Ways to Get a More Positive Outlook

Friends laughing together

Bethany Sprague was a healthy mom of two working as a physical therapist in St. Louis when she started experiencing a dry cough that wouldn’t go away for months. She was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2010 and would soon begin her lung transplant journey. Here, she shares some of her tips for getting through the tough times.

Do you have episodes of feeling down that you just can't seem to shake? Pre- and post-transplant folks have a lot of issues to deal with that most people rarely even have to consider. I know because I am a lung transplant recipient who has had my share of ups and downs, both before and after transplant.

Sometimes concerns can weigh heavily on us and become overwhelming. I am not claiming to be an expert on treating depression, but I have gotten some really good advice from others and found certain tricks and activities that have helped me. 

Eight techniques to try to improve your outlook

Get the facts

There is a lot of information creating a buzz all around us on the internet, from friends and from our families.  If you have a question about your health or circumstances, your best source is your physician and team.  We are all different and what worked for "Suzie" may not work or be realistic for you.

Use your resources

There are tons of resources available that we rarely tap into. Realize that there may be new avenues for you for information and support that you may not have considered. Penn's lung, liver and kidney support groups are great sources to provide support as well as knowledge of other resources that may be available.  

Talk it out

If something is really concerning you, don't feel like it isn't important enough to talk about with your care team. They're there to help and want to know what's going on. 

Lean on your transplant support group or close friends and family members too -- they're likely more than willing to lend an ear.

Get together with friends

If you need a distraction, friends who haven't gone through transplant may help by taking your mind off of it.

Additionally, I've found it's even more helpful to get together with other transplant patients who are going through similar challenges. What you may think is only happening to you may have happened to several others, and they can give you hope, perspective and advice.

Do something for others

Focusing outside of ourselves can sometimes deflect our own fears and sadness. 

Depending on your own physical ability, there are different levels of things you can do for others: Be a mentor. Donate your knitting, sewing, or crocheting ability for fundraising. Organize a brunch or lunch with those who are having accessibility issues. You can even cook a meal at the Transplant House. There are so many things out there; put your thinking cap on.

Shake a leg

Get moving - no matter your physical level. Exercise is proven to raise serotonin levels, which increases levity. It also keeps you in shape and in better health for transplant and post-transplant life.

Think positive

This is really difficult to do sometimes. Catch yourself when you "negative talk" and try to steer your thoughts elsewhere. Think of things that make you happy and that you are grateful for. If you wake up negative and are relentless with the negative talk, you are sure to have a bad day, no matter what is going on around you.

In addition to the above, I want to add that whether you are waiting for an organ or have it, we do not know what our longevity will be. Why not enjoy the present to its fullest? Constantly worrying can take away valuable quality time.

If you find that your blues stay with you and you really can't shake them, contact your doctor. There are options, such as counseling and medications, that may help you and get you back on track. Remember, you are not alone.

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The Penn Medicine Transplant blog features short postings with news about the transplant program at Penn Medicine, notices about upcoming events and health information. Subscribe to the blog and stay connected with Penn's Transplant Program!

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