Life with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) may require taking care of yourself and your relationships. As a patient or care giver, consider using these tips to manage stress.
Try to keep your job, even if your kidneys get worse. You may be able to ask for a short-term leave, a new schedule, or other small changes that would allow you to keep working. Read the daily paper, keep a journal, send letters to friends, listen to music, visit an art museum, or do any other activity that requires thinking. Staying involved in the world around you keep your mind active. Keep working, seek out employment or go back to school. Even if it’s part-time, this can be an activity you look forward to each week. Volunteer at an organization you find interesting.
Take time out for yourself and connect with people who provide you with positive feedback and support. Revisit things that have been uplifting to you in the past. Whether it’s re-reading a favorite book, cooking up a delicious recipe or calling a beloved friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, treat yourself to something you enjoy; something that lifts your spirits.
Keep doing things that you enjoy like walking, dancing, exercising, gardening, or other hobbies that keep you active and involved in life. Before starting any exercise program, make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider. Start slowly and build up more each day. You will be surprised at what you can do. Remember you’re a person, not a patient.
When possible, the patient should take ownership of the majority of his or her treatment responsibilities. However, sharing in all the tasks associated with managing CKD as well as assisting at home with non-dialysis-related household tasks is essential. Write down who is responsible for each task and when the tasks need to be performed. Review this plan together from time to time and make adjustments as necessary. Be sure to write down any changes so that you can review these changes the next time you review your plan.
Getting diagnosed with CKD may lead to a surge of emotions of disbelief, shock, denial, and depression. However, it is important not to be overwhelmed by them and focus on winning back your health. Most often these feelings are temporary. Share your state of mind with your healthcare team. People with CKD and their caregivers often suffer from depression while adjusting to and coping with all the life changes that accompany both CKD and ESRD. If you are a patient or caregiver experiencing depression or are having difficulty adjusting, there is hope. Treatment and relief can come in many forms. It is important to recognize the signs of depression and seek help from a qualified professional who can diagnose the problem based on the symptoms.
Talk to each other about your feelings. Are you feeling anxious? Resentful? Overwhelmed? Say what you are feeling. Listen to each other’s feelings and be sure to state your needs in clear, simple terms so that the other person does not have to guess what you need. Are you concerned about finances? Are you concerned about a change in treatment? Write down your list of questions and concerns. Talk about them with each other and plan to discuss them with your kidney doctor (nephrologist) or nurse. Other friends and family members may also have questions about CKD. Encourage them to ask any questions they have and make time to discuss these together.
It’s important to spend time focusing on the other aspects of your relationship aside from CKD to help your relationship stay healthy. Make time to pursue activities you enjoy together. Whether it’s going out to a movie or sporting event, planning a vacation or spending time at the park, it’s important to keep up with activities that don’t center on CKD. Make an effort to explore new interests together to keep your relationship strong.
Coping with a chronic illness can be challenging at times. Treating each other with respect over the day-to-day details can go a long way towards helping you deal with issues that may arise over the course of your relationship or over the course of CKD.