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Does working help you be healthier?

Posted Dec 21 2009 9:50am

woman-at-crossroads

Living  with chronic illness isn’t easy, under the best of circumstances.

And working can seem like it makes it tougher.

But the alternative is usually worse.


It was a dear friend’s 60th birthday party.  And, once again, my body was in revolt. I was feverish, tired,  nauseous –  with  numb feet and awful balance  (multiple sclerosis symptoms that get worse when I have an infection).  It was  kidney infection after too many urinary tract infections to count after living with multiple sclerosis for over 30 years.

When my husband, Jake, and I left early, they were rockin’ to,  “Dance to the Music”.   I was a sad puppy.  Yes, it helped to cry and vent to friends and family.  But I was still sick and my symptoms were still there.

Even though sleep didn’t improved how I felt, without a reason to get out of bed, I’d have stayed there.  And that wouldn’t have been good  – -  for my psyche or body.

Lucky for me, my job  “called”, and my day had  structure.  There were client appointments,  articles to write and projects to develop.  Nope, I wasn’t at the top of my game.  But I had enough to offer to make it worthwhile.  Mid week, the infection subsided and I returned to baseline.  Just another incident in living with chronic illnesses.

But I have no doubt that work, a schedule, things I had to do, created distraction and motivated me to keep moving. (I even exercised lightly!)

Is work a prescription for everyone?   Clearly not if the situation creates miserable pressure or the people are toxic.  But does that mean you have to quit altogether?

It is a key ingredient for better health, especially with chronic illness and waxing/wanting disabilities.  Not convinced?  This website,  return to work knowledge.org , offers evidence-based research that working promotes better health for the chronically ill.

And even if your situation is relatively good, it’s easy to dream about not dragging yourself to work on the bad days.  Are you at the  “tipping point”,  thinking, “Enough.  I just can’t go on.” ?   We explore just that in my book,  Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! and describes how some people face this.

Over the past seven years as a career coach for people with chronic illness,  many people have hired me to help them get back into the workforce.  They left for various reasons.  But usually it was because they thought they were too sick to work or were in a difficult situation.   .  But  studies show that it’s harder to go back to work once you’ve left due to illness.  And the longer you wait, the harder it gets.

Are you wondering whether or not to stop working? 

With the New Year approaching and resolutions on your mind, you might ask these questions:

  • Do I want illness to be a part of my life  rather than all that I am?
  • What is the “long view”, a strategic approach, so I’m proactive rather than reactive?
  • Is there something I can do now to be better prepared for what might be ahead?

What have you done to figure these issues out?  How is it going?

Are you looking for help in developing the skills and capacity to address these questions?   If yes, contact me to find out more about how I  work with people, like you.

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