Seven Steps to Recovering Your Joy and Emotional Health When You’re Battling a Chronic Illness

Note: This article was originally published on

There’s no doubt about it—diseases and health conditions that affect the mind and emotions, such as Lyme disease, mold illness, chronic fatigue syndrome, environmental illness, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety and many others, can make life incredibly challenging. When your mind and emotions are a mess, nothing in life feels enjoyable, and you may even struggle to function enough to carry out basic tasks.

What’s more, you may even blame yourself for not being able to “be more positive.” But I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault! You aren’t battling because of a moral or emotional weakness, or because you aren’t trying hard enough. Disease takes a toll on the strongest of minds and most stable of people. Aside from treating the health condition that you’ve been diagnosed with—whether Lyme, mold toxicity, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or whatever it happens to be, what can you do to recover your joy and emotional health?

The good news is—a lot! Earlier this month, I shared a little about my battle with depression, anxiety and cognitive dysfunction while in the throes of Lyme disease. The tools that I used to overcome these symptoms are featured in my just-released book, Healthy, Happy and Free: Spirit-Soul-Body Solutions for Healing from Depression.

 Following is a summary of some of the most important of these tools, although I encourage you to get the book for more comprehensive information on how you too, can overcome these conditions (note: while the book title only mentions depression, most of the tools found therein are helpful for people with anxiety, too!):

1).Cultivate a relationship with God. I’m not talking about joining a religious group, although if that works for you, then that’s great! I simply mean seeking to know the Creator of the Universe through prayer and prayerful meditation, as well as via other means, which I share in Healthy, Happy and Free. If you struggle to believe that God loves you, or that God even exists, I especially encourage you to read Happy, Healthy and Free, where I share some tips for getting to know the One who loves you more than anyone on earth, and who doesn’t judge you for your weaknesses or shortcomings.

2). Try a brain retraining tool, like Dynamic Neural Retraining (DNRS) or Amygdala Retraining. These programs have been astoundingly beneficial for a large number of people who battle Lyme disease, mold illness, CFS, fibromyalgia and other conditions that affect the mind-body, especially the limbic system. Part of the programs involve focusing on teaching your brain how to think positive, happy thoughts. I have done these programs myself, within the context of my relationship with God. A well-known Lyme literate and mold doctor whom I greatly respect, Neil Nathan, MD, has shared in his new book, TOXIC, that over 200 of his patients have done DNRS, and all but two experienced positive changes to their wellbeing. Few programs can claim those kinds of statistics.

3). Discover your life’s purpose. This is so important for recovery! Perhaps you’ve given up on your dreams because you feel like you aren’t healthy enough to do much. Paradoxically though, training yourself to do something daily that will move you in the direction of discovering and/or pursuing your life’s calling can have profound effects upon your health. Even if you can only envision it, (which I highly recommend doing within the context of a brain training program like Dynamic Neural Retraining), I encourage you to consider, meditate on or pray about the purpose for which you were made, and take steps to do something daily that will move you in the direction of fulfilling that purpose.

4). Take time to get out and be with people. If you’re really sick, I know this can incredibly challenging, and it can be difficult to be with friends or family members who may not understand the disease you battle and all that goes along with that. But I believe that wired into our DNA is a desire and need for face-to-face connection with others. I don’t believe that social media, or even telephone conversations, can replace that, although if that’s all that you can manage, it’s certainly better than nothing. Even if you don’t have friends or know people that you can spend some quality time with, consider going to a park, coffee shop, church, or Meetup event a couple of times per week, just to be around other humans. Talk to them and ask them about their lives. Pray for them. You’ll be surprised at how connection can really uplift you and even help you to feel better physically, especially when you have no expectations of how other people will respond to you. Let’s face it, nobody gets chronic illness until they “get it” –which is why seeking to give something to others without any expectation of getting anything back can be so beneficial. You can’t be let down if you don’t have expectations, but you’ll be surprised at how giving ends up filling your emotional gas tank, when it’s done in the right spirit and within your abilities

5). …And on that note, I encourage you to find ways to contribute positively to another person’s life. When we’re sick, we sometimes believe that we don’t have much to offer others, and at times we probably truly don’t! However, I’ve found that when I go the extra mile to do something for someone else; whether that means calling a friend to encourage them, praying for someone who is struggling, sending a donation to a cause that I care about, or volunteering to bring meals to the elderly—it uplifts me in a way like nothing else can. It helps me to take the focus off of myself and my problems and reveals to me the potential that God has placed within me for greatness. We all have the potential for greatness, no matter how we feel. You may be surprised at what you can achieve when you simply believe and reach out to another with a willing heart.

6). Feed your brain, mind and mood with a brain-supportive diet and supplements. I found these things to be so incredibly important for my recovery. It’s beyond the scope of this article to share everything that I did to heal my mind and emotions, but you can find more information on these things in my book, Healthy, Happy and Free. In a nutshell, I discovered both the Plant Paradox Diet and the GAPS diet to be especially beneficial for reducing brain inflammation and supporting my mood, energy and cognition. The Plant Paradox isn’t a plant-based diet, as it sounds, but rather, an anti-inflammatory, gut-healing diet that promotes a healthy mood and body, as is GAPS. Gut health has been intimately linked to mental health, so anything you can do to heal your gut, will also help to heal your brain, mind and emotions.

7). Try some mood-supportive amino acids, like L-phenalalaline, L-tyrosine, tryptophan and/or 5-HTP. L-phenalalaline and L-tyrosine are both precursors to dopamine, one of your brain’s primary mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Dopamine has been found in studies to also provide energy to the body and enhance cognition. Tryptophan and 5-HTP are precursors to serotonin, another primary mood-enhancing neurotransmitter, which also has been found in studies to promote sleep and relaxation. One of my former doctors, Jeremy Kaslow, MD, taught me that dopamine and serotonin must be balanced in the body in order for the brain and rest of the body to function optimally; therefore, it’s important to balance the two with the appropriate amino acids. Many people with chronic neurological conditions have imbalances in these neurotransmitters and take antidepressants to manage symptoms. But the right amino acids and other nutrients may restore the chemistry so that antidepressants aren’t necessary.  I encourage you to get your amino acids and neurotransmitters tested or ask your doctor about amino acid therapy for managing anxiety, depression and other mental-emotional conditions caused by illness.

Other nutrients play a role in promoting a healthy mood and emotions, as do hormones, but it is beyond the scope of this article to share all those with you here. To learn more, please read my latest book, Healthy, Happy and Free, for more on this, and other tools for cultivating joy, health, and emotional freedom.

In the meantime, I hope this article has been helpful to you! I have personally done all of the above and found all of these tools and strategies to be crucial to my healing journey and for restoring my mood and mental-emotional wellbeing. My healing wasn’t overnight; indeed, it took me many years to discover and implement the tools that I share with you here, but over time, I recovered significantly and hope that I can now be a light and provide better answers to those of you who may need it. May you be richly blessed in your healing journey!