By Analin Flores, MS, LMFT and Alyssa Pebbles
Dealing with a chronic issue (physical or psychological) can be very discouraging. Whether you are struggling to lose weight, facing crippling anxiety, or battling ongoing depression, it can be tempting to sink into hopelessness and despair. But if you can begin to become proactive in your own healing, you will be able to see results and get better sooner.
What does being proactive mean? Well, there are many different skills you can learn, with or without the help of a trained therapist, to participate in your healing process. Let's take a look at some of these skills.
Learning healthy communication skills can help avoid misunderstandings, reduce conflict, and allow you to receive the support you need. Communication skills include being a good listener and speaker. Being a good listener means being attentive to and having the heart to clearly listen to the message the other person is trying to communicate. This increases empathy for others. By learning speaking skills, you can learn how to be assertive and share your thoughts and feelings in a way that the other person is willing to listen and collaborate with you.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes certain people in our lives are not good for us, and may be contributing to our illness. It is important to recognize those people, and create boundaries with them.
For example, if you experience anxiety about your weight and eating habits, and every time you hang out with your sister she comments on what you look like, you may have to create some boundaries with her. Either you need to tell her how her comments affect you, or you may even need to stop hanging out until you can work through your anxiety.
This can be tough to do, especially with people who love you but are still contributing negatively to your health. It’s important to clearly communicate your boundaries with others, and if they don’t respect them, to cut them out of your life perhaps until you are in a healthier place.
A lot of times, mental and even physical health problems that don’t resolve can be caused by conflict with those we love in our lives. For example, if you are constantly arguing with your partner and your marriage feels strained, no matter how well the rest of your life may be going, you may experience ongoing anxiety or depression as a result. Until you learn how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way with your partner, you will not have peace.
So, what is healthy conflict-solving? Whole books have been written about it, but it is essentially learning how to deal with conflict in a respectful and loving way. You may need the help of a therapist to learn how to do this, and there is absolutely no shame in that. Invest in yourself and those you love by learning conflict management skills now––you will see a huge shift in your mental health.
When facing a chronic health issue, fear can be a big factor. We may fear the consequences of our condition, or fear what we are missing out on because of our condition. Whatever fears you face as a result of your illness, you must learn to manage them well or they can get out of control and make your symptoms worse.
Some techniques that can help you manage your fears around your illness include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and exercising. All of these activities can calm your nervous system down and help ground you in the present. Fear keeps us stuck in the what-ifs, so it’s important to stay grounded in reality––the what-is.
If your fears feel too overwhelming to manage alone, please seek extra help from a therapist. We would love to help you work through your fears at Florecer Family Counseling.
Another important aspect of healing is working on your self-esteem. Many chronic psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety can stem from a lack of self-worth. If we don’t value ourselves, our mental health plummets.
Building self-esteem is a lifelong process––there is no quick fix. It takes a lot of work, most likely with a therapist, to understand and view yourself in the correct light, especially if you have suffered years of abuse or low self-esteem.
Noticing Needs and Asking for Support
Perhaps the hardest thing for many people to do is ask for help. There is a stigma, especially around mental health, that asking for support is a sign of weakness––when in fact it is just the opposite. If you try to heal on your own without the support of others, you will get nowhere.
You need to first recognize what you need support with, and then seek out that support. You may seek support in any of the areas discussed above. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trained therapist to help you work through whatever you need to to find true healing. And it’s okay if you don’t know what that is yet––you will discover it through the process of therapy.
Asking for help is critical to your healing. We are built for community, and we must lean into our community in times of need. You can get better, but it requires action on your part in the above ways.
And finally, trusting God throughout the process is essential. If you don’t have faith that He will heal you, it will be so much harder to find that healing. It may not be an easy or linear process, but you will grow and change as you partner with God. It will all be worth it in the end.
You don’t need to go through your healing journey alone, we are here to support you along the way!