Rheumatoid Arthritis

7 Ways to Manage Chronic Illness Symptoms on the Job

Prevent pain and stiffness so you don’t have to use up your sick days !

Pain, stiffness and fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis or a variety of other chronic pain diseases can make your work day even longer. Juggling the demands of your job and being sick isn’t easy, and your sick days can disappear pretty quickly if you are not properly managing your symptoms.

Manage Symptoms to Avoid Taking Sick Days

Here are seven ways to manage your symptoms so you don’t have to exhaust those sick days.

1. Get Plenty of Rest 
The amount of sleep you get overnight will determine how your workday will progress. And for people who live with pain, decent sleep can be difficult to accomplish. But getting good quality sleep is the key to performing your job well. Make sure you go to bed every night at the same time and get at least eight hours of sleep to help you to minimize and potentially eliminate daytime fatigue. Too much sleep, however, can make you feel sluggish in the morning and make falling asleep difficult the following night. If necessary, try a natural sleep aid on occasion.

2. Take Breaks
If you are spending most of your day sitting at a desk and working at a computer, take breaks to move your joints and rest your eyes. Don’t sit for more than thirty minutes and take, at minimum, a ten-minute break to get up, walk, and stretch your joints and muscles. Movement will help to relieve tension and prevent inflammation, so don’t wait until you are too stiff to get up.

3. Organize Your Workspace
Organize your workspace so you are not lifting, reaching or carrying more than you can handle. Try assistive devices that have been designed specifically for people with chronic pain and arthritis. For example, if you are on the phone often, use a phone headset to keep from putting strain your neck and shoulders. Or invest in a lumbar support to help you to manage stiffness in your low back. You should also keep supplies nearby so you are not continually reaching for them.

4. Pace Yourself
Pain and other symptoms can make your workday difficult, but they don’t change the fact that you have work to do. Pacing is the key to managing symptoms, but this is often easier said than done. Pacing involves slowing down but not necessarily putting on hold the things you need to do. It seems like a simple idea but when you have hectic life, it can be hard to try to match your activity level to your energy level. It is possible to do this by scheduling rest periods, having routines, prioritizing and switching to tasks that require less energy when your energy levels are low.

5. Make Good Use of Your Morning 
Start your day out with healthy breakfast that includes fiber and protein and don’t overdo the caffeine. One cup of coffee daily should be your maximum. Drink water to stay hydrated. Take a walk around the office and do some stretching within the first hour of arriving. If possible, go outside and get some fresh air.

6. Dress Comfortably 
Supportive shoes can make a difference when managing joint pain and stiffness. Slip into sneakers or other comfortable shoes when sitting at your desk to keep feet cushioned and supported. Dress warmly, especially on days when the air conditioner is running, because cold can trigger inflammation. Dress in layers, but wear lightweight clothing so you are prepared regardless of the temperature at your workplace.

7. Manage Stress 
Try not to focus on how being chronically ill affects your job and how your co-workers and supervisors view your being sick. These worries can make trying to do your job even more stressful. Your family, friends, and/or a mental health professional can help you to manage guilt and job-related stress. Speak up about what’s bothering you and allow those who care about you to help you find ways to manage stress associated with your job.

Protect Your Job

You may want your privacy, but it makes more sense to let coworkers and supervisors know that you have a health condition that may interfere with your job. Address this before your symptoms affect your job performance or you are taking sick days that seem excessive. It is very possible that dealing with your chronic illness at work may be easier than you anticipate. In fact, your coworkers and boss may surprise you and turn out to be quite understanding. And remember, there are laws to protect your job so you can have peace of mind about how your illness affects your 9 to 5.

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