I’ve had several people ask me how I manage to work, even though I have severe allergies and asthma, and other chronic conditions. I tell them it’s not easy, and that’s sometimes an understatement. Working with chronic illness when you are in an office setting or at home can be a challenge. Chronic illness symptoms, depending on the condition, can change on a daily basis. Some conditions are as changeable as the weather, and it becomes necessary for you to take these changes into consideration when working.
How do you deal with managing your freelance career and chronic illness? Here are some tips that have helped me to balance work and my own chronic conditions.
Understand your condition and how it affects your body. Educate yourself about your condition. It takes time, after diagnosis, to discover the ways your chronic condition will affect your body, your life and your career. However, it pays to learn all you can about your illness and how it will affect your body. Once you have this figured out, you will be able to know and understand exactly what tasks you will be able to manage on a daily basis.
Work during time of day you feel the best. Once you understand your condition and how it will affect your body, you can take a realistic look at what times of the day will be better for you to work. Some people feel better in the morning, and are able to have good concentration then, while others may feel more alert and able to work in the afternoon. Find out what time of day is best for you to work, and you will be much more productive.
Develop a realistic schedule. Next, you will be able to set up a realistic work schedule to fit the best time of day and the length of time you are able to work. It is very important to work in a balanced manner—watching the hours you spend working, so as avoid overworking. Long hours are generally not good for those who have a chronic condition, causing stress to mind and body. This type of stress can also bring on a flare-up of your condition, causing you to lose precious work time. Be sure to have a realistic work schedule that will help you to be the most productive, without taxing your mind and body.
Learn to say no. That is easier said than done, but it is a very important factor in maintaining your health and sanity when you have a chronic illness. Accept only work you can handle with a deadline that will not put stress on your body.
Learn how to prioritize. Prioritizing your projects by deadline helps you to stay productive and organized. Keeping projects and to-do lists in order will help you to stay current with your work, while also showing you times you can take a break and catch a nap or just relax.
Comfortable workstation. Make sure your work station is comfortable, and work where you are comfortable. There might be days you work in your pajamas and/or work from bed. Other days you will be able to work at your desk. It might help to put some fluffy pillow behind your back in bed or when sitting in your office chair; or prop your feet up with those fluffy pillows to relieve pain and fluid retention in your legs and ankles. Wherever you choose to work, make sure you are comfortable and have enough room and light to work.
Take frequent breaks from your work. Breaks, either long or short, will help you to rest and relax without overdoing. Chronic illness poses a constant stress on the body, making long work hours difficult to sustain. However, with frequent breaks to move around and rest, you will be able to work more comfortably for longer periods, and maintain your sanity and your health.
These are just a few ideas to help you take care of yourself when you’re working with chronic illness. And don’t forget–it’s OK to work in your pj’s so you can be comfortable! It is a challenge to work when you have a constant condition, but once you learn how your illness affects your body, and then organize your work around your illness, you can be a happy and productive freelancer.