Over the years that I’ve coached people with chronic illnesses, more than one person has told me that they just can’t do everything they’re supposed to. Usually it’s a woman who will tell me that, probably because more women than men are afflicted with several of the more common chronic illnesses, and because in a typical family, women have more responsibilities than men do.
A typical story one of these women will tell me is that because of all she has to do for her medical care, taking care of their children, doing the shopping and errands, cooking for her family, etc., etc., and because of the fatigue and other symptoms she suffers from, she can’t keep up with the housework. Then she’ll say she feels even more stressed than she already was because she feels like she’s not doing everything she “should” and because she finds living in a messy house stressful.
Obviously she could ask other family members for more help, but she will typically say that doesn’t work. There are ways to make asking more likely to be successful, but I’m going to leave that discussion for another post.
I wish that there was a website that sold magic wands that really worked, so that these women (and occasionally men) could quickly and easily clean their houses and do everything else that needed doing, but unfortunately, no such website exists. And I don’t have any magic words of advice that will make their situations all better. But I think that people in stressful situations like the one I’ve described will find the posts titled “Acknowledging That Things Suck Can be a Good Thing” “Bill Clinton said it,” and “A Million Dollars Worth of Ideas to Make Your Life a Lot Better” helpful.
Another way for finding the best solution for a difficult situation or problem is to write about it in the third person. In other words, if Mary has chronic fatigue and her house has become a mess–at least by her standards, she would write “Mary has been feeling very stressed because she’s exhausted and hasn’t had the time or the energy to clean the bathroom in three weeks.” She would continue to describe her situation in the third person, rather than writing “I’ve been feeling very because I’m exhausted and I haven’t had the time or the energy to clean the bathroom in three weeks.”
The reason writing in the third person in this way is helpful is because it depersonalizes our story and allows us to detach from it. Once we do that, we are usually able to see changes we can make and things we can do to improve our situation that we couldn’t see before. We are much more likely to see activities we can easily give up, ways to combine errands or other possible solutions.
I hope you find this idea helpful. There are other steps a person in the situation I’ve described can take to lessen their stress and improve their sense of wellbeing. I’ll write about them in another post.