Coping with Chronic Conditions

How do you cope with a chronic condition?

If you are dealing with chronic illness, sensory processing issues, physical limitations or the impact of trauma or grief, then be kind to yourself. You may not be able to change the reality, but you can change the way you manage, cope and feel about your situation.

Knowing who you are, and embracing your strengths and limitations, form the firm foundation on which you can build your future. Whatever challenges you are facing right now.

Overwhelmed and Anxious

Chronic conditions or underlying health issues can leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Your sleep may be affected. You may feel increasingly isolated and exhausted. Or you may be pressing on regardless, trying to ignore the issue and hoping it will go away. Working harder and harder; trying to keep it all together.

Talking can be helpful. We all need to be heard and understood. But what then? How do you move forward with your life when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious and often depressed?

Sometimes talking really doesn’t help. In fact, talking therapy can be harmful, with research showing that, on average, approximately 10 per cent of clients actually get worse after starting traditional talking therapy. Constantly reviewing and ruminating on the past, and all the negative things that have happened to you, and are happening to you now, can actually reinforce feelings of despair and create even more anxiety. You can become overwhelmed and anxious.

Sensory overload, and the anxiety and depression that can result, is becoming increasingly common; we are all bombarded with social media babble, endlessly violent images on the news, frequent texts and emails, or work and exam pressures. Some people are also more susceptible to feeling overwhelmed by stress than others. If you are suffering from a chronic health issue or disability, you may be more susceptible to sensory overload.

You know when you feel overwhelmed. You find it hard to carry on a conversation at a noisy party or in a pub, are startled by loud or sudden noises or frequently experience ‘information overload’. As a result, you may become easily exhausted, ‘wired’ and that too leads to depression.

Sensory Gating, Protecting you from Stress

Sensory gating is a protective mechanism that prevents an overload of irrelevant information in the cortical centres of the brain by filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli from general environmental stimuli. Even the healthiest, most well balanced and constitutionally strong people can experience sensory gating issues when they are overloaded by stress. If your mental or physical health is in anyway compromised, you will be more even more vulnerable to sensory overload and stress.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are both conditions associated with social withdrawal, increased levels of oxidative stress, reduced glutathione levels and immune issues. These conditions are associated with problems with ‘sensory gating’.

There are many other conditions that are also linked to sensory gating issues including bipolar disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and even IBS and Cystitis. Some of these have traditionally been considered physical disorders, or labelled as mental disorders only. Recent medical thinking and research is beginning to blur the boundaries between the two.

Many studies have emerged that demonstrate that your microbiome – the bacteria in your gut – impacts on various disorders including anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and autism. Our minds and bodies are interdependent.

Exploring Best Hopes

Naturally, you would seek medical help for any of these issues and do all you can to get appropriate treatment. Quite rightly.

However, how do you come to terms with the impact these conditions are having on your life, or will have on your life in the future? How do you manage your energy? How do you cope when doctors draw a blank, or can’t help you easily? How do you cope with symptoms, the pain, the uncertainty, and the prognosis; and even the lack of a diagnosis and the stigm that brings?

And how can you explore your best hopes for a positive future when you feel so anxious and overwhelmed?

If you are facing real challenges in your everyday life, you may be demonstrating the same resilience, determination and strength of character as Usain Bolt. It’s just for you there are no prizes and public plaudits. You can celebrate your achievements none the less, and find others who support you, believe in you and celebrate all that you are.

That’s a good start. Now you have accepted how you feel, and recognised you need to do something about your stress levels and sensory overload. What next? How do you resolve all those things that create anxiety, the overwhelming demands of the present and the traumas, phobias and fears from your past?

Focusing on Solutions

Solution Focused approaches enable you to appreciate all the resources and abilities you have developed over the years and to celebrate all you have achieved so far. Now you are ready to tackle your stress and sensory overload issues.

Stress is stored in a metaphorical ‘stress bucket’ and when it overflows, you don’t sleep well, you become increasingly tired and irritable, you lose intellectual control and move in to your primitive mind.

NLP and hypnosis help calm the primitive responses in your subconscious mind so that your anxiety will lessen, your sleep will improve and you get back to the best version of yourself. In effect, NLP and hypnotherapy create a ‘sensory gate’ to protect you.

Your primitive mind is like a computer, storing programmes and patterns from the past. Embedded fears, and negative beliefs, create so much of your stress, and stress makes any underlying condition worse. Hypnotherapy changes those programmes and patterns without you having to dig up and discuss your past (unless you want to). A few sessions of hypnotherapy, you will start to feel and respond differently to external stressors, and move from your primitive fearful responses, to your conscious intellectual mind where it is so much easier to resolve problems. Your worries literally start to drop out of your life, and you become, once again the best that you can be.

Finding your own answers

Throughout the many years of not being heard, believed, or understood, you may have lost faith in your ability to solve your own problems and maybe can’t foresee a positive future. However, Solution Focused practitioners trust that beneath the negative programming that has been embedded through stress and anxiety, you do know what is best for you. You have all the resources you need to make lasting change.

Through being asked specific key questions, you can explore your best hopes, and identify new possibilities for your future. You don’t need advice, interpretations or analysis of the things that happened to you in the past. As you accept and embrace where you are now, and undergo hypnosis from a trained and qualified practitioner, you will start to resolve negative self-limiting beliefs, self-blame, anxiety, depression and minimise the stress responses stored in your sub-conscious.

That will leave you with much more energy to live in the present, and to plan your future.

As I accepted my own limitations, and celebrated my strengths - dealing with a chronic illness, childhood trauma and sensory processing issues - I realised that I could help others who had experienced similar things to me – whatever the root cause. I could appreciate the strength, resilience and skills needed to overcome or live with profound childhood trauma, manage sensory overload or cope with chronic illness. I could help people who are facing daily struggles to realise their own gifts, celebrate their achievements, find a tribe where they belonged and create a fulfilling future.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, from a qualified and accredited therapist can give you tools and techniques to help you set realistic goals, resolve self-limiting beliefs and reduce your stress and anxiety so that you can move forward in your life; whatever you feel is holding you back now.

Jane Pendry
NLP and Hypnotherapy Coach

I have a Diploma in Solutions Focused Hypnotherapy, Clifton Hypnotherapy Practice Training and an International Certificate in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Solutions Focused University. I am also an NLP Practitioner.

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash