Are you employed and living with a debilitating chronic illness? I’ll bet you’re dreaming about the day you no longer work.
Sure, a job can do a lot of things for you, including giving you a paycheck (hopefully enough to live on) and lots more, good & bad. But it’s easy to only see the obvious and miss this: a job creates an external structure to your day. For most of us, that’s a key to our mental health!
You’re probably thinking, “But that’s just the problem. I can’t handle my schedule with this unpredictable illness.” I know. For years, I longed to break out of that tightly wrapped daily routine. Wouldn’t it be great to sleep when I wanted and go as the spirit moves me?
Sound familiar? Well, not having to be in at an office at 8:00am and work a 10 hour day will probably be easier on your tired or painful body.
But now that you’re looking for work, are you spinning your wheels, spending most of the day just trying to get into first gear? “I can’t seem to focus on any activity for long.” “Somehow, I don’t have the time.” I’ll get to it tomorrow.”
After 15 years of illness, multiple sclerosis & ulcerative colitis, when I stopped working, I was pretty sick. And at first I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and focusing on every ache. I had two young children to take care of but I’d always worked and without that, I felt like I was living in a blur.
One morning, I woke up tired and sick, and between runs to the bathroom, I thought, I’m drowning. I need a reason to get up other than my kids. Once they left for school each day, I felt trapped in my own fog.
I forced myself to set a goal and create a schedule I could live with.
When I first started career coaching people living with chronic illness, this pattern popped up frequently among those who were unemployed. Like me, without that external structure, they floundered, focusing even more on what felt bad in their body that day.
That’s when I developed this formula .3 steps to Stop those Spinning Wheels:
1. Treat your entire “day” as if you are at work and responsible for your time. It’s a mental thing. Regardless of whether you’re looking to get back into the workforce after 10 years or unemployed for 3 months, you’ve got to take this seriously to make something happen. Get dressed - don’t stay in your pj’s. And make sure you have a separate “work” space for these activities. But remember. This shouldn’t be a 24/7 experience. It’s not even a good idea to make it an 8 hour work day.
2. Create big & small, short term and long term goals. You’re exploring what you can do next in your career. Or you’re immersed in the tactics of looking for a job. Either way, set clearly defined goals that you can achieve. FYI - making them achievable is critical! Do yourself a favor and include a time line with notes regarding what it will require to accomplish each item.
3. Start each day at “work” by setting an intention. I call this resetting your internal, self motivating system. Intentions keep you “on point” . Set an intention for an activity or event (I’m going to revise my resume today) or for the entire day (I’m going to approach everything I do with excitement). I’ve been doing this on twitter daily ( find me @rosalindjoffe and check out my daily intentions) and I can tell you that I find it a great tool for mental focus.