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Learning to Set Priorities in My Life With Chronic Illness

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I used to be a “to-do” person: making lists for what needed to be done that day, submitting university assignments the day before they were due and getting on with the things that needed to be done when they needed to be done. I couldn’t relax knowing there were things I could be doing such as academic work, reading, crafts, housework, the gym etc.

Since becoming ill, I’ve now had to learn that “it can be done tomorrow.” Sometimes I have to put tasks down and leave them until the following day, or days or weeks later — whenever I am well enough to do them. Some are mundane things like wanting to do my nails, but I try to prioritize the most urgent tasks, like contacting my GP or ordering my medication.

What I’m trying to say is:

Learn to prioritize.

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This is easier said than done for me, and I’m sure for others reading this. Certain “priority” tasks may be difficult to do. When I really need to speak to my doctor but making that phone call is too difficult due to symptoms, sometimes I need help.

It’s OK to need help; it is not a sign of weakness. It is enabling you to do what needs to be done. It could mean someone making that phone call on your behalf, or less important things like having your hair washed for you as that will make you feel better about yourself.

The other thing I want you to know is that you don’t have to work through your to-do list in one day or one week. Break it down. Yes, prioritize, but prioritize yourself too. Make time in the week to do something you enjoy like a hobby, doing your nails or reading a book — whatever brings you pleasure.

If you find there’s something that needs doing but today isn’t your day, it can be done tomorrow. Just put it aside in a neat pile or write what needs to be done on a post-it note or a reminder on your phone. My phone is full of to-do list items and I’m just working through them at my own pace. It’s OK to leave it for when you’re having a better day. The world won’t end if you leave a task undone. You can always catch up.

This is part of taking control and learning to manage your health and well-being. Remaining well should be your utmost priority.

Originally published: June 28, 2020
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