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23 'Hacks' That Can Make Working Easier With a Chronic Illness

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Trying to manage your chronic illness and minimize symptoms can be challenging on its own – but add to that the physical and mental stress of working, and getting through the day can feel next to impossible. Whether your job involves sitting or standing, attending meetings or doing lots of independent thinking, symptoms such as pain, fatigue and brain fog can make it difficult to accomplish all your daily tasks.

To help make your work day a bit easier or more comfortable, we asked our Mighty community to share some of the “hacks” that help them stay as healthy as possible and succeed at their jobs. Maybe some of the following ideas can help you make your work life more manageable, too.

Here’s what the community shared with us: 

1. “Writing every little thing down was really important for me. Sometimes, I couldn’t even remember what my face looked like but at least I could read my notepad and know what’s what.” – Ami C.

2. “Take days off when you need them or when those you love and trust tell you to. It’s saved me a lot of recovery time.” – Katrina C. O.

3. “I find that doing something that makes me happy is a hack. I hated my job so I decided to become a ‘mature student.’ I’m now a training psychotherapist.” – Becky C.

4. “When I am well enough to be in the office, microwave meals mean I get a warm meal with minimal effort. [I] always leave my desk to eat, and keep fruit for snacks and painkillers in my handbag to minimize discomfort, which in turn helps keep the fogginess at bay. If worst comes to worst and it turns into a bad day, take care of the simple tasks and leave early!” – Emma J. H.

5. “The bathroom is your friend! If you need breaks you can just go to the bathroom. No one can say Mother Nature should be ignored!” – Kyra S.

6. “Leverage your work calendar to its fullest! Set up reminders for every task and responsibility to cover any memory loss issues that crop up. It’s a great fail-safe system!” – Lisa A.

7. “A bag full of spoonie essentials. Pills, water, snackies, cardigan or some socks, notepad and pen for when brain fog sets in, etc.” – Blaynne L.

8. “I keep an open line of communication with my supervisor about how my illness affects my life and how I am feeling from day to day. This way he understands if I need to sit down periodically to take a rest – it isn’t that I am not doing my job or wasting time. I help him understand that these mini breaks are essential to me getting through a work week. The more they know, the more they can (hopefully) accommodate.” – Jacky R.


9. “Keeping a couple microwaveable heat packs at my desk for body aches, and a tennis ball to roll under my feet when they start to stiffen.” – Smita M.

10. “Sunglasses indoors. The bright fluorescent lighting was enough to trigger headaches and anxiety. Lifesaver!” – Adele L.

11. “Headphones! I layer white noise (usually rain sounds) which blocks out my very noisy open plan office.” – Leigh A.

12. “Ironing and setting out my clothes the night before. Eating breakfast even when I don’t want to (I have started making smoothies because I’m not a big breakfast person but I need the calories for energy). I bring two bags to work. One is my purse, other is loaded with all my meds, a phone charger, notebook, arm braces, compression sleeves, Lidocaine patches, as well as bandaids and Neosporin because my depth perception is so bad I run into things all the time.” – Kate B.

13. “I bought lamps for my office so I don’t have to use the fluorescent lighting anymore – which brings on migraines for me.” – Jaimee J. M.

14. “Compression stockings and a shower chair! Without the stockings, I can’t make it through the day. I still hurt with them, but at least I can make it through. As for the shower chair – everyone should be thankful because if I did not have it, I wouldn’t shower.” – Jennifer F.

15. “I try to get my more difficult efforts out of the way earlier in the day. If I’m having a tough day, my brain can get really foggy and if I can’t take time off, I can at least have easier jobs to get completed.” – Masha P.

16. “Being strict about keeping work at work and home for relaxation has lowered my stress level immensely too. Very difficult thing to do as a teacher.” – Katrina C. O.

17. “I have a Tupperware box with emergency supplies of medication in my locker at work. This has saved me many times.” – Charlette C. A.

18. “I work in a large retail chain that requires standing. I contacted HR when I was diagnosed and found out all I had to know about FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] and any accommodations I could have with my chronic illness. I now have access to a stool for rest and can call off or leave early with FMLA and I don’t get in trouble. It helps to know what you can legally do and not lose your position due to your illness.” – Marisa P.

19. “Water! Water! Water! Bring water everywhere with you to keep yourself hydrated. Also, breaking up a meeting by taking periodic sips of water can help you keep focused and engaged.” – Lisa A.

20. “I set the brightness on my monitor to zero…still bright enough to see but doesn’t trigger migraines. I have an extra seat cushion and lumbar support pillow to help with my back/hip pain. I have a very cushioned chair with a built in lumbar support but it is not enough. Always carry an extra jacket and fingerless gloves to deal with the bitter cold of working in an office. Naps during lunch on certain days when the fatigue is too much.” – Tabitha H.

21. “Flexible scheduling, and task lists that focus on quality rather than quantity when selecting for priority, purpose and whether or not there is a deadline.” – Michelle S.

22. “I’m a teacher. I roll around in a comfy chair I bought from Ikea. There’s always lavender oil diffusing, and my students all have assigned jobs throughout the day. In my preparation periods I sometimes sit in my car to relax.” – Sarah E.

23. “Using the pillars of rest strategy, [I take a] 10-minute break mid-morning and mid-afternoon to go to a quiet place and do a breathing exercise. Plus another on my lunch break.” – Tønï Ł

Originally published: October 2, 2017
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