Mind + Body Connection: You Are Not Your Illness

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When we’re facing a health challenge or chronic illness, it can feel like a label that defines us. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Joyce Marter is here to share some tips for empowerment.

Jackie Bender: Joyce, why does it happen that people feel defined by their illnesses?

Joyce Marter: Yes, I see this often in my practice. People begin to identify with their health issue or disorder, and this is not a healthy thing. We want to help people separate their identity and understand that they are themselves and are just managing a health issue. Instead of thinking, “I am diabetic,” we want someone to say, “I am Joyce, and I’m managing my diabetes.” Changing our thinking in this way can improve our outcomes. The semantics behind that are really powerful. We want to encourage people to understand that they are more than their health issue—they are their work, family life, hobbies, and all other aspects of themselves.

Jackie Bender: Does it have to do with how other people are perceiving you or perhaps how you’re perceiving yourself, or maybe a little bit of both?

Joyce Marter: I think it can be both. Internally, it’s about how they think about themselves and process their emotions and feelings. Externally, it’s about how they spend their time. Is their entire life consumed by their health issue, or are they still making time for normalcy—seeing their friends, going out, having fun, watching a movie? These things are really important. We can teach people how to treat us by empowering ourselves to be ourselves.

Jackie Bender: How exactly do we do that? Can you give us a few tips?

Joyce Marter: Creating a vision of health and wellness is really important. Cut out images or pictures from magazines that represent different parts of yourself, your life, or the life you want to welcome. Look at those images and remind yourself that you’re much more than your health issue. Focusing on all the great aspects of your life can be a powerful reminder.

Jackie Bender: Well, thank you so much, Joyce. Until next time, I’m Jackie Bender for Context Media Health.

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