Navigating a Chronic Health Condition Alongside Your Professional Life
If you’re one of the 133 million Americans dealing with chronic health conditions, you already know it can impact nearly every aspect of your life – including your career.
People dealing with these health conditions regularly face a variety of obstacles. Some days, you might feel fine, while it’s a challenge to get out of bed other times. Sometimes, it might be easier to control your symptoms. You might even have a condition that causes symptoms to “flare up” suddenly, making it hard to work a standard office job or invest in a career that demands a lot.
Thankfully, having a chronic condition doesn’t mean you have to give up your professional life entirely.
Learning how to navigate your condition and your professional life side by side will make it easier to stay as healthy as possible while going forward on your desired career path. Not quite sure how to navigate those waters? Let’s cover some helpful considerations.
Adjust Your Expectations
One of the most important aspects of having a career while navigating a chronic condition is managing your expectations. The more you understand about your condition and how it can impact your life, the more informed decisions you’ll be able to make about your career.
You’ll also learn more about what might be contributing to your condition. Let’s say you struggle with chronic pain, for example. Factors like obesity, poor posture, and even certain illnesses can cause and contribute to chronic pain and lead your condition to worsen, making it harder to concentrate on your job. Excess stress can even cause more pain, so if your job is causing you to feel tired or on edge, it’s time to make some adjustments.
The more you know about your condition, the easier it will be for you to set up personal boundaries. You might not be able to work eight hours a day, so decide how many hours you can comfortably commit to a job. Maybe you can’t stand for long periods of time, so consider how you can still work effectively when you’re off your feet.
Managing your expectations and making adjustments doesn’t make you “weak.” It’s a strategy that will allow you to keep working and moving forward on your career path without exacerbating your condition and making it worse.
Again, there are well over 100 million people in this country with some type of chronic health condition. Unfortunately, many of them suffer in silence in the workplace for fear of losing their job or experiencing discrimination.
No matter what you’re dealing with, you can be an advocate for yourself and others with chronic conditions by speaking up.
Talk to your employer to ensure all provided work materials are in compliance with accessibility needs. That could include things like wheelchair ramps and power-assisted doors. However, depending on your job, it could also include the programs and software you work with every day. Your employer should be willing to invest in programs that:
- Use headings correctly
- Include proper alt text for images
- Allow for color correction
- Allow for keyboard navigation
- Are easy to navigate
You can also talk to your employer about making the best possible decisions for employees with chronic conditions. It’s not easy to keep up a heavy workload while navigating health issues, and business decisions can affect employee mental health in tremendous ways. Workplaces can help by allowing flexible scheduling, offering fair compensation, and establishing a positive company culture.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s understandable to “want it all,” despite having a chronic health condition. However, pushing yourself too hard in the name of a successful career can do more harm than good.
One of the best things you can do for both your mental and physical well-being is to practice self-care. You might not be able to get rid of your condition completely. However, taking care of yourself will ensure that you feel as good as possible. Not only will that help in your personal life, but it will make a big difference in your drive and motivation at work, too.
Self-care looks different for everyone and can be especially unique when you’re dealing with a chronic condition. Use some of the following suggestions to get started and to make your health a priority:
- Light exercise
- Cooking/eating a healthy meal
- Spending time with family and friends
What you do will depend on your limitations and how you feel on any given day. There’s no rule book when it comes to self-care, as long as you’re doing something that gets rid of stress and helps you to feel centered from the inside out.
There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a fulfilling professional life while managing a chronic health condition. Keep these suggestions in mind to take care of yourself along the way, and potentially change the culture of your workplace into something that’s accessible for everyone.
This guest post was authored by Ainsley Lawrence
Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about how business and professionalism intersect with the personal, social, and technological needs of today. She is frequently lost in a good book.
Ms. Career Girl strives to provide valuable insights you can use. To see more from our columnists and guest authors, check these out! Or subscribe to our weekly email featuring our latest articles. We’re also present on Medium!