Managing Stress and Depression in Chronic Illness

Dealing with a chronic illness like heart disease or type 2 diabetes can cause depression and stress. Here’s how to cope.


ED: I’m Edward Frost. I’m a retired minister and author and a model railroad enthusiast.

I’ve had several serious medical problems. My first one was in 1992 when I had a heart attack that required a quintuple bypass. And following that I had two more heart attacks.

My diabetes was discovered about the same time as my heart disease was discovered.

It requires that I take two medications on a daily basis and that I test my blood sugar 4 or 5 times a day.

The primary stresses in my life are of course related to my major illnesses.

I do live alone and I worry, I worry about something serious happening to me in the night.

What will I do if I become seriously disabled what if I can’t climb the stairs, how will I take care of my dogs?

I have spent decades giving advice to other people and supporting them and I find now that at this time of life that I myself need advice.

DR. ANGELA: It’s not uncommon for people like Edward who live with chronic illness to be concerned about what lies ahead. You often find that you’re no longer able to fully engage in the activities that you really enjoy and this can lead to feelings of frustration, isolation, and even depression. The added stress can, in turn, make your condition worse. Here are some suggestions:

First of all, become aware of what stresses you on a daily basis.

Assess what you can and cannot control. We can change only the things over which we have direct influence. And once we figure this out, this awareness can help us redirect our energies in more productive ways.

Make an effort to have a positive attitude towards life and the choices you make. A good attitude can lower your stress and make things much more manageable.

Stay connected with friends, family, and your community. They can help you feel less isolated.

Add one nurturing activity to your day. Try meditation or deep breathing. Or you could take a yoga class, or perhaps go for a simple walk. Just making the time to incorporate relaxation into your life can offer great physical and emotional health benefits.

Fear is a normal emotion for someone in Edward’s situation, but it’s important not to let it paralyze you. By keeping the focus on what you can do, you can enjoy a richer and more fulfilling life.

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