Mental wellbeing is key to the overall health of an individual. But those affected by chronic diseases, such as HIV, can find themselves challenged to remain happy, vital and optimistic, and maintain the self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-worth that factor into wellbeing.
An HIV diagnosis doesn’t equate to death, or life as a recluse. In fact, it’s important for your mental health to engage socially.
That doesn’t have to involve broadcasting your HIV status. Too often, patients believe that others know they have HIV and are judging and talking about them behind their backs.
There are ways to build community around yourself without your HIV status being the foremost thing. In most cases, others don’t need to know unless you’re compelled to share that information.
Here are four tips for living and thriving with common chronic conditions.
1. Be Consistent with Prescribed Treatment
It’s important to manage the symptoms of the chronic condition, and adherence to the treatment regimen prescribed by the physician is key to that. Medicines prescribed for HIV keep the virus in check and prevent it from multiplying and destroying your immune system.
In addition to keeping regular appointments and communication with the doctor, be sure to take medications and follow other instructions such as eating well and restricting alcohol consumption.
2. Be Active – Physically and Socially
Chronic conditions can impact an individual’s daily life, affecting mobility and reducing the energy required to complete daily activities.
Physical and social activity can support the treatment plans prescribed by a doctor, decrease chronic disease symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Activity also helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and sadness that you might feel when diagnosed with or living with a chronic condition.
Taking walks, gardening, volunteering, joining a local athletic group or participating in groups in religious or community organizations are all great ways to stay active.
3. Consider Supplemental Care and Resources
Conventional treatment and medications serve a vital role in managing chronic conditions and achieving mental wellbeing; yet at the same time, you can participate in or make use of other health resources.
Consider individual or group counseling; support or peer groups; medical massage; music therapy and alternative medicine such as acupuncture to help support or extend the benefits of treatments prescribed by the doctor.
4. Build Support Systems
Chronic conditions seem dormant for a while and then flare up, producing symptoms that are not easily manageable. It’s helpful to have others to rely on in order to get through difficult times.
Bring family, friends, colleagues, peers and others into your support system.
HopeHealth offers medical care, medical case management, prevention and outreach services for people with HIV and Hepatitis C. It was founded as a support group for those infected, affected and at risk for HIV/AIDS.
HopeHealth in Aiken – one of five HopeHealth locations featuring a Disease Treatment & Prevention Center – offers a variety of supportive services for individuals, families and communities affected by HIV and/or hepatitis C, including medical care and treatment, behavioral health counseling, peer support groups and testing and referral services.
For HIV, Hepatitis C or STD testing or information, visit HopeHealth Aiken at 150 University Parkway, call (803) 643-1977 or connect at Hope-Health.org.