5 Ways to Deal with a Chronic Illness While Achieving a Successful Career

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Having a chronic illness while pursuing a career can be difficult to navigate. Every chronic illness manifests itself differently, and learning how to balance health with a full-time job takes time, effort, and trial and error. While it may feel impossible at first, juggling the two can be achieved.

Here are five ways that prioritizing your health can lead to success in your career.

1. Don’t skip doctor’s appointments.

This should be obvious—being proactive helps slow any possible progression and resolve problems. With deadlines looming at work, however, it might seem that it’s necessary to keep on pushing—especially if you aren’t currently feeling sick. But powering onward can lead to burnout, which can easily lead to a flare-up, so don’t miss monthly check-ups. Let others know you’ll be unavailable on the day of your appointment, and make sure deadlines will be met.

2. Take a sick day—even if you work from home.

It’s easy to say you’re taking a sick, or personal, day if you work remotely, because you’re technically in bed, surrounded by tissues…with your laptop on your lap, and excel sheets and email open. If you’re taking a sick day, really take a sick day. Stress doesn’t help the healing process, so shut off the computer and rest for a bit.

3. Delegate tasks.

Whether your colleagues know that you have a chronic illness or not, delegating tasks isn’t seen as a weakness. A chronic illness is a lot to have on your plate, sometimes rivaling a part-time job, and taking on everything at once can be unrealistic. If need be, give a task or two to someone else. Plus, someone else can fully dedicate their time to the work—whether it be an event proposal or managing communication with event sponsors.

4. Make a list of what you have to do, then prioritize.

The Spoon Theory is a wonderful metaphor for those with disabilities. Essentially, people with chronic illnesses get a set amount of spoons for a day. Each thing they do—from answering emails to washing dishes to showering—costs a certain amount of spoons, and they must regulate their spoons throughout the day in order to finish important tasks.

So, use your spoons wisely. Start the day off with a few questions: how many spoons do you have? How are you feeling? What are your goals for today, and what items can wait? Don’t overthink items that can wait until tomorrow because you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed, which can trigger stress, and that can quickly lead to a downward spiral. Tackle what’s in front of you for the day, delegating important tasks if necessary, then hunker down and begin. Just keep watch on how many spoons you have left.

5. Be clear about boundaries.

Sometimes, disclosing a chronic illness can make you vulnerable. Whether you mention it to colleagues and employers or decide to keep it to yourself is a personal choice. This doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries, though. Whether it’s solely scheduling meetings on Mondays to avoid exhaustion later in the week or keeping your phone off after 6 p.m. to take care of your medical regimen, try to avoid breaking personal rules that keep you healthy.