PCHC Positive Coping with Health Conditions
Life Changes

ImageHaving a health condition means adjusting to important changes in your life:

  • Changes in physical activities
  • Changes in symptoms or pain
  • Changes in how you depend on other people

These changes can be challenging and very stressful. The way you handle these changes will make a big difference in how you feel. If you view life changes in a discouraging way, stop doing activities without finding new ones, or become overwhelmed by anger, then you’re likely to suffer more and miss opportunities for new experiences.

Positive Coping Skills help you deal with change in a more effective way. Using these skills can reduce the negative impact of health conditions and help you find new ways of dealing with change that improve your life. Below, we describe ways you can use Positive Coping Skills to handle change caused by your health condition.

Managing Depressive Thinking

The way you think about change has a big impact on how you feel. Here are some of the common forms of distorted thinking about life changes:

  • Catastrophizing. You magnify the risk or suffering associated with the health condition. You tell yourself that your condition will result in the worst possible outcome. This makes the change extremely discouraging and leaves you feeling helpless or overwhelmed. But when you think realistically about the changes instead, you look at them in a balanced way, using the best information to decide how difficult your situation will be and to spot opportunities for positive changes. This is more encouraging – it leaves you feeling more hopeful and ready to take positive action.
  • Shoulds. You focus on the unfairness of the change: “I shouldn’t have to deal with this, I shouldn’t have to change my life.” If you think this way, you might refuse to make adjustments in your activities and then suffer serious consequences (increased symptoms, more pain, etc.). But if you think about change realistically, accepting the reality of the situation, you can make adjustments that reduce the impact of your health condition and open up new possibilities.
  • Labeling. You label yourself in unfair ways, maybe telling yourself “Having this health condition means I’m just disabled, I can’t do anything” or “I brought this on myself, so I should just take my punishment.” Thinking in these unfairly self-critical ways can leave you feeling so discouraged that you don’t do self-care or follow treatment recommendations. But if you think fairly about yourself, you’ll feel encouraged to take care of your own health and participate actively in treatment or recovery.

The section on Managing Depressive Thinking takes you through the steps of applying this skill.

Activating Your Life

This Positive Coping Skill helps you to reduce your activities as needed while finding rewarding new activities that are OK with your health condition. The Activating Your Life section takes you through the steps of choosing activities that are as rewarding as possible, while making adjustments for your health condition. The aim is to find new kinds of physical or social activities to replace ones that are no longer possible.

Relaxation and Managing Worry

The changes caused by a health condition can make you feel anxious and tense. Your body might be tensing up against pain or you might be extremely worried. Relaxation and Managing Worry are two skills that help you to stay calm and relaxed while things are changing. Staying calm and relaxed will make it easier to take in information from your heathcare providers, to manage pain or symptoms, to make plans for dealing with your health and to sleep well through the changes. The Relaxation and Managing Worry sections take you through the steps of learning and trying these skills.