“You need to put things into perspective.”
How often have you heard that? Or said it to someone else?
But here’s a question for you. What’s actually it mean to have things in perspective?
One of the best ways to understand what perspective means is to think about how you feel when you have lost your perspective. Some of the signs include:
- Feeling like your chronic condition has taken away everything you value in your life
- Jumping to the conclusion that the people in your life are uncaring, selfish, and unsupportive
- Constantly blaming yourself for not doing or being enough
When you are living with the daily challenges and responsibilities of living with a chronic condition, it’s all too easy to lose your perspective. For example, to think in absolutes – “never” and “always.” To interpret the actions of other people in a negative way, without considering the positive experiences you have had with them. Or, to be overly self-critical, constantly beating up on yourself for what you woulda-coulda-shoulda done but didn’t or weren’t able to do.
Another term for perspective is “seeing the big picture” or “seeing the forest for the trees.” When you have lost perspective, you most likely don’t see the big picture or the forest.
So, next question: What’s your perspective? Not sure? The following questions might help you to figure that out:
- What are you telling yourself about how your chronic condition will impact your future?
- How do you react when a loved one isn’t as helpful or understanding as you would like them to be?
- When is the last time you celebrated a victory in your life?
- What do you say to yourself when you are having a bad day? A good day?
- How would you describe what it is like for you to stay compliant with your self-care routine?
- What inspires you to take the best possible care of yourself?
- How educated are you on your chronic condition? Or would you rather not know?
- What are you looking forward to – today, tomorrow, and next week?
As you ask yourself these questions, think about what your answers say about your perspective on your life. Did any of your answers make you want to smile? Did you identify possibilities? Potential? In other words, is the cup of your life at least half full?
The truth of the matter is that when you’re constantly having to be aware of the demands your chronic condition makes on your life – and living with the ups and downs that may go along with your condition – it’s all too easy to, get caught up in the demands, the disappointments, the frustrations. To lose your perspective on your life.
When you lose your perspective, your life can feel pretty bleak. As the saying goes, you can get stuck in the view that the cup is half empty. And stay stuck there. Thinking this way can take a toll on your physical and emotional wellness as well as your relationships. Who needs that?
If your perspective on your life is weighted in the plus column, congratulations. But if not, don’t despair. You can do a lot to help yourself to change your perspective on your chronic condition and on your life.
Here are some ideas for you:
Think about how far you’ve come. Living with a chronic condition is a journey taken one step at a time. So starting with when you were first diagnosed, take stock of how you’ve learned to manage your condition, the hard times you have weathered, the helpful people you have encountered along the way. Chances are, you can identify progress you’ve made along the way. Pat yourself on the back.
Slow down. Pushing yourself too hard – and multitasking – can cause you to lose your perspective. So look at what you can do to introduce more calmness into each day. Take time to relax. Put your feet up for awhile and contemplate your life. Watch how the pieces begin to shift back into place.
Stick with supportive people. Spending time with people who can listen and give you a few words of encouragement is a great way to regain your perspective. A good friend can ask you “Have you also considered… “ and “Have you thought about the time when…” Great questions to help you to consider an alternate perspective. A friend can also help you stay on track with your self-care if your compliance has been slipping.
Enjoy yourself. Get out of your head by doing something you enjoy. That’s a great way to distract yourself from whatever is bringing you down. And a good way to remind yourself that, in spite of your chronic condition, life is still good.
Watch your self-talk. Humans are constantly in an ongoing dialogue with themselves. Explaining, questioning, judging. What are you saying to yourself these days? Are you criticizing or encouraging yourself? What are you telling yourself about your chronic condition and its impact on your life? What are you saying to yourself about the future? Identify negative self-talk and replace it with positive, encouraging messages to yourself.
Give back. Doing acts of kindness for others in need is a great way to change your perspective. Look into doing some volunteer work. Or reach out to someone in your life who needs some love and encouragement. Kindness is a boomerang. It comes back to us.
Listen. Even when you don’t want to. One of the signs of having a negative perspective on your life is being resistant to hearing anything that doesn’t support your own viewpoint. That’s how we stay stuck. But supportive people, including your healthcare providers, may offer some helpful feedback. And if you can allow yourself to listen and take it in, you might learn something helpful. So push your pride aside. You don’t have to do what someone else tells you to do, but listen with an open mind, then go off by yourself and consider what you hear. A few words can make all the difference in helping you to find a fresh perspective.
Give up on fixing the past or controlling the future. Tossing around in your mind something that happened in the past, or worrying about what you can do in the future, keeps you out of the present moment. And cause you to completely lose your perspective. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition is the start of a new chapter in your life. The old rules and expectations are no longer relevant. And one of the biggest lessons that chronic conditions teach us is that we can’t control the future. So take a look at what’s going on around you. Decide to live in the moment and make the best of each day. After all, the present moment is all that any of us are guaranteed.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Finding something to be grateful for, every day of your life, is a surefire way to help you stay focused on the plus column. Be grateful for the simple pleasures of life, the people in your life, the small and big victories. Each day brings a new reason to be grateful. Just looking for it can do wonders for your perspective.
Look forward to something. Like making a great cup of coffee in the morning, or something you enjoy doing on your own, or an evening with friends or family. Remind yourself that life is good.
Smile. Laugh. Look for the humor. Wear a smile even when you aren’t feeling it. Your body will respond with feel-good hormones that can help chase away the negativity. Be willing to laugh with yourself. Humor is a great perspective-shifter by helping you to dial down the urge to turn the setbacks that are part of living with a chronic condition into catastrophes.
Perspective! Recognize when your perspective is due for a tune-up. And then shift your perspective toward the bigger picture of your life.