Chronically Thriving: How To Feel Ok When You Always Feel Crap

chronically thrivingIt’s all well and good to be a happy, healthy human being when your body is in working order. But for those of us with chronic conditions, it’s not always that simple. I used to get myself into spirals of feeling crap and letting my health slip. But now, I focus on a concept of Chronically Thriving – choosing to do all I can to feel ok even when I do feel like crap. So today, I thought I’d share the ways I make this happen.

Chronically Thriving Nutrition

As a nutritionist, I might be a little biased here. But nutrition really can make a big difference in chronic conditions. So I stick to these basics when things get tough:

  • A serve of fermented foods
  • Plenty of protein and good fats with each meal
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods – even if it’s just adding a sprinkle of herbs and spices to a big bowl of cheesy pasta!
  • Staying away from my big no-nos – in my case, gluten and most grains

I do these as much as possible, even if it’s squeezed around an emotional eating session where I smash through a huge bag of chips. It keeps my body ticking away and feeling ok.

Chronically Thriving Movement

It’s hard to move your body when you’re exhausted and in pain. But we know it’s one of the best ways to boost feel-good endorphins to relieve pain and support a good mood. So some of the simple ways I keep moving are:

  • Walking my dog down to the local oval with my partner
  • Doing some gentle stretches every hour as a work break when I’m writing
  • Simple bodyweight movements while I wait for my heat pack – I often do calf raises!
  • Yin yoga for when I need to be really slow and chilled

When I feel good, I get as much movement in as possible. My partner is a qualified PT, so he will train me with some strength training to keep my proprioception in check. I love active dates as well – this year, we have a voucher to go on a tree-top adventure!

Chronically Thriving Mindset

A big part of the problem with chronic conditions – at least in my experience – is the mindset. A positive mindset can reassure me that a bad day is only one day. If I’m in a bad headspace, I can talk myself into a downward spiral. So here are some of my mindset practices:

  • Deep breathing, particularly if I’m in pain
  • Meditation – or on bad days, medi-naps (when I meditate into a nap!)
  • Gratitude – sending up a ‘thank you’ whenever anything good happens, no matter how small
  • Journalling whenever I find my thoughts are like a dog chasing its own tail

Chronically Thriving Spirituality

No matter what your preference, spirituality/religion is shown to have a big impact on supporting something through a chronic condition. So you might like to use tools such as:

  • Praying to your chosen deity or to the universe
  • Rituals for gratitude, support or asking for intervention
  • Gathering with others who share your beliefs

Other Chronically Thriving Tips

  • Get good sleep. Seriously. It is so essential for healing, especially during a flare-up
  • Keep an eye on your stress levels. Stress can flare symptoms, deplete nutrients and mess with your head
  • Ask for help if you need it. I know this is easier said than done, but it is a lot better than spiralling downwards
  • Give yourself a high-five every time you do something awesome. You deserve it!


I’m not going to guarantee that all of these will work for you. Different conditions need different supports, and it’s the same with different people. But I do hope it gets you thinking about how you can incorporate Chronically Thriving into your life.


How do you keep feeling ok when you always feel crap? Share your tips below!

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  1. Reply Jennene

    Great advice Samantha. I also find that listening to my favourite music is a great mood lift. Currently I am listening to Carole King as I just saw “Beautiful” the musical (it was awesome!). My little poodle Tessie always cheers me up, pets are such wonderful company. Also, diffusing some essential oils can help get me through the day nicely.

    • Reply Samantha Gemmell

      Music is a great one, Jennene! I’ll often have music or even nature sounds playing while I work and relax. Pets are magical creatures – they do everything they can to heal us! Love the essential oils tip – I’ve got eucalyptus diffusing right now, as the entire family (across two households!) has a nasty cold.

  2. Reply Michelle

    Great tips Sam! Thanks for sharing!

    I find that if I’m REALLY struggling, even just eating ANYTHING is a step in the right direction. I have to remind myself that this is OK for this time.

    Remembering to do my physio exercises is also something that I have to prompt myself to do, so I will pop an alarm in my phone to remind me.

    And talking to a therapist/counsellor about my stress levels and mental health is really important as well.

    • Reply Samantha Gemmell

      Awesome Michelle – you’re definitely on the right track!

      I’m a big advocate for using tech to remind us of things. In fact, I use an app called Habitica that turns good habits into a game. It’s really helped me to nail down things like daily movement (even if it’s little), drinking enough water and eating my greens.

      Love the tip for talking to someone – I think we could all do with a therapist, even when we’re not ‘struggling’. Right now, I’m doing great, but I’ll be working with a professional to reinforce that ‘great’ as much as possible!

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