Just as we think of people who use health or wellness coaches as wanting help with losing weight or developing healthier habits, we might assume that these people don’t have other health concerns that challenge their quality of life as well. Chronic illness affects 117 million people in the United States (as of 2012; see http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm). Some people with chronic illnesses think of themselves as beyond help, incapable of living quality lives because of their afflictions. I propose to you that this is not necessary. We can survive and thrive chronic illness, and find meaning and purpose in our lives because of our illnesses.
As I posted before, I have struggled with a chronic illness for a while now and I have learned some ways of being pretty healthy and happy in spite of that. My illness forces me in a way to have a better diet than most people I know; it also makes me conscious of my health in a way that I wouldn’t be if I could afford to take my health for granted. In a way I’m grateful for it and I’ve come to see that chronic illness doesn’t need to make life hopeless and unbearable. It can be a force for good if you work at it.
Health coaching is not just about physical health; it covers all aspects of one’s life and I urge you to think of it as whole-person coaching. What it can specifically do for a person with chronic illness is help you develop a plan for long-term wellness, set realistic goals, keep making progress on those goals, and give support when you feel isolated and down. While it is not psychotherapy, it can help you see where you get stuck in feeling defeated or stuck, and develop ways to keep on track with your life plan. Of course, the illness you suffer might have its own unique limitations or challenges, and I will account for that; nonetheless, most chronic illnesses can be made more bearable and hopeful with a proactive, realistically positive attitude. This type of attitude can help you advocate for yourself with your doctors, take up whatever movement or exercise you can manage, and speak to yourself in a kind, patient way (for starters). For a description of how a health coach might be integrated into a healthcare team, please click here: http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2010/0900/p24.html.
I encourage you to think about how you wish your life were different, and how you can get what you want in light of the fact that you have a chronic illness. If you need help implementing your vision of how you want your life to be, please call me. I’d love to help!