5 Tips for Working While Chronically Ill
Before we go any further if you have a chronic illness and you’re working I want to applaud you. Chronic illness travels with us wherever we go. It doesn’t care about deadlines or dreams or unreasonable bosses. So if you’re still working, you’re clearly handling life like a boss.
On the flip side, if you came to a point where you recognized your body had no more “give” or “push,” if you understood trying to force your body to do something it was no longer able to do made no sense, there’s no shame in this. Kudos to you for allowing your body to heal, for doing the hard work of grieving the life you once had, and for leaning into this new life.
I haven’t held down a full-time, get-up, get-dressed, and drive into work job since my daughter was one year old. I believe that was 2012. Even this was short-lived and reeked havoc on my body. However, during my time trying to balance my ever-revolting body with my ever-rebelling students, I learned a few tricks I’d like to share with you today.
- Write everything down in at least three places. If, like me, you’ve found brain fog to be your nemesis, make sure to physically write things down. The act of physically writing it out in itself will help to jog your memory. You may still lose the paper you wrote it on, so go ahead and put it in your phone or tablet as well as your Google calendar. If it’s extremely important, (i.e. meet your boss to go over your ideas for the presentation with the potential client) consider having your partner put a reminder in their phone or computer for you as well. This way, they can check in with you a few days before the meeting and make sure you’re on target.
- Start working on projects 3 times earlier than reason dictates. Since we have no control over our bodies and no ability to predict the future, better safe than sorry applies here. We’ve probably learned by this stage in the game that pacing ourselves decreases the chances of crashing and burning. It doesn’t guarantee anything. Now that our bodies are the bosses, all bets are off. We do know pulling an all-nighter to complete a project will usher us straight into the depths of hell. So, pacing it is. Which means, starting projects three weeks sooner than reason dictates and completing them in small, manageable chunks.
- Turn up the music. Whether it’s a motivational playlist to get you going on a tough morning or an instrumental collection to calm you on a stressful afternoon, make the music work for you.
- Spring for a change of scenery. As a teacher this sometimes meant taking a stroll through the office that connected me to my co-teacher’s classroom, pulling up a desk beside hers, and grading the five-foot-high stack of essays there. Yes, I could’ve graded them in my classroom, but then I might have pulled my face off. Why would I withhold such terrible music choices, snacks, and jokes from myself when they were within twenty-seven feet of me? I wouldn’t.
- Rest. Depending on your situation, this might look like a fifteen-minute power nap, teaching while sitting on a stool for a few minutes each class period, watching an episode of “The Office” in the break room, or even working fewer hours because that’s what your body needs.
Whatever your work situation looks like, remember this: You bring tremendous worth and value to your organization. They’re lucky to have you. I hope you and they always remember that.