Living with a chronic disease can be a challenging thing to navigate and it may take time to really get to the point of feeling as good as you possibly can. Based on my own experience, it took me a while to realize I had to make significant life changes to feel my best. I had to stop making excuses and start implementing changes to see a real difference. From my own journey and experience, here are some of my tips that have helped me through tough times and can help you see a shining light at the end of the tunnel.

7 Tips to Live a Healthy Life with a Chronic Disease

1. Find a community. ​Going through the process of getting diagnosed with a chronic disease and having a chronic illness, which may be lifelong, is difficult to navigate alone. You really want to surround yourself with a support system. This can be friends, family members, or others who are also struggling with a chronic disease. There are a number of chronic illness and rare disease foundations and services available that are focused on building community. This can help you to feel like you are not in this alone and that you have people to go to and lean on.

2. Food and Nutrition. ​As someone suffering from a chronic illness, it is important to energize your body with whole foods (fruits, vegetables, proteins) to give your body what it needs. You want to eat as much real food as possible and try to avoid processed foods. When you go to the grocery store, focus on the outer (parameter) aisles where you can find most of the nutritious real food. It’s really important to read labels on all food and drink products and make sure there are no hidden ingredients like gums, maltodextrin, and cane sugar, because these ingredients can do more harm than good. Additionally, buy organic when you can over conventional foods and buy wild caught fish over farmed which can help reduce toxins being put into your body.

3. Non-Toxic Products.​ I am a big advocate of paying attention to what you are putting on your body in addition to what you’re putting in it. Companies are masters at marketing their products, but so many beauty and household products are full of toxic ingredients that can worsen your health issues. One of my favorite phone apps to search what really is in your beauty products is ThinkDirty. They do a great job outlining what exact ingredients are in your product and where it is on a scale from 0-10 (0 being completely non-toxic). Any change, even a small change, can have a lasting impact on your health in the future.

4. Self Love/Care.​ This is one of my favorites on this list as it focuses on what you need to do for your whole self, mentally and physically. It is important to understand what makes you happy and do something uplifting for yourself at least once a day. This can be as simple as making a cup of coffee in the morning to treating yourself to your favorite lunch spot. By taking part in self care, the healthier relationship you will have with yourself, allowing for increased positivity and more self love. It can help to limit stress and boost confidence, leading to new opportunities and a more motivated version of yourself.

5. Movement. ​Every day you should aim for 20-30 minutes of body movement to help release endorphins, reduce anxiety, and boost your immune system. Movement can be anything from a walk, a jog, or an exercise class. One idea to hold yourself accountable, is to find an accountability partner who can check in with you to see if you followed through. This can be a friend, health coach, or significant other.

6. Mindfulness. ​This tends to be an area that is typically missed, but is so important. Mindfulness is very customized to what works for you, whether that is finding a meditation practice to do daily (can be only a few minutes), journaling, or getting your creative juices flowing with drawing or art projects. It is key that we exercise our brains and take some time to slow down and focus on the here and now.

7. Pets.​ This one is optional, but having a pet has so many benefits. They can help to increase the amount of physical activity you do daily, they show you endless love and affection, they never judge you, and they can help with overall stress management and reduce other health issues. There is a​ reason​ therapy pets exist.

About the Writer

My name is Jamie and I was diagnosed in 2018 at 26 years old with a rare genetic disease called Gaucher Disease Type 1. I am on lifelong treatment and through this personal journey I committed to changing my lifestyle significantly and am now very passionate about living a clean and non-toxic life. I became a certified Health Coach in November 2019. My goal is to share health and wellness tips so you can live your best life with a chronic illness and I am a real life example that it can be done. Follow me on my personal Instagram ​@jaykoll​ and check out my website w​ww.jamiekoll.com​ to learn more about me! I love connecting with anyone in the chronic illness community.

In Case You Missed It – Recently from Jamie Koll and PSI

In case you missed Jamie’s previous guest post here on the PSI Patient Blog, you can read about her experience living with a chronic disease during COVID-19 here.

We also recently had the honor of having Jamie as our guest on the PSI Rare Perspectives podcast. You can find this episode here:

Listen on Apple: https://apple.co/3cJ51qB

Listen on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2KvYEdT

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