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By Jennifer L. McPeak

Creating a life with a chronic illness

Learning to live with a chronic illness is a testament to sheer willpower and determination. It changes the way you handle even the simplest tasks. There will be days that you'll feel well enough to forget that you have an illness, but the very next day you may not even want to get out of bed. Creating a balance that will allow you to enjoy each day can be tricky, but there are a few tips that can make it easier.

Pacing yourself

This is the ultimate task when dealing with your illness. It sounds so easy, but it may take months to learn how to do this. On days that you feel well, you'll want to push yourself to get done with everything you put off. This is the most common mistake that people make. You have to learn to pace yourself on your tasks so you can make the most of your time.

Prioritizing tasks

This goes along with pacing yourself. Your energy levels will drop if you push too hard, so prioritizing your tasks will make it possible for you to accomplish things without overdoing it. You'll still have energy to have fun if you remember to do this.

Learning to say no

There will be times when you have to just say no. Whether it be plans with friends, an extra hour of work or that added chore, you have to learn to know when to say no. Reading your body and your energy levels will become easier and you will know when to stop. Don't feel bad about that.

Asking for help

When you have already started hitting the end of your strength and you know you still have things to do, it's okay to ask for help. You have to learn how to build a support system and a community that understands your illness and your coping skills. People with chronic illnesses often face some of their hardest moments when they realize they have to accept limits. That feeling of losing what they used to be is overwhelming. Having that support will be very important in dealing with this.

Learning to love your new life

As you become accustomed to your new way of looking at things, you'll start to feel like yourself again. You learn that those limits are just something you have to work around and you find new interests as you let go of things that you no longer try to do. You find a new rhythm and start to love the life you're living. It's a hard road at first, but with the right tools and steps, it can happen.

The path of people who live with chronic illnesses is a twisting one that takes patience, bravery, humor and knowledge to walk. It's also easier with a great community and a solid support base. With this, the chronic illness soon takes a back seat as people move forward with confidence and knowledge. They learn that their lives aren't necessarily too different than what they had before.

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