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Whether your teen is suffering from POTS, cancer, an autoimmune disease, or one of the many other thousands of things that can go wrong with the human body, living with chronic illness is hard. These include breathing exercises, regular exercise, better sleep, distraction, and proper emotional support. While none of these steps will cure the chronic condition, they are steps that can mitigate some of the misery.

Empty bench representing the loneliness teens with chronic illness feel.
Living with a chronic condition is lonely for an adolescent.

Physical Ways to Help Teens With Chronic Illness

Breath Techniques

Breathe in deeply. Hold your breath. Breath out slowly. Breathe in deeply. Hold your breath. Breathe out slowly. Controlling breath is one of the relaxation techniques that is helpful for teens with chronic illness and chronic pain. Slowing the heart rate down through concentration on breath control helps lower anxiety. Lower anxiety means a more relaxed body. This usually translates to a reduction in physical suffering.

Imagine breathing calming, healing breath into the area of pain. Picture the breath filling the lungs, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, and adhering to your red blood cells. Picture it moving through your body into to area(s) of discomfort. Imagine the area of discomfort relaxing. Imagine your red blood cells taking the carbon dioxide away from your pain, exchanging in the lungs, and exhaling from the body. With that, picture some of the pain leaving the body too.


I read an article that people with chronic injuries tend to baby their injury. They probably don’t mean to. I believe they fear causing a setback or that it will hurt while exercising. However, this researcher went on to discover that people who were pushed to continue some form of exercise eventually found their pain receded. In many cases it disappeared. For this reason, I love the idea of asking your treating physician for a physical therapy referral whenever appropriate. PT helps me manage my lupus symptoms, and I have attended at least a few sessions per year ever since getting diagnosed. Consistent exercise in line with my doctor’s recommendations has also helped control my pain. I hope it can do the same to help your teen living with chronic pain or chronic illness (more here).


You already know this. I know you do. However, it cannot be overstated. Protecting sleep is one of the most important things people with chronic illness can do. My rheumatologist told me right from the outset that this was the single most important change to make in my life. She said I must lie down for 8 hours per night so that I at least have the chance to get enough sleep. Now I guard my sleep time carefully. You must also prioritize this for your chronically ill teen as it is a key way to help them feel somewhat better.

Mental Techniques To Help Teens With Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness


My aunt just had knee surgery. She has been in considerable pain for the past 4 weeks since the operation. A couple days ago she said to me, “It’s the weirdest thing. When I get on the phone with someone and start chatting, the pain recedes.” That didn’t seem strange to me. The brain is amazing in the ways it focuses. When we are enjoying relationships and conversation, other things fade. When we have something urgent to focus on, we tend to lose sight of everything else. While extreme pain will always cut through to the forefront of your conscience, dull chronic pain can recede somewhat. So, make a concerted effort to help your teen focus on something challenging that isn’t overwhelming. Then your teen dealing with chronic illness or chronic pain will have some relief.

Emotional Help for Teen With Chronic Disease

Empathy and Understanding

This is where a support group and/or therapy play a huge role! Sitting with someone who understands the frustrations, need for modification in activities, the sadness, and the fatigue that comes with constant suffering and vigilance against suffering is a big deal. Your teenager often feels like the only teen who is living a less carefree life than his or her peers. It gets lonely. Working with someone who understands the feelings that come with chronic pain/illness helps your teen make better choices. Your teenager is more likely to find purpose in the suffering too. According to the National Institute of Health, people who have support from a counselor or peers who really get chronic conditions have better psychological health, shorter healing times, and better preventative behaviors. I would add that it is easier to find meaning in the suffering when talking to others who also understand.

At Teen Therapy OC we are here to help. You are welcome to call or connect with us if your child is living with a chronic condition. Not only do I (Lauren) live with one, our whole team is happy to listen or pray with you as you navigate this extremely challenging journey.

Helping Teens Grow and Families Improve Connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT