7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness

A peek behind the blog today, right where I am, living and learning from this journey with inflammatory bowel disease, genetic mutation, and other surprising gifts of a lifetime. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness shares reflections aimed to encourage and support those living with illness or loving someone who is.

Trees in the yard - Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio…the trees in our yard are certainly lovely indeed.

7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness

I’m calling them little, but these life hacks can pack a big punch. The photos are glimpses straight from my life in the last couple of weeks where I find myself on the path to healing.

Inspirational quote about healing on Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

I have lived with Crohn’s disease since I was diagnosed in 1984 and recently enjoyed a long remission from 2012 to 2018. The past year has been a stressful struggle indeed. We hoped the removal of my gallbladder in September would take care of the issue I have with digesting fat, but it is possible my body simply needs more time to heal and adjust.

Hello Lovely Studio
A little cherub in the garden…certainly lovely indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

1. Gamechanging Gratitude Shift

Some days, just the idea of taking a shower can be overwhelming. If you are living with chronic illness, pain, disease, or side effects from medical treatment, then you may often have limited energy for daily chores and activities which don’t require a second thought for healthy folks. For example, I do all the shopping for our family, and on a bad day, the thought of getting ready, venturing out into public, and even being present to all that food at the market can trigger nausea and distress. While I may have only limited control over my physical symptoms, when my mindset changes, the landscape of living with my illness follows suit.

Lilac in backyard - Hello Lovely Studio.
Fading lilacs in the yard…still fragrant and certainly lovely indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

One small pivot. What a difference it makes when I shift my thinking from “I have to go grocery shopping” to “I GET to go grocery shopping!” How can such a small shift–changing “I have to” to “I GET to”–be so utterly powerful?

Low fat pear and blueberry baked French toast - Hello Lovely Studio.
A low-fat baked French toast before it goes in the oven…certainly cheerful indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

To move from living in scarcity to the awareness that I am living in abundance is a significant life-giving pivot! Embracing ‘life is a gift’ rather than ‘life is hard’ opens my heart to become receptive of new sources of light.

Inspirational quote about healing by Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

Gratitude unlocks all sorts of mysterious wonder and extra reserves of strength.

Low fat pear and blueberry baked French toast - Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

And gratitude gives us new eyes to see our blessings and abilities–however limited and small they may be.

Low fat pear and blueberry baked French toast - Hello Lovely Studio.
Baked French toast with blueberries and pears…certainly delicious indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

While I may feel as though I have been run over by a truck, just being able to use my arms and legs or drive a car to a store is a huge blessing!

Fresh colorful summer vegetable salad - Hello Lovely Studio.
Fresh summer vege salad with romaine and farmers market goodness…certainly delicious indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

2. Colorful Yet Drama-Free Meals

First, the colorful part. These days, my plate of food is a rainbow of color…a lovely sight to behold.

Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Straight from the farmers market…certainly colorful indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

Since I have trouble digesting fats (even good fats), I’m eating more whole foods – more plants than ever. If I don’t stay centered in gratitude, I could easily spiral into ‘dammit, more rabbit food today’ rather than ‘what lovely gifts from the ground!’

Fresh colorful summer vegetable salad - Hello Lovely Studio.
Vibrant and lovely plants to nourish…certainly delicious indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

A diet with variety and rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy for all of us, no matter what illness we live with or strive to prevent. In my case, a colorful plate isn’t about self-discipline or making smart dietary choices as much as SURVIVAL, minimizing pain, and avoiding mal-nourishment. But what a bonus the food itself presents as festive, vibrant, and cheerful.

Summer vegetable saute - Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

Second, the drama-free part. Even though my plate often looks like a party, there are deliberate changes to meal time I have implemented to better cope with my illness. I have set a new boundary wherein ONLY GOOD VIBES are welcome when it’s time to enjoy food.

Whole grain brown rice cooking in a red cast iron dutch oven - Hello Lovely Studio.
Whole grain brown rice in a cheerful red dutch oven…certainly lovely indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

There is no sound of TV news, no magazine nearby covering a tragedy, no conversation about bills or dramas big and small, no rage, and no negativity while I am chewing and swallowing on my way to healing.

Summer pasta salad with tomatoes and peas - Hello Lovely Studio.
Butterfly salad with fresh tomatoes, peas, and a touch of olive oil…certainly satisfying indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

It is rather remarkable that most of us are not mindful about habits that harm us. Little things like chewing to liquid, eating more slowly, and eating while relaxed aid in better digestion.

Summer pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and peas - Hello Lovely Studio.
Summer pasta salad heavy with tomatoes from the farmers market rather than dressing…certainly lovely indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

Better digestion can mean less pain and even improve the immune response. While better digestion is a matter of particular importance to me at the moment, everyone can benefit from implementing healthier habits.

Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Shitake mushrooms, chartreuse pepper, and fresh tomatoes from the farmers market to top homemade pizza…certainly yummy indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.
Inspirational quote about healing by Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

3. Swallowing Frogs & Spiritual Practice

Oh the joy of getting it out of the way! Everything I do when I am ill is more exhausting, and it’s easy to dread the work and demands of daily life. So I try to swallow my frogs in the morning…meaning I tackle the most undesirable tasks early in the day to get them crossed off the list.

Homemade vege pizza in the oven - Hello Lovely Studio.
Weekends are for homemade g-free pizza in our house…certainly a family pleaser indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

When I am weak, procrastination is a natural side effect because I can justify it to myself. But a sense of accomplishment and moving forward lifts my spirit and gives me wings. It feels so good to get the hard stuff done and then relax!

Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Bounty from Saturday’s farmers market…certainly lovely ingredients indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

Spiritual practices in the morning set the tone for the day. There are so many beautiful possibilities for quieting the mind, opening the heart, and saying YES and HELLO LOVELY to Presence! I’ll be writing about a few of my favorites in a separate post, but centering prayer/meditation and reading daily devotions arriving in my inbox are how I start every new day.

Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Hello Lovely Studio

4. Afternoon Walk

Walking is medicine for me. Even a climatically perfect sunny day fails to motivate me to get outdoors for a nature walk when I am struggling with discomfort and low energy.

Exterior of our woodsy Nordic French style cottage - Hello Lovely Studio.
These stones lead to the steps in front of our home that I descend for daily walks…certainly peaceful indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

So I have to draw from a deeper well of healthy living waters and BE INTENTIONAL about getting out of my own way, swatting away negative self-talk, and CHOOSING wellness ways of being.

Back exterior of our woodsy cottage - Hello Lovely Studio.
Our backyard is camp-like with Northern exposure…certainly rustic indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

Breathing fresh air, improving my circulation, stretching my muscles…an afternoon walk of any length is a small step on that path toward healing that I long to be on.

River rock on the exterior of our cottage - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
This is the side of our home with a path leading to the driveway, past the garage window…certainly rustic indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.
Inspirational quote about healing by Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

5. Sleeping Beauty

It helps to detach any notion of laziness from my feelings about sleep. There are seasons we simply need more. I am married to someone who has never required as much sleep as me so I’m probably overly sensitive about sleep. But if you’re like me, there are all these weird feelings and even guilt about devoting more hours to rest. I mean, that means less wakeful time to produce, create, and have adventures, right? Hahahaha.

Moss in the yard - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
Moss growing in the shade of glorious mature trees in the front “yard”…certainly a fairy land indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

It seems so silly when I actually type the words. Because sleep is a wonderful state of consciousness that serves our bodies, minds, and spirits. It’s a beautiful layer of life where we can simply BE in our most vulnerable and true form. Sleep is a healer; a regenerative part of life with chronic illness that we often take for granted.

Trees in summer in the side yard - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
So much wild overgrowth to address in the front yard…certainly rustic indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

6. Pain as a Path

This isn’t the part of the post where I convince you your chronic illness is a gift. And there’s zero chance I’ll shame anyone about prescriptions or pain relief. Managing the pain associated with chronic illness is a highly personal and complex matter. Since I have experienced my share of suffering, these reflections are subjective and meant to encourage.

Huge wolf spider in my courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
The huge friend who joined me at the spigot yesterday as I went to fill my gardening can with water…certainly frightening indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

Pain gets our attention. As a writer, I often become caught up in creative work (which frequently keeps me centered in my head) and lose all track of time. That focus is great for meeting deadlines, but unhealthy when it entails: skipped meals, decreased physical activity, and neglected self-care.

My woodsy backyard in July - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
Dappled light in the backyard…certainly lovely indeed – Hello Lovely Studio.

The discomforts of living with chronic illness are there for our ultimate good. Pain helps us pay closer attention to bodily needs and signals the body is trying to heal.

Bench in French courtyard with pea gravel - Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement.
Peaceful serenity in the courtyard…certainly welcoming indeed – Hello Lovely Studio. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.

When I choose to unhook from the sense that pain is an enemy to be feared or a punishing distraction, I can feel less overwhelmed when it arrives. It’s going to pass…this will pass! Important words which help many of us move through painful chapters as we heal.

Pink flowers and stone wall in our French courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio.
Pea gravel and pink in the rustic courtyard…certainly serene indeed. 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.
Inspirational quote about healing by Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

7. Relentless Self-Kindness

Respond to your illness with the loving kindness you would lavish on a beloved friend who is ill. Putting this into practice is so much more challenging than stringing together these words. Only you truly know how hard it is to get through days with poor health, weakness, and low mood. So be your best friend. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for being imperfectly human and fleshy.

7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement. Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Hello Lovely Studio – 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.

Stop cursing the body in the mirror. When you gaze into the mirror, and dark circles, pale dehydrated skin, or tired eyes meet you there, cast blessing and love toward them. Look closer. See the vibrant soul shimmering underneath and thank that soul for its gorgeous perfection and enduring wholeness despite its physical container’s healing journey.

7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement. Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Hello Lovely Studio – 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.

Are you swollen from inflammation or overweight at the moment? Look tenderly upon your body as you would a beloved child and thank it for serving you so well.

7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement. Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Hello Lovely Studio – 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.

Are you small and underweight? See that you are already enough and send your smallness loving light to support its journey to health.

7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness...in case you need a bit of encouragement. Colorful fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's market - Hello Lovely Studio. #farmersmaket
Hello Lovely Studio – 7 Little Life Hacks for Coping With Chronic Illness…in case you need a bit of encouragement.

Wishing you strength and courage friends, right where you are. Read more about my health journey HERE and HERE.

Inspirational quote about healing by Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please do share it on FaceBook or pin it to Pinterest. 🙂

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

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20 Comments

  1. Marilyn S.
    July 10, 2019 / 5:17 am

    Thanks for letting us in to your world today – I was reminded to renew my mind and this scripture kept ringing true as I read this post -Philippians 4:8 KJV Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    I’ve recently come to a better understanding of the phrase – It came to Pass, I now see it as just that – whether it’s pain, heartbreak, financial difficulties etc… It came to not STAY but to PASS.

    Thank you for your transparency .

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 10:59 am

      Whatsoever things are lovely. Yes. How wonderful when scripture comes alive, breathing into us just what our spirits require to be purified. Thank you for this. Yes, it is all temporal and fading. We can choose to despair or embrace it in the now and let it have its way molding us into something more divinely beautiful, yes? Accepting that health is also as fragile as everything else is hard for many people. We sort of make health an idol, raising our goblets to toast to it all the time. Good health is a gift, but poor health can also be with the proper lens in place. My own suffering has tenderized me and allowed so much bitterness to fall away. How can I harden against something so powerful that appears to be rigged in my favor? I love that you mention these other sources of suffering – yes – we truly are all on the journey. xox

  2. Mary Karol
    July 10, 2019 / 6:44 am

    Thank so much, Michelle. Your words are lovely indeed and come often as inspiration and healer. I, too, suffer with immune disease, chronic inflammation, and pain. Your mind set of gratitude, self love etc are written in such a way as to let me know I’m not alone in this path. There is great comfort in that. Thank you for sharing so deeply with us your readers. It’s always so comforting to know we’re all in this journey called life together-“ no man is an island”. One day at a time….. each day a gift. Let us always be a gift to each other as well❤️💤

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 10:51 am

      It helps so much to feel joined so I don’t ever take it lightly to connect with others on a similar path. We really are in it together. Your words are honey. What a world when we become gifts, given to each other. The thing is, I believe we already have that world and simply need new eyes to SEE each other this way. I certainly see the blessing of your comment as a sweet gift. xox

  3. Amy
    July 10, 2019 / 7:58 am

    I appreciate you sharing this. It is a good reminder to me of my husband’s daily battle with diabetes. The battle never leaves him, and I want to do all I can to help him. It’s easy to forget WHAT a daily battle it is though, when it is not you. You are not alone in your health struggles! He has shared alot of these same thoughts with me that you share here. These tips are helpful to me as I try to minister to him. Would love it if you could share your lo-fat baked French toast and homemade gf pizza recipes! Always on the hunt for new, healthy ones! Praying for God’s grace, strength, and healing for you.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 10:47 am

      So happy to hear these thoughts help, Amy. There are surely many similarities to the diabetes journey, and I wish your husband well. I’ll try to get these recipes together in a low-fat themed post because I keep thinking that what I am learning about cutting fat could surely be helpful to others for weight management! Thank you so much for these kindnesses – wishing you peace. xox

  4. July 10, 2019 / 10:19 am

    You truly are an inspiration! So sorry to hear that you suffer from a chronic illness, but you seem to stay positive in spite of going through this. I am sure it is not easy.

    Keep the wonderful and inspirational quotes coming…I enjoy reading them. Best, Kim

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 10:43 am

      Without the presence of the Spirit in my life, it would be difficult to be hopeful so I am very grateful. Thanks so much for reading with a beautiful tender heart, Kim. xox

  5. judith Floyd
    July 10, 2019 / 10:48 am

    Peace right back to you, Michele. I’ve had fibromyalgia for 22 years and have found that kindness toward myself has been the most help. In addition, the better times are certainly appreciated like I never could have before fibro. It’s also taught me to understand and love those who are suffering pain from all types of “dis-ease”. Love this post!

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 11:09 am

      What a blessing to hear about your journey with suffering and how it has birthed greater compassion in you. It is easy at times to become so weighed down and focused on the losses and what feels like death that we miss the freshness and new birth rising. We have to get quiet and still to become aware of the new being created. It has taken me quite a long time to learn self-kindness, and I’m still a student who keeps stumbling and failing the exams. Listening to each other and listening to the voice who calls me Beloved helps so much. Thanks for reading with tenderness. xox

  6. July 10, 2019 / 11:18 am

    This is a particularly beautiful post, Michelle, and speaks deeply to me. Several years ago I used to suffer from chronic IBS (although probably not Crohn’s) and could handle only soft foods such as yogurt and mashed peaches or bananas. Even now, an attack of nerves or panic brings on the same symptoms. Today, the situation is different, less painful, but just as crucial to maintain good health habits via whole foods and gluten free products.

    However, what helps the most to heal me is attitude! Just as you describe seeking peaceful moments and beginning each day in prayer and meditation, I do, too, along with listening to classical music on NPR, mild exercise, reading and writing, naps. My diabetic hubby shares these activities with me, but his “retirement job” is model railroading while mine is writing blogs.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with me — and your upcoming recipes!

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 2:53 pm

      I love reading your words, Jo. My husband’s passion is golf, and like you, blogging is my golf! I lived through a season of panic attacks a decade ago and hope to never experience it again. I have family and friends with IBS and feel so much compassion for sufferers. A lot of folks think IBS and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are the same. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease which was found when I was initially hospitalized. Some folks equate Crohn’s with diarrhea, but in fact that hasn’t been an issue for me for years. One IBD was not enough for this girl. I also developed colitis in the 90’s!!! More is more? No! Hahahaha. Attitude…yes. I often call it putting on a new mind or putting on the mind of Christ, but we’re all pointing to the same thing, doncha think? Transcending the small self in wakeful sobriety and seeing, really seeing, that we are good, that there is nothing to fear, and that life is birthing something new for us though we’re resistant to change. I’ll try to get those recipes posted, friend. Thank you for sharing so honestly. xox

  7. leigh
    July 10, 2019 / 1:00 pm

    This is most probably one of the best posts of any blogger’s I have read. So inspiring and heartfelt! Thank you!

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 2:40 pm

      You just made my whole day. Thank you for that blessing – and now I want to reflect it back and say: what a giving, open, tender heart is yours. Peace to you.

  8. July 10, 2019 / 1:41 pm

    Hi Michele,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful healthy practices with us! You have been through so much my friend and yet here you are each day thinking of others and sending encouragement. God has enlisted you to reach so many and bring His light!
    xoxo
    Holly

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 2:40 pm

      You have certainly lived your share of suffering too, and it’s a common thread in our connection which maybe holds us close, friend. Your work is such a shining example of healing hands – hands in need of healing that are healed by BECOMING THE HEALING ITSELF. It’s what Christ did – he didn’t sit around waiting for people to come to him, he always went further and TOUCHED the wounds. I just love your beautiful hands of love, Holly. Thank you for blessing not just me daily, but all who stumble on this blog and receive a taste of peace. xox

  9. Carole Fox
    July 10, 2019 / 7:07 pm

    Thank you, Michele. Your sage advice and helpful hacks can benefit all of us, whether we want to retain or regain or our health.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 10, 2019 / 11:25 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, Carole and for the kindness.

  10. Sheila in SF
    July 11, 2019 / 1:30 am

    Thanks for sharing. Your blog is always encouraging and inspirational. Sending you prayers in your journey to better health.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 11, 2019 / 8:31 am

      I appreciate that so much – thank you, Sheila. Peace to you.

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