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17 Feb

Here are some top tips to help boost mental health if you suffer from chronic illness.

Alex Olabarria is a former professional dancer who was forced to quit a promising West End career because of chronic health issues. She now works to inspire disabled people and sufferers of chronic illness to reach for their goals and celebrate their achievements.

Here are Alex’s tips and advice for mental well being:

Remember that you’re not alone and that lots of people are feeling exactly the same way. But if you’re feeling seriously anxious and depressed, the sooner you can see your doctor about it the better. Don’t put this off, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Escape for some quiet time: It’s important to get enough rest if you’re feeling low, so you might want to warn your friends and family ahead of time, that you are feeling fragile and will need a bit of space. Sometimes friends and family can be a bit pushy about wanting you around, so speaking to them beforehand about needing to rest, can help take the pressure off when you need time out. Being firm about your leaving time can help, if you are visiting relatives. Arrange a taxi or lift ahead of time & warn your hosts that you will be leaving at that time. Having an excuse to leave on time can also help.

Avoid awkward conversations: It is sometimes very hard for people to understand what a disabled or chronically ill person goes through in their everyday life, and sometimes people can be quite ignorant or unsympathetic to the issues we face.  It might be helpful to accept that some people are stuck in their ways, and they are unlikely to change their views. You could resolve to stay neutral and not give them the satisfaction of drawing you into their world view.

Financial woes: If you can’t afford to splash out on birthday presents remember that many people are in the same boat. Remember that most people have so much stuff that finding a gift that will truly delight them without spending hundreds of pounds is a near-impossible task.

Let yourself off the hook: Whether you’re feeling guilty because you can’t give your friends and family 100% of your energy, or you are dreading spending time with toxic relatives, allow yourself to feel how you feel, and to take the appropriate amount of time and rest in order to be OK. You’re not a failure, a bad parent or a party-pooper if you can’t handle all of it. Let yourself off the hook, give yourself permission to do the things you need to do in order to be ok, and to excuse yourself at a reasonable time, when you’ve had enough.

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