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Your Well-being

Coping with the stress of a chronic disease

New York Teacher

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A chronic illness, whether a new diagnosis, a hereditary condition or the consequence of a serious accident, adds new stressors on top of the everyday work and personal stress most people face. A fast-paced work environment and a school setting where social interactions are a constant can exacerbate the situation.

Physical health is closely related to emotional and mental health. You may find you need to:

  • Cope with daily pain or discomfort from chronic knee or hip pain, headaches, diabetes, arthritis or the side effects of radiation/chemotherapy;
  • Adjust to new limitations on your work life, such as the need to ask for an accommodation if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs.
  • Manage the increased financial and time pressures of visiting doctors and hospitals and doing physical therapy;
  • Cope with feelings of frustration, confusion or isolation. You may find yourself feeling depressed or anxious, unable to sleep, undereating or overeating.

Typical coping strategies when dealing with chronic illness run the gamut from denial to selectively ignoring the situation, compulsively seeking information, taking refuge in constant activity, blaming others and seeking comfort from others.

Here are some healthy ways to manage your condition and maintain a better quality of life:

  • Learn about your illness and treatment needs. Be proactive about following your treatment plan and leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Focus on the relationships that are most important to you. Let go of people who add more stress than support to your life.
  • Make time for activities and relationships that leave you feeling happy and supported.
  • Adjust your expectations and practice self-care to make your health and well-being a priority.
  • Make smart choices about where to focus your time and energy.
  • Ask for the support and help you need from others; let them know what will make your life easier. • Utilize the UFT’s Member Assistance Program for short-term counseling or referrals to help you cope with the challenges.

For additional resources, visit www.uft.org/your-well-being.

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