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4 Minutes Read

How To Set Boundaries When You Have A Chronic Illness

If you live with a chronic condition such as Chron’s disease, Hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia, lupus, or chronic pain, you know that you are your own best advocate when it comes to taking care of yourself and your health.

An important part of that self-care is setting limits that will allow you to keep your mental, physical, and emotional energy in balance. Check out these tips to help you make sure you’re creating the kind of lifestyle that works best for you.

Stick to your schedule

Take control of your time by adhering to the schedules you set for yourself. If you agree to work from 10 am to 6 pm, start wrapping up your tasks and getting ready to transition at 5:50. Don’t get caught up in the culture of false urgency that seeps into too many work environments. Whatever project your team is muddling through is still going to be there waiting for you the next day.

Boundaries with time apply to social engagements as well. I’m all for spontaneity, but sometimes you just don’t have the spoons for your catch up dinner to turn into drinks and then turn into dancing. Needing to prioritize your health doesn’t make you a spoilsport or a bad friend. If your body starts sending you those flare up signals, be kind to yourself and call it a night.

Decide what you will and won’t share

Unfortunately, awareness of chronic illnesses is pretty limited in the mainstream. You may come across coworkers, friends, and family who have a natural curiosity about your lived experience, but ultimately, educating them is not your responsibility.

If certain conversations or questions cross a line for you, it’s OK to shut them down. Don’t be afraid to say “I prefer not to discuss my health in the workplace” or “I’m not comfortable answering that question, that’s really private”. You might get inquiries from people close to you who you really wish knew more about your chronic illness, but you need them to get on your level in order to have a more meaningful conversation. In those scenarios, encouraging them to do their own research might be a positive step.

Don’t put up with unsolicited advice

It’s no secret that the topic of pain and sickness tends to make people uncomfortable. Although that may be the case, it’s not OK for friends and family to deal with their reaction by trying to “fix” you. 

Advice giving frequently comes up in situations where you’re just looking for empathy and support. You might set boundaries in such a case by saying “I know you’re trying to help by suggesting that solution, but I’m really just looking for someone to hear what I’m going through right now. I hope you can respect that.”

Sometimes you’ll find yourself receiving advice from someone completely unprompted. You can address this by saying, “I appreciate that you care, but please stop sending me articles about what to do about my illness. I would feel more supported by you respecting that I’m managing my health in the way I think is best.”

Take charge of your medical care

YOU are the most important member of your medical care team. Connecting with the knowledge and experience of professionals who treat your particular condition can be life-changing, but it doesn’t change the fact that you run the show.

If you don’t understand why a medication is being changed or why a new procedure is recommended, keep asking until it’s explained to you properly. Don’t let your pain or discomfort be brushed off or disregarded. Insist that it be investigated or resolved or you will find another provider that will.

Remember that it’s OK to decline professional recommendations. Virtually every treatment has positives and negatives, and at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which one outweighs the other. Let’s say your doctor is encouraging you to start a medication that improves sleep and boosts energy, but comes with the risk of hair loss. That tradeoff might be worth it for some, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth it for you. Honor yourself by saying no if that’s what you think is best.

Need help figuring out what you need?

Every person’s chronic illness journey looks different — no one person has the same challenges, needs, supports, or dreams. I can help you get clear on what you want for your health and how you can take the right actions to move toward those goals. Click the button below and schedule a free phone consultation. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experience and thinking about shaping the life you want for yourself.


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