Coming to terms with a chronic illness diagnosis can be difficult. Getting that diagnosis—hearing that you have a condition that means your life looks different than a majority of those around you—can be overwhelming. But you are not alone. In addition to the support network of family and friends you have cheering you on and serving as your sounding board, you should know that according to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, two in three adults in Alabama has at least one chronic illness. These are doctors, lawyers, singers, Alabama and Auburn fans, construction workers, salespeople, church-goers, caregivers, and stay-at-home moms and dads—millions of folks just like you who are living with everything from asthma, heart disease, and diabetes to chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

To further expand your support system and to develop new, hope-giving ways to manage your chronic disease, make your health a priority by participating in the upcoming Living Well Alabama Workshop series coming to five central Alabama counties this January. Sponsored by the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (M4A), these FREE two-and-a-half hour small-group sessions will be offered each week for six weeks and are designed specifically to help you live a rich, full life with your chronic disease in check.

According to Living Well Alabama program director and master trainer, Margaret Grubic, the evidence-based curriculum explored during the six-week Chronic Disease Self-Management workshops are created as interactive learning experiences filled with knowledge and practices to not only live with a chronic disease but thrive with it. “A lot of times, people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness think they just have to live with it. That’s not the case, though. You can live this amazing, healthy, and happy life. You can keep your chronic disease from ruling your life, and that’s what we aim to help people realize,” says Grubic.

and these workshops aren’t stuffy classrooms guided by an educator spouting facts and figures. They are slated to be hosted in a variety of casual settings throughout the community at places like churches, health facilities, and community centers. “This is not a typical class where someone is just up there lecturing at you,” notes Grubic. “It’s a very interactive environment where you have facilitators there to help drive the conversation between you and the other participants. We’re excited to create an open dialogue where you can collaborate and share with the other participants.”

Each week, the workshops will focus on different elements of managing chronic illness—from handling stress and healthy problem-solving strategies to simply learning how to effectively communicate how you’re feeling with your loved ones. and the workshops are far more practice than theory thanks to weekly Action Planning. With the Action Planning component, participants will communicate a specific goal and then work to develop a list of communicated steps that will make the goal attainable.

“Maybe the goal is to lose 25 pounds—each week, you’ll decide on a smaller goal, sort of taking the overall goal and tackling it in small pieces to avoid becoming overwhelmed or frustrated. In this case, the smaller goal might be eating fruit instead of dessert each night,” explains Grubic. “There ends up being a level of accountability there because participants report back to the whole group each week on how they did on their action plan. Our participants love that they’re in a room full of people with something in common [having a chronic disease] cheering each other on. It creates a safe space and a really special bond.”

The Living Well Alabama workshops exist to empower those in the community living with a chronic illness by giving them all the tools and skills they need to live a full life. Take back your life and make lifelong friends along the way—all from the comforts of your very own neighborhood. To register for the Living Well Alabama Chronic Disease Self-Management workshops, call M4A today at 205-670-5770.