3.0 Maintaining a Positive Attitude: Ten Strategies
How many times have we heard that one? This challenge, of course, does not pertain exclusively to chronic illness, but to any time when things do not go as we wish. But with ongoing illness, seeing the positive presents a continuous struggle.
Yet our moods are not perfectly correlated with our physical state. Most likely we can all recall times that despite much pain or fatigue, we could cope and even achieve high spirits. Perhaps the weather was perfect, good friends visited, we just accomplished something or helped somebody, making us feel good about ourselves. Other times, depression seems to take hold even when our physical discomfort is at a manageable level. Why is this? Answering this question is the key to finding optimism. Sometimes it seems we have fallen and the waves continue to crash on our heads, as we fight to rise, only to be knocked down yet again. But that same ocean sometimes allows us to find a wave, we can ride smoothly to the shore.
What can we do when we feel under the waves? How can we find the strength to climb back on top, and the patience to know that we will? Here are ten cognitive exercises I used to maintain the most positive attitude I can:
1. Expect bumps!
It is important to acknowledge that we will sometimes feel down. Who wouldn’t in our condition? But by expecting rather than dreading downtime, such periods become more tolerable. In addition, recognizing that we will have blue periods helps keep them in perspective. We will say to ourselves, “I was depressed before, and got out of it; this time, too, it will pass.” It is easy to forget that before our illness, there were times we felt down. Now, these periods are wrapped up in our medical problems; but everyone gets depressed some of the time. After accepting that we will sometimes feel sad, and even experience self-pity, we can concentrate on ways to shorten these periods and make them fewer and farther between. Positive Thinking
2. Track the changes.
Keeping track of moods helps put-ups and downs into perspective. During your best times, make a conscious attempt to capture the feeling. Leave notes on your wall attesting to the way you feel. When we feel bad, it becomes quite difficult to imagine that things can be otherwise. Similarly, during times of improvement, its amazing how quickly we may forget how bad a previous period was, making subsequent flare-ups not only intolerable but shocking. Counting and measuring the duration of the bad times – as well as the good ones – one can put them into perspective. It may be that over time, our worst occurs about once a month, although it feels much more frequent. This knowledge is empowering because we can remind ourselves that a bad flare is, for example, our monthly temporary setback, and finds ways to ride it out until our baseline returns.