Stacked stones with text overlay: Are Chronic Illness and Wellness Mutually Exclusive?

Are Chronic Illness and Wellness Mutually Exclusive?

Are chronic illness and wellness mutually exclusive? At first glance they appear to be complete opposites, don’t they? After all, who can be ill and well at the same time?

I started thinking about this because I was reading one of those “improve your blog” posts last week, and the author was answering a question about how many topics one should tackle on their blog. They then went on to say that you should never tackle topics that are contradictory. Of course, that’s because you run the risk of alienating half your readers.

As you probably know by now, this blog is about learning to thrive with Fibromyalgia. On Wednesdays, I write about general Wellness topics. There’s a reason for this — I believe that in order to truly thrive, whether ill or not, we have to have a Wellness mindset. I say this from personal experience.

For the first few years after I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, it pretty much ruled my life. Everything centered around just getting through each day, and not doing anything that might increase my pain or fatigue. This involved putting very strict controls on myself and my schedule. I was managing my pain to some degree, but I wasn’t really living.

Once I shifted to a Wellness mindset, everything changed. I went from just existing to actually living my life again.

What do I mean by a Wellness mindset? First, let’s take a look at the definition of Wellness.

Defining Wellness

According to UCDavis, “wellness is the process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.” ( The National Wellness Institute adds that “wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.” (

Obviously, most people who read this blog aren’t “free from illness.” But being “free from illness” isn’t the only dimension of overall wellness. Did you notice the part of the definition that talked about “becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life”?

Don’t you love that part? So often, when we live with chronic illness, we feel we don’t have a lot of choice. We certainly didn’t choose to become ill, and we can’t choose what our bodies decide to do from one day to the next. We do, however, have a choice about whether we have an illness mindset or a wellness mindset.

For me, adopting a Wellness mindset meant that I moved from everything being geared toward managing my condition to living that “multidimensional, holistic, encompassing lifestyle” we talked about above.

The Difference Having a Wellness Mindset Makes with Chronic Illness

When we live with a chronic illness it’s easy, especially when symptoms are really horrible, to focus entirely on our illness and everything it’s stealing from us. This mindset allows our illness to continue to steal from us: our happiness, our mental health, our sense of purpose…. the list goes on.

When we make the choice to adopt a wellness mindset, we tend to focus on those things that help us feel better, improve our mental state, and live a fulfilling life, in spite of our circumstances.

When I decided to focus on Wellness instead of my illness, I didn’t stop abiding by my Self-Care Plan; I just learned to expand my comfort zone little by little. Now I look more at what’s going to help me live a life of purpose, improve my overall wellness, and enjoy life.

This doesn’t mean I don’t experience the excruciating flares or the overwhelming fatigue from time to time. Fibromyalgia is chronic – it may never go away. What it does mean is that I’m able to enjoy my life. Granted, it doesn’t look the same as my life pre-illness, but it’s a life filled with love and purpose. I can definitely live with that!

The Choice Is Ours

We don’t have a choice about our illnesses or how they affect our bodies, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any choices. We do get to choose our mindset. Do we choose a Wellness Mindset or an Illness one? Which is going to serve us best?

Rather than seeing chronic illness and wellness as opposites, I see wellness as the piece that completes the puzzle of how to actually thrive while living with a life-changing, ongoing illness.

Do you feel Chronic Illness and Wellness are mutually exclusive? Do you find general wellness information helpful for dealing with your chronic illness? Please share!




    1. Thanks for sharing Bar! I hope you’re doing well and are comfortably settled in your home now. Is your grand baby here yet? Sending hugs!

  1. Another good post Terri. Important to remember that illness and wellness are not exclusive. We live our best life with what we are given.
    Side note: I just realized I have not been receiving notification about your posts as I once was. Had thought you were taking a hiatus. Shouldn’t assume.

    1. Thanks so much V.J.! I agree – we have to do what we can to live our best lives regardless of our circumstances. It’s good to see you back here – I’ve been missing you! Sorry about the notifications; that happens with people I follow every now and then. I’ve had to go back and re-follow people in order to see their posts – a WP glitch, I guess. Anyway, I’m glad to hear from you sweet friend! Sending hugs your way!

  2. You make an excellent point. Living with chronic illness, it’s easy to get hemmed in by our limitations. But we still have a life to live and a purpose to fulfill. The trick is figuring out how to live with our illness without losing the things we care about.

    1. Thanks so much Kit! You’re so right about having to figure out how to “live with our illness without losing the things we care about.” I think it takes some experimentation to figure it out, and everyone’s different, but I think that’s the way we really learn to thrive. Blessings to you sweet friend!

    1. Thanks so much Resa! I’m glad you found it helpful. Also, it looks like you made it out of “spam jail.” 😊 Your comment came straight in this time. Blessings to you!

  3. I know from experience that they’re not mutually exclusive. Choosing wellness in chronic illness is paramount to living life in all its fulness in our new norms!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Jennifer! I agree with you 100%. Choosing to focus on wellness rather than illness made all the difference for me too. Blessings to you sweet friend!

  4. Great definitions from UCDavis and The Wellness Institute – I also soo wellness as being an inclusive, holistic thing. I think when chronic illness initially hit, I focused more on wellness than I did before. I must admit though that recently things have gone rather downhill, so this post is perfect timing. You’re so right with how powerful that shift in mindset towards wellness can be. Another inspiring post, Terri  ♥

    1. Thank you so much Caz. I know you’ve been through a lot lately, and it’s hard NOT to be illness-focused when you’re right in the thick of things. Sometimes I think we just have to allow ourselves to be there in that mindset for a while, focusing on managing our symptoms, procedures, recovery, etc., but when we’re able, to shift back to the Wellness mindset. Does that make sense? It made more sense in my head than when I re-read it, but I hope you get what I mean….😊 Sending love and hugs your way sweet friend!

  5. I think a wellness mindset is essential otherwise I would never get off the lounge or try new things. I know I can always rely on your posts for a positive take on living the chronic life. i appreciate that. Best wishes. x

  6. This is something I have been working on with my psychologist. As a society we tend to define our heath as “good” or “bad” and don’t recognise that not only is it a sliding scale, but our attitude makes a massive difference. Being able to honestly say “despite my pain, I feel good today” is an incredibly empowering thing.

    1. Thanks for sharing Sonja! I totally agree with your statement, “Being able to honestly say “despite my pain, I feel good today” is an incredibly empowering thing.” When all I was doing was focusing on how to manage my Fibro, I felt like it was in control. Since I’ve moved to a Wellness mindset, I feel I’m in control – not of my Fibro, of course – but of my attitude and my actions. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Blessings to you!

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