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This post is part 5 of the 5 Keys to Adaptability for Chronic Illness Series. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.

Disclaimer: While I offer tips for maintaining wellness while dealing with a chronic illness, I’m not a licensed medical physician, psychotherapist, or psychologist, and I’m not offering medical or psychiatric advice.

For my full disclaimer policy, go here.

Living with a chronic illness can be debilitating and overwhelming. The strain of managing your health, coupled with the emotional and practical demands, can be isolating. But did you know that building a support system can make all the difference

 

Assembling a team of people who can offer emotional and practical support can help you feel more connected, improve your overall well-being, and reduce stress.

 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of having a support system, how to build one that works for you, and tips on navigating difficult conversations with loved ones. We’ll also highlight the benefits of online support communities and finding support outside of family and friends. 

If you’re searching for ways to better manage your chronic illness with the help of a support system, keep reading!

Managing chronic illness can be overwhelming. Don't go it alone. Get the support and resources you need to manage your condition. Learn why having a support system is key to your wellbeing and peace of mind.

The Benefits of Emotional Support

As mentioned in the intro, having a support system can greatly improve your overall well-being when managing a chronic illness. 

Emotional support is a key component of that system. Having someone to confide in, someone who understands what you’re going through, and someone who can offer a listening ear can provide immense relief. The benefits of emotional support can include decreased anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem, and a greater sense of control over your illness.

In addition, emotional support can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness that often accompany chronic illness. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can create a sense of community and belonging. This sense of connection can lead to increased resilience in the face of difficult times.

I remember feeling so alone when I was first diagnosed with IIH. I was handed a label and given zero resources on what I could possibly expect my life to be like with this diagnosis – and zero resources for support outside of my physician.

Luckily, I was able to find online support groups, blogs, medical journals, and other resources to give me the support I felt I needed. And after opening up to others in my everyday life, I was able to build a support system of friends, family, and even strangers. It helps to know that I have people I can vent to on tough days, or call to help with practical things if my spouse is unavailable. Having people who understand my experience or are just willing to listen deeply and accept my illness makes all the difference in navigating life as someone with a chronic illness.

Building a support network that includes both practical and emotional support can provide a well-rounded system for managing your chronic illness. In the next section, we’ll explore the benefits of practical support and how to build a support system that works for you.

The Benefits of Practical Support

Besides emotional support, practical support can be immensely beneficial when managing chronic illness. Practical support includes things like transportation to appointments or getting help with household tasks. These small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in the day-to-day life of someone living with a chronic illness.

 

Practical support can also provide a sense of relief and peace of mind. Knowing that you have people in your life willing to lend a hand can alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that often comes with managing chronic illness.

Furthermore, practical support can help you maintain some semblance of normalcy in your life. By receiving help with things like grocery shopping or cleaning, you can conserve your energy for the things that matter most to you.

Managing chronic illness can be overwhelming. Don't go it alone. Get the support and resources you need to manage your condition. Learn why having a support system is key to your wellbeing and peace of mind.

How to Build a Support System That Works for You

One of the most important steps in managing a chronic illness is building a support system that works for you. This system should include both practical and emotional support to help you navigate the challenges of living with a chronic illness.

When building your support system, start by identifying the people in your life who are most supportive and understanding. These may be family members, friends, or healthcare professionals who have a good understanding of your condition and can offer practical assistance or a listening ear.

For example – my personal support system includes my spouse, some close friends who also have chronic illnesses, and an online community of others with my condition or similar conditions. Each of these offers support in different ways and is absolutely essential to helping me manage my chronic illness.

It’s also important to be clear about the type of support you need. Whether it’s help with meal prep, transportation to appointments, or someone to talk to, ensure your support system understands your needs.

In addition to your personal support system, there are also many resources available online and in your community that can offer additional support. These may include support groups, online forums, or educational programs.

Remember, building a support system that works for you is not a one-size-fits-all process. What works for one person may not work for another. The key is to identify your needs and seek out the support that will best meet them.

By building a strong support system, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of living with a chronic illness.

Why Online Support Communities Can Be Helpful

Joining online support communities can be a game-changer for managing chronic illness. Many individuals find it challenging to discuss their illness with family and friends, and that’s where online communities come in. These communities offer a safe space to discuss any issues related to chronic illness, from coping mechanisms to treatment options. Not only will you find a supportive group of individuals who understand what you’re going through, but you’ll also gain valuable insights into managing your illness.

Moreover, online support communities offer anonymity that traditional support groups may not provide. For those who are not comfortable discussing personal issues face-to-face, joining an online community can offer an outlet to share their experiences and get support without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Additionally, these groups can be accessed from anywhere, making it easy to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.

Some of my favorite online communities are:

By joining an online support community, you’ll be able to expand your support system beyond family and friends, who may not fully understand what you’re going through.

Managing chronic illness can be overwhelming. Don't go it alone. Get the support and resources you need to manage your condition. Learn why having a support system is key to your wellbeing and peace of mind.

Finding Support Outside of Family and Friends

t’s common for people with chronic illnesses to feel isolated and alone. Friends and family members may not fully understand the challenges that you’re facing, which can make it difficult to find the support you need. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help you build a support system outside of your immediate circle.

Aside from online communities, as we discussed above, another way to find support outside of your family and friends is to seek out an advocate or mentor. This person can help you navigate the healthcare system, provide emotional support, and offer guidance on living with a chronic illness. Many advocacy organizations and support groups offer mentor programs, so be sure to explore these options.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of self-care. Chronic illness can take a toll on your mental health, and it’s important to prioritize your own well-being

You can also consider seeing a therapist or counselor who has experience working with individuals with chronic illnesses. They can help you develop coping mechanisms, manage stress, and work through any emotional challenges that arise.

 

By taking advantage of these resources, you can expand your support system and build a network of people who understand what you’re going through

In turn, this can help you better manage your chronic illness and improve your quality of life.

 

Managing a chronic illness can feel overwhelming and isolating, but you don’t have to go it alone. 

 

Building a support system that provides both emotional and practical support is critical to your overall well-being. Whether it’s through loved ones, online communities, or support groups, finding a community that works for you can make all the difference. Remember, having a chronic illness doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Reach out and build a community around you. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”


If you’re looking for more resources to help you build a strong support system and learn the skills you need to navigate your chronic illness and live life on your terms, you’ll love the free resources you’ll find here – be sure to check them out & share them with a friend!

 

May your flares be few and your spoons be plenty,

April Smith, founder and coach at The Thriving Spoonie, a compassionate and empowering brand for those with chronic illness. A smiling cisgender woman with short wavy brown hair, green eyes, and dressed in a blue denim shirt, confidently faces the camera, smiling. The image is overlaid in the top right area with her name in black script.
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