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Setting boundaries when you have a chronic illness can be challenging. Whether it’s setting boundaries with others or with yourself. But it’s so necessary in order for you to take care of your health and well-being. So here are some of my top tips to help you set healthy boundaries with a chronic illness (minus the guilt).
Why setting boundaries with a chronic illness is important
I’ve been living with chronic pain for a while now. Which has made me change the way I think about myself and others, unlearn certain behaviours and do things are conducive to my health needs.
It’s a been a hard, but eye-opening journey. But there is one thing I’m still trying to get a handle on–setting boundaries, mainly with others but with myself as well.
Setting boundaries may sound a little harsh or negative. But what it boils down to is protecting both your physical and mental health. Which, without stating the obvious, is crucial when you have a chronic illness or any chronic health condition.
But let’s be honest, as much as most of us want to set boundaries and be comfortable saying no, it doesn’t always come easily and can bring about a lot of guilt.
Because maybe you don’t want to let people down or because you don’t want to feel you’re missing out on things.
But there are ways to go about setting health boundaries without feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt.
Here are a few tips to help you set boundaries that will help you manage your chronic illness long term.
Be mindful of the things you commit to
Before you do anything, take what you can realistically commit to into account. Be aware of what makes you feel worse, what can trigger you, and what makes you feel at your best.
Knowing all these things will help you not only set boundaries with other people, but more importantly, with yourself.
If you know that doing a certain activity may cause a flare up, respect the boundaries you’ve established and don’t do it.
Or if a friend or relative is asking something of you, that isn’t realistic, prioritise your health and well-being and politely turn them down.
Getting into the habit of respecting your own boundaries will make setting boundaries with others so much easier.
It will help you work around your limitations and capabilities, and help you pace yourself so you can lead a much happier and stress-free life.
Say NO without guilt
Saying NO can be hard, right? Believe me, I know. But it’s important to become comfortable with the word no without feeling guilty.
It doesn’t have to be said in a harsh or mean way, just be clear and confident.
If you really find saying the word NO hard, here are some things you could say instead:
- “I’d love too, but I can’t”
- “Unfortunately, now isn’t a good time”
- “Sadly, I’m not feeling well enough to do that”
- “Sounds lovely but no thank you”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t”
I’ve said it a thousand times over here on the blog and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face—prioritising self-care when you have a chronic illness is necessary and important.
Living with a chronic illness has its challenges.
From the constant aches and pains, brain fog, anxiety, and the gruelling testing, it really takes its toll on you mentally, emotionally, and physically. Which is why it’s so important for us to prioritise self-care.
It doesn’t have to be costly or energy consuming. And self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and face masks either.
It’s about so much more than pampering yourself or treating yourself to indulgent gifts. It’s all about taking time to look after your health and prioritise your well-being.
Whether it’s taking time to be on your own or allowing yourself time to rest, make self-care a constant part of your daily routine.
Remove unsupportive people from your circle
Having a good support system around you is important, particularly when you’re living with a chronic illness.
If you have anyone around you that isn’t supportive or understanding of you and your illness, it’s time to let them go.
If you’ve been trying to set boundaries and people aren’t respectful of them or try to make you feel bad or guilty for prioritising your health, they shouldn’t be around you.
I know how hard it is, particularly if it’s a friend you’ve known for a while or a family member, but no one deserves to be ignored or made to feel guilty about putting themselves first.
Let them go, sis!
Forget FOMO (fear of missing out)!
Fear of missing out is something I’m sure a lot of us with chronic illnesses deal with.
There will have been plenty of occasions when you really wanted to go somewhere but couldn’t because you weren’t well enough.
But take a minute the next time you’re invited to do something and ask yourself–“do I actually want to do this?” Or, “am I telling myself I want to because I’m so used to missing out on things because of my illness?”
It’s nice to be invited to places, or have a calendar full of things to do, but it’s not always a good thing.
Those of us living with chronic illnesses know how draining doing things and being around people can be.
So, before you say yes to that invite, really ask yourself if you want to do this and is it worth your energy.
Are you ready to start setting boundaries?
I hope you found these tips useful. Setting boundaries can be hard at first, but over time, it will get easier.
There’s no need to feel guilty about setting boundaries that will help you manage your chronic illness.
What boundaries have you set because of your chronic illness?
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