[Guest blog] Coping with a long-term health condition

Community Programmes Projects Manager at Mind
25 January 2018

If you’re living with a long-term health condition, you might already be taking steps to look after your physical health. Perhaps you’ve been seeing a specialist for advice, taking prescribed medication or following a special diet to help manage your condition. But dealing with a long-term health condition can also come with challenges for your mental health. Here I’ll share some of the steps you can take to help look after your mental wellbeing if you’ve been diagnosed with a long-term health condition.

What is a long-term health condition?

A long-term health condition is one that there’s no known cure for yet. Long-term health conditions usually last for years and are often managed with medication or other treatments. Some examples include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and irritable bowel syndrome. You might also hear them referred to as chronic conditions.

How can I look after my mental health with a long-term condition?

It’s normal to go through hard times and experience ups and downs in life. But if you’ve been diagnosed with a long-term health condition, it could sometimes make it seem harder to cope. Your ability to cope during difficult times and adapt to changing circumstances is sometimes called resilience. Here at Mind, we believe that everyone has a level of resilience, and that there are things you can do to strengthen yours. Practise the steps from the three pillars of resilience outlined below to help you stay emotionally and mentally healthy. 

  1. Build your emotional wellbeing

    Start small and look after yourself by practising these five ways to wellbeing:

    Connect with others. Good relationships help you to feel valued. 

    Be active. Exercise has a whole host of benefits for both your physical and mental health.

    Take notice. Admire your surroundings and take time to appreciate the little things in life.

    Learn something new. Keep your mind active, stay motivated and take on a new challenge.

    Give to others. Small acts of kindness can make a world of difference to both you and others.

  2. Develop coping strategies

    By developing ways to deal with challenges when they arise, you can help to take care of your mental health.

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that could help if you’re living with a long-term health condition. CBT helps by asking you to imagine how you might feel in a certain situation and teaches you ways to manage the feelings that situation might create, such as stress or anger. By imagining these feelings, you can develop positive ways to cope. Not only can CBT help if you have an existing mental health problem, but if you currently have good mental health, then it can also help to prepare you for things that might happen in the future. There are lots of ways you can access CBT such as face-to-face therapy, online courses or books.

    Practise mindfulness

    Mindfulness is a practice based on meditation which allows you to focus on what’s happening in your body, mind and surroundings in the present moment. By controlling your breathing and quieting your mind, mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety, improve your wellbeing and bring about a sense of calm. It’s easy to get started with mindfulness as you can practise anywhere and don’t need any special equipment.

    ‘IF’ and ‘THEN’ scenarios

    Try putting some ‘IF’ and ‘THEN’ plans into place to help prepare you with ways to cope with your condition on a day-to-day basis. These work by learning to spot the early warning signs of things like stress, anxiety or pain and putting strategies into place to deal with these situations should they arise.

    For example:

    • IF I am feeling lonely or isolated, THEN I will call a friend for a chat.
    • IF I am thinking negatively, THEN I will write down how I’m feeling.
    • IF I am feeling anxious, THEN I will practise deep breathing and mindfulness.
    • IF I am worried, THEN I will go for a walk to clear my head.

  3. Stay socially connected

  4. Keep in touch with family and friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Reach out to people who understand how you’re feeling and ask for support. By connecting with someone who also has a health condition, you’ll be reminded that you’re not alone, and be able to support one another. Why not try joining a peer support group or online forum, where people living with long-term health conditions come together to share their experiences and ways of coping?

Mind received a grant from the Bupa UK Foundation. The Bupa UK Foundation funds practical projects that will make a direct impact on people's health and wellbeing. Launched in 2015, to date it has awarded over £1.4 million in grants to more than 50 projects across the UK to improve people’s mental health, support carers and empower young adults living with ongoing health challenges to live life to the full.

About Mind

Mind logo

Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We believe no one should have to face a mental health problem alone and we won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. We:

  • provide information and advice to empower people to make the right choices for them;
  • campaign to improve services and raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues;
  • deliver training to businesses to improve workplace wellbeing; and
  • through our network of over 130 local Minds we provide community services to 500,000 people every year such as peer support, sports and arts therapies, employability training, and crisis care.

If you’re in need of advice or support, we’re here for you. Please visit or call our Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463.

Stuart Reid
Community Programmes Projects Manager at Mind

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