Living with Chronic Illness: 8 Ways to Thrive While Finding Your Path

In 2012, I found myself bed bound with mononucleosis and pneumonia at the same time. Life sure threw me a giant bag of lemons all at once and I definitely did not make lemonade. I was so sick and beat down that I didn’t know how I would ever bounce back. I have no label for this chronic illness that has led me to leave my teaching career, halt physical activity, spend days in pain, and resist negative thoughts that could consume.

Sound bleak? It could have been, if I let it. Instead, I find myself a work in progress that seeks an understanding of my self-identity and a new path. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but there are some positive practices that give me hope while I find my way back to thriving. I hope that the following eight practices can provide some guidance on your path, whatever it may be.


1. Breathe & Find Gratitude.

I’ve been fighting for years only to realize that fighting is working against me. Fighting puts me into a tight, rigid body, when what is truly needed is one of fluidity, ease, and calm. Whether it’s sitting in meditation, reading, walking or cooking, seek out moments free from distraction and deep cleansing breaths throughout your day. While you’re in one of these moments, take a few seconds to state some of what you are thankful for. This brings an abundance of goodness to the forefront of your mind making it harder to dwell on physical/emotional woes.


2. Make Time.

I was the poster girl for living a life of, “never enough time.” I’m here to tell you, there is always time. It’s a matter of deliberately making time for nurturing habits that bring calm, peace, and joy into your life.


3. Say No.

Have you ever had those feelings of guilt, anxiety or obligation? Listen up, that’s your body’s signal to say no. Be okay with it. Feel confident that saying no, is saying yes to your health and well-being.


4. Embrace Nature.

 Get lost in the stillness of the outdoors. Aim to spend 20 minutes outside each day. Studies show that this will improve your emotional strength and vitality, as well as, boost immunity. If you don’t have immediate access to parks or nature, a walk around the block will still give you a dose of fresh air.


5. Eat the Good Stuff.

 Fuel your cells, repair your body, and treat yourself well by consuming real, whole food. Avoid lifeless packaged and processed foods with unknown ingredients. Become one with your kitchen and select health building fresh ingredients that provide life and energy to your body and mind.


6. Support Team.

 Make a list of the people that inspire and support you, whether you personally know them or not. For me, this grew to become a community of medical support (western/eastern), my husband, blogs, Academy of Culinary Nutrition Tribe, and a few close friends/family.


7. Recognize the Victim.

 Listen for the voice of your inner victim. It’s there calling out, “why me?” and many other unhelpful discouraging words that further separate you from others. The sooner you identify this voice, the sooner you can pause and redirect harmful thoughts.


8. Move Forward.

 It would be quite easy to fill your time reflecting on the “old you” that seems like a faded memory, but this is no way to live. Stop looking back. You cannot change that which has already happened, however, you can choose to empower yourself to make meaningful choices and create a life that you love, here and now.


There was a period of time where I was a pretty solid victim. Once I believed myself to be a victim, it became that much harder to thrive. However, when I opened my eyes to the new path that was unfolding before me, I realized that there is still a great deal to live for. I have found purpose and inspiration to embark on a new career path that works around my health and supports others on their healing journey. Now, I’m taking those lemons that life handed me and I’m eating, juicing, zesting, baking and cooking with them, so that I can embrace the therapeutic properties that lie within.

We want to hear from you! What are some strategies that you use to stay forward thinking and thrive during difficult times? Share in the comment section below.