Intuition Counselling & Psychotherapy

Counselling & Psychotherapy In South London

Chronic Illness – Tips To Look After Your Mental Health





I hope you are doing ok.  Chronic illness is close to my heart and this post is both written from the viewpoint of being a therapist but also from my lived experience.  I'm going be be using the terms 'chronic illness' and 'long term health condition' interchangeably.


As with a lot of chronic illnesses, struggling with and managing your physical health on a daily basis can be extremely challenging and impact on your mental health.  Life is by no means easy for any of us, but having a chronic illness adds on an extra challenge which is often unseen.


The Mental Challenges


Maybe you are reading this because you have been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness or maybe you have had long term conditions for a while or are just interested in learning more.  What I think is not talked about enough are the feelings that arise when diagnosed with a chronic illness. You may be given the medicine, treatments and tools to manage the condition but where is the space or permission to grieve.


It is a sudden change and adjustments (whatever they have to look like) must happen, maybe your body starts to look and feel different, maybe your mortality becomes more vivid.  Whatever comes up when diagnosed is complex and tied in with the loss.  All losses need to be worked through and grieved so please give yourself space to do that whilst getting to grips with your diagnosis.


There are daily challenges that come with managing a chronic illness, with some days being better than others.


Anxiety can be present in those with a chronic illness due to things such as the uncertainty of how you will feel when you wake up, the constant monitoring of the things you need to do for your condition and worries about when or if complications will arise.  There may be days when you feel more vulnerable and fragile and days that you feel stronger.


Some chronic illnesses can bring on a lot of pain in your body or leave you feeling exhausted, this can lead to depression or low mood as it can be hard to remain positive when you don’t feel good.  This feeling can be compounded if your chronic illness is unseen, it can be really disheartening to be told you don’t look ill for example.


It can be tiring to mask how you’re feeling in order to function during the day around friends or at work.  This is why feelings of hopelessness, sadness and frustration can crop up.


Chronic illnesses are stressful to manage, there is often a lot to think about and consider for what may seem easy or be taken for granted by others.   There are also lots of medical appointments to attend where you may have to advocate for yourself to get the treatment that you need which can feel overwhelming.  There is a lot to juggle with a chronic illness on top of the normal daily stressors in life such as family, work and life in general.


Tips for your Mental Health


I get it, when you have a chronic illness, the physical needs can overtake any mental ones you may have.  So how can you look after your mental health whilst managing a chronic illness?


These are some things that you could consider:


  • Acceptance

Working on acceptance of where you are at and of your long-term health condition can be helpful for some.  Denial can sometimes feature after a diagnosis, be aware of if you are burying your head in the sand.  As hard as it is to acknowledge a chronic illness, denial can stop you from doing the things you need to manage your condition.


  • Being Kind To Self

Do not underestimate the power of treating yourself with kindness, with care and being a friend to yourself.


Like I said earlier, chronic illness can be really tough, so bullying yourself or being self-critical will do the opposite of helping your mental health.

Imagine if you talked to a friend the same way (which you probably wouldn't dream of doing), you would totally demotivate them and chip away at their self esteem.

Why would the result be any different to yourself with negative self talk?

It isn’t always an easy thing to do and takes work if you are used to doing something different.  I always suggest trying to notice that voice and how it makes you feel, then once you do, try to tell yourself something different which feels kinder.  Hang in there as it is a process!  Affirmation and positive reinforcement do work!


  • Prioritising What You Need To Do

When things feel overwhelming, try to prioritise what you need to do.  Some things can not be put off when it comes to managing a chronic illness but are there other areas of your life where you can scale back, even if it’s temporarily?  Or is your anxiety so high that what you really need in that moment is to slow down and breathe?


  • Self care

This can take many forms but does include remembering your medication, attending your medical appointments and other things that help you to stay physically as ok as you can be.  However this also includes remembering to do things that bring you joy, giving yourself permission to rest and putting in boundaries that serve you and your health.


  • Tending To Your Body 

The mind and body are connected, when you are experiencing chronic pain for example, there can be inflammation, tension and stress impacting your body.  This could be where incorporating meditation or gentle (or not so gentle) yoga could be helpful to relax your muscles and mindfully send yourself some self love with the act of carving some time out for you and only you!


  • Lean On Your Support Network

Talking to a safe and trusted person in your life about how you are feeling and the challenges that come with your chronic illness can help you feel less alone.  Look, not everyone is going to get it or understand how crap long term health conditions can feel at times but all you need is that 1 person who will at least try.  If sadly, you do not have this support, you could see if you could find support groups relevant to your chronic illness online.


  • Remember your strengths

The reality is that you cannot change the external and I am not telling you to think everything is suddenly a bed of roses.  However you can work on changing your mindset, even if it is bit by bit, to just remind yourself of how great you are at dealing with a situation you didn’t choose.


 Here is a simple exercise that once helped me:


Grab a blank piece of paper and pen

Write a list of all the strengths and qualities you have due to managing your chronic illness

You may have written down words such as organised, tenacity, bravery etc.

Whatever you wrote, reflect on how writing the list and then looking at the words made you feel.  Look back on this list whenever you need to.



If you tried this exercise and found it helpful, or not please let me know if you like – I am happy to reply to DMs on Instagram @inituitioncounselling.



Remember, you are not your illness.  Actually I bet you’re probably a warrior!



Take good care of yourself


P.s. If you are feeling like your chronic illness is impacting your mental health, please don't struggle alone, you can contact me on and see how I can help.

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