Looking after your mental health with PH
Sophie Papageorgis is a counsellor and psychotherapist who has lived with pulmonary hypertension since she was a teenager. These are her top tips for taking care of your mind when you have this rare disease.
Long-term conditions like pulmonary hypertension may be physical, but we can’t underestimate their impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Here’s how you can look after yourself…
Self-care is vital for everyone. It not only helps to keep us as healthy as possible, but it boosts mood, shows us we’re worth taking care of, and reduces anxiety.
Self-care can be anything from sitting quietly for five minutes in nature, to reading a book, focusing on spirituality or religion, taking a short walk, doing artwork, having coffee with a friend, keeping a gratitude journal, or playing Tomb Raider (just me?!). It can be anything which nourishes you physically, mentally or emotionally.
Listen to your body
It can be hard when you’ve got a to-do list in front of you that you need to work through, and although your mind is willing, your body may not be. Or the associated brain-fog may be getting in the way. Let’s face it, having pulmonary hypertension is not always a bed of roses.
If your exhaustion levels are high or you’re struggling with your breathing, your body may well be telling you it’s time to take a break. And that can be deeply frustrating. Try to hold self-compassion, know that you’re doing your best, and accept that to-do list can wait for another day.
Don’t be afraid to say no
Other people don’t always get what it’s like living with a long-term condition which impacts us day to day. I know I find myself wanting to keep up with others, not ‘letting them down’ or not showing them that I’m struggling at times.
As a self-confessed people pleaser, I understand how hard it is to sometimes say no to others. But there’s only so much that we can do, and although it’s difficult to admit, we can’t always keep up with others around us. Everyone is entitled to say no to things they don’t want to do, and sometimes we need to do a little bit of work on our assertiveness skills to be able to prioritise ourselves.
Focus on your goals
However big or small, goals keep us focused, motivated, and often make us pretty proud when we complete them (tell me I’m not the only one who adds things I’ve already done to the bottom of my list, purely to cross them off and celebrate?!).
Goals can be anything, but they might include something like learning a new skill, making a new recipe, increasing walking steps, or finding a new career path.
Even at times when things feel rough, if we’re working towards our goals then we’re on course to making ourselves happier and more fulfilled.
Get emotional support
As we all know, living with a long-term condition, and coming to terms with its impact, is not always easy. It’s hard going at times, and can feel isolating.
If you find yourself struggling, feeling sad, anxious, or depressed, maybe it’s time to reach out for support. Talking to a friend or relative, someone on the PHA UK Facebook group (click here to join), or even a counsellor, can help things feel a little easier. Sharing the burden and the worries, and knowing that you’re not alone, is a huge support with mental health and wellbeing.
Sophie provides counselling and psychotherapy services for adults, children and couples. She is a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.