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Coping with Difficult Feelings When You Have a Chronic Illness

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Does thinking about your diagnosis leave you feeling angry, defeated, or anxious? How do you handle these emotions?

When dealing with a chronic illness, there is no clear, linear path. Proper diagnoses often take years to receive, and the symptoms constantly change.

Often, you are left to navigate this process with very little support. There is a complex medical system to traverse and many many feelings that come with that.

You might feel angry at how long it is taking to receive care. Or sad at reflecting on the life you used to have. Or anxious about the future and how the symptoms will play out.

Emotions like this can feel overwhelming. To cope, you might feel tempted to open up a large bag of chips or watch TV until the early morning hours to escape.

You temporarily feel better, but you feel even more physically and mentally drained the next day.

What do these behaviors accomplish?

Over time, we condition ourselves to react to unpleasant thoughts and feelings by disconnecting from the world or distracting ourselves from the world in some other way.

So if that’s not the solution, then what is?

To waste less energy on these negative emotions, we need first to create space for these feelings instead of avoiding them.


Next time you feel like you’re getting caught in a problematic thought or feeling, try this:

What painful thought or worry is showing up?

  • What urge, feeling, or sensation is coming up with it?

  • What things have I done when these thoughts and feelings showed up that led to long-term well-being?

  • What things have I done when these thoughts and feelings showed up that led to suffering? Either worsening your life, draining your energy, or harming your well-being.

Over the next week, keep a record of what you do when painful thoughts and feelings arise and notice how the actions you take affect you.

What positive actions are you trying to take when a painful thought pops up? Let me know in the comments below.


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