4 strategies I used to manage my health crisis so I could continue working

by Aug 21, 2020

2020 has been a bumpy ride for all of us. 

This pandemic has presented a web of complex challenges causing disruptions to key facets of our lives – from home, study and work-life, to travel, social and wellness activities, it’s been a crazy rollercoaster. Or some sort of fast-paced ride that’s constantly ‘pivoting’, as we now like to say.

For many, Covid-19 has added additional layers to pre-existing challenges. For me, it coincided with a flare-up in a chronic health condition – to put it simply my nervous system went into overdrive. I was living in a state where small movement was perceived as a threat, mobility was limited and fatigue was pervasive. If I wanted to continue working, (something I consider a privilege in this current climate), I needed to find a way to work and live.

The most common piece of advice (professional and otherwise) I received was ‘focus on what you can control’. This felt like an ambiguous task given my struggle to control basic things, like getting dressed in the morning or sitting in my work chair for 30 minutes. So I needed to break it down into the below practical strategies that worked for me:

1. Feeling my feelings

On this occasion, the whole ‘keep calm and carry on’ was not a helpful mantra. I had spent 5 years slowly building strength and wellness from my last major flare, so found it was important to give myself the permission to feel frustrated, angry, and worried by this setback. To keep the feelings productive, I set aside an hour a day to journal about how I was feeling. I would check in within myself and validate my worries and stress. Setting aside this ‘worry’ time helped keep me focused and present when working, or occasionally socialising.

2. Re-imagined goals

For some time, the pain was intense and stifled my productivity. And, in true 2020 fashion, I slowly accepted that my normal exercise, social and work routines were no longer possible during my flare. My body was using all energy sources to heal in its own weird way, and I needed to find a way to work with it. With that realisation came the introduction of mini and seemingly mundane goals to support my recovery. Sometimes this meant focusing on small goals to get me through the hour, to get me through the day, to get me to the weekend to sleep.

3. Accepting help

With the never-ending medical appointments, I needed to accept that my workload had to change. This meant sitting down with my manager and having an honest conversation about my work hours and current projects. It meant asking for help from my team to make sure collective goals were met at work. It also meant accepting help from family and friends at home, so I could be the best version of myself at work.

4. Fake it until you make it

Fake it until you make it is often an expression we use when feeling unconfident or nervous. In my situation, I found myself applying this to my interpersonal relationships when pain prevented me from being fully present during interactions.

In my professional life, I had to work overtime at conveying enthusiasm in my body language and tone of voice due to my low energy.  In my personal life, I accepted that I was feigning social interactions to stay connected. I wasn’t always a ray of sunshine, and at times felt inauthentic. However, my friends and family appreciated the effort, and I would generally feel uplifted afterward.

This wasn’t a perfect plan, and every day was different.

Having these conversations about my health and wellbeing with my workplace wasn’t the easiest, but it was important and has definitely helped in the long run.

If you are a person living with a disability, or are struggling with your health at work, I encourage to build an awareness of your disclosure and accessibility rights – this knowledge will support you in having delicate conversations about your wellness with your employer. Visit this site for more information on the Disability Discrimination Act, and how you can request reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Prajyana Kumar

Prajyana Kumar

Employability Coordinator

With over 6 years experience in HR, recruitment and training based roles, Prajyana is currently working as an Employability Coordinator with UTS Careers. She has developed skills in relationship building, career coaching and a special interest in graduate recruitment and enhancing employability for international students. She enjoys learning from others and working in environments that are dynamic and vibrant.