Between the physical and emotional symptoms, myriad medical appointments and numerous tests and procedures (not to mention keeping track of it all), chronic illnesses can feel like a full-time job. They can sap all your energy and leave you running on empty at work. They may demand so much of your time that you have had to cut hours at work, change jobs or stop work all together.

Though we all say that we are not defined by our jobs, it can have an enormous emotional impact when we are no longer able to do them our desired standard. It can be hard to deal with our emotional response to the change in our situation but can be even harder when we’re faced with financial uncertainty.

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Unfortunately, life with Chronic Illnesses goes hand in hand with uncertainty. You may plan one thing for a day but your body may have other ideas! We’re all learning to live with our ‘new normal’ and muddling our way through the trees. So, how can we ease some of the concerns and find a new way forward? When you start to think about work it can seem overwhelming so we need to break it down.


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MUSIC

If you are able to listen to music at work, it can help to motivate you and keep you focused on the task at hand. It could be classical, dance, techno, or cheesy pop, choose something that you know inside out and which won’t distract you, stick on your headphones and get stuck in. Experts recommend music without lyric to help you mind focus on only the words you are reading/writing and not the words you are hearing.


TAKE BREAKS

OK, an obvious one. But I’d be prepared to bet that, even if you know it’s the right thing to do, you don’t take as many as you should. Even as I’m writing this I realise that I’ve been at the computer for 2 hours. Every 45 minutes, push your chair back, stretch your muscles, have a glass of water and go for a short walk. You don’t have to go overboard but this will help you stay focused on your work. Set an alarm, get your head down and make sure that your take your time. Right I’m getting up!

 
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DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Water is your best friend at work. Most offices have air conditioning or central heating which dry you out like a fan in the Sahara Desert. Keep a water bottle on you at all times and aim to drink at least a litre before lunch and a litre after. It will keep your brain active, help your muscles stay supple, stop your skin from drying out, and keep you alert.


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DON’T EAT LUNCH AT YOUR DESK

IT IS NOT NATURAL! Give yourself over to your lunch break. Go and sit outside if you can. Talk to people. Stretch your legs. Take a nap (I won’t tell…). Do anything you want but do NOT eat it at your desk.


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GO OUTSIDE

I’ve already talked about the benefits of fresh air in our self care section. But on top of the need for sun and air, most offices are lit with fluorescent lights which can play havoc with your eyes and cause numerous headaches. Go outside, give your eyes a break, and give them a chance to ‘recalibrate’!


Be honest

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Talk to your boss/supervisor/Human Resources and explain your condition. It will help them to help you make the most of your time at work. They may be able to make allowances or give you additional support, but you won’t know about it until you open up. It can be scary, I know, but you don’t have to do it face to face- a carefully thought out email can do the trick just as well as, if not better than, a conversation.

Most people are afraid of speaking about their illnesses for fear of seeming vulnerable, as though they can’t cope, and that they are not doing their job well enough. NO! This is one of the worst things you can do! We need to talk about the things that can hold us back. It is only through talking about them that we demystify them and learn to help ourselves and others.