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The Importance of a Strong Support System When Chronically Ill

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Managing a chronic health issue can be difficult at times, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through it alone.

“When dealing with chronic health issues, whether physical or mental health, a support system is important in the recovery process,” says Jenny Matthews, LMFT, LADC a practicing therapist in Minnesota. “A support system can include family, friends, relatives, neighbors, therapist, doctor, or support group.”

Here are four reasons why it should be one of your top priorities to develop a support system that you know you can count on.

It Can Help Lessen the Burden

Living with certain chronic illnesses can make it difficult to keep up with daily tasks such as grocery shopping, cleaning, gardening, cooking, and attending appointments. Building a strong support system means you know that someone can be there for you when you need a helping hand.

Dependable friends and family can accompany you to appointments, drop off food, or even come over for an afternoon of conversation and cleaning. “Having support for these tasks helps you to focus on healing,” says Matthews. “Feel guilty about having others help? Remember that it makes people feel good to help others.”

You’ll Feel Less Alone

Family and friends can offer great support during difficult times, but it can also be helpful to connect with those going through similar experiences as you. A great way to meet these people is by joining a support group.

“It can be hard for people in your life to understand your struggles if they have not gone through it themselves,” says Matthews. “Talking to others who have personally struggled can help validate your experience.” Matthews also points out that support groups may also offer helpful advice on specific books, doctors, or other resources that worked well for them.

You’ll Be Less Likely to Suffer From Isolation-Based Depression

When living with chronic health issues, it can be very easy to avoid functions and get togethers to avoid embarrassment or frustration. However, isolating yourself can do more harm than good, and can even put you at a higher risk for depression.

“Being around others can help you to take your mind off of your pain or negative thoughts,” says Matthews. If you do not have someone available to spend time with or talk to, Matthews suggests volunteering. Volunteering is a great usage of time and can help you easily connect with others.

You’ll Gain Another Perspective

It’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns of pessimistic thinking when you are trying to get a hold on a chronic illness. It’s important to surround yourself with positive and insightful people to help you ease any anxiety or worries you may have. “When you are struggling with your health, it is common to have negative thoughts,” says Matthews. “Having others to talk to can help you to see your situation from another perspective.”

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