, it might be wise to talk to a therapist about how to work through the emotions that are keeping you from moving forward.

2. Realize that your relationships may change

It's hard to share your life with your friends when everything seems to revolve around your illness. You may also not feel up to many social commitments. Some friends may understand, but others won't. Focus on the friendships that seem to be enduring and look for new friends in support groups and online who understand what it is like to have a chronic illness.

3. Look for new hobbies

If your illness makes your old hobbies hard (or impossible) to do, it's time to find new sources of joy. Don't give in to the temptation to just sit in front of the TV night after night. Start thinking about some of the things you've always wanted to try and gradually explore new hobbies until something "clicks."

4. Learn to listen to your body

Many people feel guilty when chronic illness and pain starts to limit their ability to work -- especially when family members rely on them for income. If your illness was caused by exposure to asbestos or another toxic substance in the workplace, an attorney can help you determine if you're eligible for compensation. That may help ease some of your concerns and make it easier to accept your physical limitations.

Adjusting a chronic illness takes time, but it is possible to still find happiness in your daily life.

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