Are you wondering how to practice intentional living with chronic illness? Intentional living; yet another popular term coming to the forefront in this world filled with constant distraction. But what does it really mean? And is it even possible to achieve an “intentional life” when you are facing a chronic illness that can turn a good day into a bad one at the flip of a switch?
As a person who lives with a chronic illness, I know all too well how much my condition can dictate my day. It keeps me from giving the absolute best parts of myself to my family, friends, colleagues and patients.
But just because it can have such an impact on my life, does not mean that I am going to let it devalue my purpose on this earth. I am more than just another chronic illness warrior. I have goals, passions, valued relationships and a soul that deserves to have attention.
No one, but me, can give me the life I want.
And so, to answer the question, yes! Absolutely yes! You CAN lead an intentional life with chronic illness, and this is how.
Intentional Living With Chronic Illness: The Mind, Body, and Soul Connection
The fact is, your body functions as a whole unit. Yes, you may have different systems in the body, like the neurological system, digestive system, etc. But all of these systems work together to keep you alive and breathing.
And that is exactly what so many of us tend to forget. We are ALIVE and BREATHING.
I so often find myself focusing on my symptoms, ailments, disabilities, or whatever else might be bothering me. This can be extremely detrimental to my mental health, which leads to a worsening of my overall well-being.
It’s important that we all recognize when we are doing this, so we can stop it in its tracks. It’s time we stop the negativity. It’s time we lose the “woe is me” mentality; something I catch myself doing at times too.
Because at the end of the day, we are ALIVE and BREATHING. So, there is no question as to whether we should live intentionally, because as chronic illness warriors, we NEED to live intentional.
Intentional living is what will allow us to look back on our life with pride, knowing that we did everything in our power to live a life WE LOVE, despite our illnesses.
So what is Intentional Living?
Simply put, living intentionally means to live with a purpose. But it does not end there. The only way we can truly fulfill the purpose we see in ourselves is to put it into action.
This can be a difficult feat when you have daily obstacles like fatigue, pain, depression, anxiety, etc. But difficult does not mean impossible.
Designing a life you love is achievable! Once you have embraced the notion that you are more than your diagnosis, then you will be able to put into action your purpose. It’s all about mindset and not allowing the negative thoughts or words keep you from living out the life you want.
Essentially, you are in charge and responsible for your own life; the way you live, think, and act. Make each action purposeful and you are living intentionally.
What Are Your Intentions?
No, I’m not talking about marital intentions…
If you want to live intentionally with chronic illness, what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? What relationships do you want to feed? How do you want to impact the world around you?
Think of the holistic life you want to lead; meaning everything you want and everything you do should line up and point to your whole purpose.
Maybe your chronic disease relates to your purpose in life. I have found that to be true for myself. My chronic and incurable condition, called endometriosis, has opened up this new calling to use my gifts, compassion, and education to help other people like me.
Honing in on your purpose is key to living intentionally. But don’t let this scare you. You don’t have to decide on everything now.
As humans, we are endlessly evolving and wanting better for ourselves. So intentional living will always be a never ending process.
Setting Goals with Intention.
Start by setting short term and long term goals.
Setting goals fills our human need to accomplish things. They give us something to look forward to each day, and make each day feel as though we have made one small/large contribution to the world around us.
In the end, every goal should represent your true identity, your core values, and what you want for YOU.
That being said, one of your goals should be to listen to your body. Because, sometimes what is best for you, is giving your body the rest it needs to recuperate.
Intentional Living With Chronic Illness May Look Different For Somebody Else.
You may find yourself comparing your purpose to someone else’s purpose. Or comparing your timeline to theirs. But it’s important that you not let their life sway yours.
Chronic illness may mean that your timeline is a little longer than your peers’ timeline. But that does not make you any less valuable. You are a unique person with a unique perspective.
Be gracious with yourself and do the best you can.
Always keep your goals and purpose at the forefront, never letting it become a competition with your peers.
Intentionally Choose Healthy Over Comfort.
We all know that we are supposed to eat healthy, but when you are down in the dumps, sometimes all you want to eat is processed and fried comfort foods.
However, this will only set you back from achieving your goals. Eating unhealthy foods can exacerbate inflammation within the body, causing chronic symptoms to worsen.
On the other hand, if you intentionally decide on healthier foods, you may find that your chronic symptoms improve over time. Leaving you with the ability to move forward without as many obstacles.
It’s okay to intentionally say “No.”
Remember, you are in charge of making your decisions. Often times, my chronic illness can leave me feeling so fatigued or stressed out that it becomes difficult to complete mundane tasks or socialize at family events.
If you need to rest, rather than go to a family event, then just say no. Allow yourself the time to rest so that you can accomplish the goals you set for your life.
As I said earlier, one of your goals should be to listen to your body.
Don’t overbook yourself or wear yourself thin. Be realistic with time and don’t allow others to make you feel bad about doing what is best for you.
Intentionally Surround Yourself with the Right People.
As a cancer nurse, I see almost every day how essential it is to find your people.
Even more so, I see how strong, hopeful, and full of life cancer patients can be, despite their diagnosis. And I think we all need to aspire to be this way.
But we need to understand that we can’t do it alone.
Having the support of one single person can make all the difference in your journey through life with chronic illness. But having a community of people is even more powerful.
There are communities all around us. For example, people are connecting online because of their shared diagnosis. We live in a world now that allows us to connect with people who just get it.
So, go find your people. And maybe even, distance yourself from the people who make you feel shame.
Some people will make their negative thoughts known when it comes to your life, symptoms, and condition. But it’s YOUR life, not theirs. Let them have their opinions. And find people who will let you have yours.
Final Notes on Intentional Living
As you can see, living intentionally is not limited to your work life. It also includes your home life, your diet, and the relationships you feed.
Additionally, it is not a one and done process. Intentional living is a lifelong process that can reap so many benefits, especially when it comes to living with a chronic illness.
You are so much more than your diagnosis! You CAN have it all. But you need to be willing to create the life you want. Take action, redirect your thoughts, and be graceful with yourself.
Think of it this way . . . In the future, when you look back on the life you have lived, all you should see are accomplishments, maybe some failures, but absolutely no regrets.
Melissa is a Registered Nurse who has spent over 6 years providing education and care to adults battling illness and disease.
In 2017, she was diagnosed with Endometriosis. Since her diagnosis, Melissa has devoted her spare time to providing research-based education and advocacy to people struggling with Endometriosis