The mind is the key to a long, happy life on dialysis

I have seen and interacted with many dialysis patients. Most patients who are positive about their life and are generally cheerful survive long on dialysis. While I do not have any data to substantiate this, I believe this is true. Mostly. It seems intuitive as well.

To some people, this comes naturally. They continue to remain cheerful without making any effort. They don't treat any problem in their life with too much respect. They just move on.

Now, the trouble is not all of us are built that way. Being cheerful in the face of adversity is something only some people are born with. The rest of us have to rely on other tools to build this skill. Remember, even if we can't be cheerful, being stoic about it helps. Though, that is also something many people struggle with. Being upset and feeling depressed comes easily.

How can those in the second category cultivate the ability to try and remain joyous in trying circumstances? How can we remain equanimous in the face of a chronic condition like kidney failure?

There are a few things that have worked for me.

Spend time understanding the disease and the treatment options. Read up about it as much as you can. You need to keep abreast of the latest in this field. Not being a doctor or even in the medical field cannot be an excuse. All it takes is a little common sense. Knowing about your disease and the various treatments available will make you feel much more in control over your health. That way, you can have an informed discussion with your doctor and together arrive at the best option to treat you.

Keep busy. Don't let the mind go into the negative spiral of depression. If you keep the mind idle, it will keep going back to the notorious thought chain of "Why me?". Keep your mind occupied. If you are able to work full time, work full time. If not, try to work at least part time. If not this, do something at home to keep you busy. Pursue an old hobby, take up a new hobby, cook, clean, whatever. Just stay busy. Have something to look forward in your day. Don't spend your day lying in bed the whole day or worse, watching television the whole day or the worst, doom scroll the whole day.

Physical exercise is known to make us feel mentally better as well. Exercising releases endorphins in our body which bring about feelings of cheer and positivity. And obviously, your body benefits as well. Try to incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine keeping in mind your other health conditions. Always talk to your doctor about what forms of exercises you can start doing. Walking is mostly safe for all. Start small. Increase slowly. 

Strength training is also a very important for dialysis patients because we tend to lose muscle and our bones also weaken over the years. Strength training will help you to regain the ability to walk at a good pace, to be able to climb a flight of stairs, to get up from a chair without much effort etc.

Practise mindfulness. Find a quiet place. Sit with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths to still your mind. And then focus on your breath. Your mind will invariably get distracted. Don't get irritated or frustrated. Just bring it gently back to the breath. Start with two minutes every day and slowly increase to ten minutes twice a day. This will give you insights into your own mind like never before. You will uncover 'the real you'. 

Any chronic condition like kidney failure has an undeniable psychological aspect to it. Thankfully, most of it is addressable. You only need to have the willingness and make a heartfelt effort to fix it.


Nisha said…
Absolutely. Kamal ! as always you nailed it☺️��
Usha Balu.
Vikas said…
Very well brought out Kamal. Most of the times people lose the fight as they fail to overcome the battle within. In this care and support of family and friends is very important.

One important point you mentioned is that people do need to research about the ailment and all the treatment options and way to handle the issues faced. Your blog is a beacon to others facing dailysis and CKD.
Dr Krishnan said…
Well said.
One area that I may not fully agree is about the patients reading about the disease. Those with negative mind set, tend to focus on everything negative. Most of the time we keep demystifying their wrong notions. By the time we answer their queries, they come with another set of questions ,most of them not v relevant. Many of them feel ‘Google’ is a better doctor.
Some times discussions need to be brief and precise to help the patients decide fast.