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INVISIBLE DISABILITIES ASSOCIATION OF CANADA
COPING SKILLS

1. Avoid negative self-talk or self pity. Do not compare your sick self to your healthy self. It will lead you into depression and despair. Some forms of negative self-talk are the following:

All or nothing: seeing things in extremes, e.g. always do your best, no one likes me.
Labeling: giving yourself labels that have an all-or-nothing quality, e.g. "I'm a loser".
Filtering: paying close attention to some points and not others, e.g. "All I think about is my pain".
Rigid expectations: have lots of rules, e.g. "I should always give 100%".
Self focus: blaming oneself, e.g. "I'm being punished for being ill".
Psychic reasoning: assuming one always knows how things will turn out, e.g. "I'll always be ill and in pain".
Emotional reasoning: relying on feelings to interpret reality, e.g. "I feel so useless - I am useless".
Helplessness: feeling feelings and self esteem are controlled by outside factors, e.g. "I can't help feeling scared".

Accept the self you are now and create a new lifestyle around that. Use positive dialogue with yourself. Some forms of positive self-talk are the following:

Middle-ground thinking: see things in balance, some good/some bad, e.g. I did well to walk to the mailbox today.
Describing: objective observations that notices details, e.g. I am 20 pounds overweight.
Openness: try to see the Big Picture, e.g. The audience did not ask questions but did seem interested in what I was saying.
Flexible expectations: things do not always go your way, e.g. I can not go to the concert but I can listen to it on the radio.
Human-focus: you are not responsible for everything, e.g. I am not at fault for my husband's bad moods.
Experimental attitude: try things to see if they work, e.g. I'll tell my husband about my feelings instead of avoiding my feelings.
Reality-reasoning: relying on evidence, not feelings, e.g. I made a little progress today.
Empowerment: taking control of feelings and self-esteem, e.g. I will be less anxious if I remember I did this before and nothing terrible happened.

You can focus on something else, like a movie, a flower, talk about other things.

2. Maintain friendships. Do not let the illness isolate you completely. Long-term illness does not give you the right to be mean to others. Don't let your pain and irritability separate you from family and friends.

3. Attempt to problem solve those things you can control. Do it in short periods of time. Set goals that are flexible and reasonable. Goals should be positive, do-able, can be measured, clear and defined in terms that can be achieved, and important to you.

4. Fresh air is a great tonic. Sit in a chair. Absorb the sun's rays, feel the breeze, listen to the sounds of nature.

5. Counseling can help you deal with grief issues, depression, anger, financial stresses, etc.

6. Be in control. Stop when you feel tired. Do not push yourself beyond that point. When you do that, the illness is in control, not you.

7. Do not allow illness to become your sole identity. For example, perhaps you are an ill person who is interested in art, reading, etc. You are good at doing these things.

8. Do not allow others to upset you when they ask questions. For example, a person may ask "Are you sure it's not in your head?". You do not have to defend yourself. Answer with a short answer. If the person wants more information they'll ask. Being defensive can mean you feel responsible for your illness or are afraid that the person suggesting it is depression or in your head is correct. Sort it out for yourself first. Then you'll be able to answer questions.

9. Spend your energy wisely. Realize that you have limits. Be energy efficient. For example, sit on a stool to peel vegetables instead of standing. Remember the 50% rule. If you feel like walking 5 miles, walk 2.5 miles. When you return you may be relieved that you made it back or you may have energy enough to do something else, like wash those dirty dishes.

10. Resting for 10 minutes gives you 20 minutes of energy. By forcing yourself to do more than your body can do makes the illness worse.

11. Join a support group. Others know what you are going through. You are not alone. You can gain insight into your illness, its affects on you as well as share insights that may benefit others.

12. Allow yourself grieving time. There are loses you need to come to terms with and it takes time.

13. Set priorities. Make a list of what MUST be done, what you would like to do, and what doesn't matter.

14. Learn to adapt. You may not be able to go out to eat Chinese food, but a friend can bring it to your home.

Compiled from:
The Messenger: "What do You Say When", Ed Isenberg.
The Messenger: "Coping for Survival: Methods for Managing", Linda Abourna.
Dr. Brian Dufton, Psychologist, Valley Regional Hospital.
Shirley Soleil's lecture notes.

Please note that you should always check with your doctor before undertaking any type of treatment.

INVISIBLE DISABILITIES ASSOCIATION OF CANADA
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