Self-Care In The Workplace
It is important to understand that someone who has fibro experiences symptom changes from day to day, or even from hour to hour. Something we could do last week we may be unable to do the next week.
Some of the things to consider are:
- What symptoms are you experiencing & what specific job tasks are more difficult as a result of your symptoms?
- What accommodations & strategies can help to reduce the symptoms while at work?
I worked in an accounts receivable/customer service role for 21 years. The last 7 years that I was there I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 19 other overlapping conditions.
I needed to work but more importantly I needed to feel as good as I could after work so that I could continue doing all of the things I did before I got sick. I wanted to still be the same wife & mom running errands, cheering our daughter on at her sporting events and now in addition I needed to be an advocate for fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients.
The stress and the long hours would affect anyone in that position. It increased my fibromyalgia symptoms and my other diagnosed conditions. I had to find ways to manage my symptoms while at work. The three symptoms that I struggle with the most are fatigue, pain and fibro fog.
Fatigue is a major factor to consider when working with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a good idea to take a close look at your day at work and make any changes that can help you manage your energy. I usually experience the greatest amount of symptoms in the morning. I was able to work with my manager and create a schedule that worked best for me. I was scheduled to start work at 10:00 a.m. allowing me the morning to get up and attend a swim class before work or sleep in if necessary. It would also give time for my medication to “kick-in” before work and I would get the much needed workout in the pool that helped with both pain and energy.
Good self-care in the workplace is using lunch or break times to do some stretching or go for a short walk.
Concentration or “Fibro Fog” can become a problem when dealing with daily fatigue and pain. I created a schedule of my daily responsibilities. I took into consideration the fact that I my best time of day is between 10 & 2 when I planned out my day. I focused on critical or pressing tasks during that time. I scheduled the lower priority or easy tasks during low-energy times.
I knew that I would not be able to stick to the schedule exactly because I worked with both my co-workers and customers but it was a great way to keep focused. I use Google and Evernote to create daily to-do lists with instructions and due dates. My memory back up was a 3 ring binder I created with written instructions for each of my job duties. If I could give one word of advice it would be to write everything down.
Keep a #fibrofog friendly schedule #selfcaremvmt
Check out your workstation and see what changes can be made to make it more comfortable.
Most companies are not going to invest in ergonomic workstations. However, you can find ways that do not cost a lot of money that can work for you. I purchased a stand for my computer monitor to keep it raised to eye height and I used an ergonomic keyboard. They helped in reducing neck and shoulder pain.
I experience Migraines caused by light sensitivity. The best solution is to eliminate fluorescent lighting but that is unlikely to happen. So I used a computer monitor glare guard and special tinted non-glare glasses to help reduce migraines.
My body stiffens up when I sit too long in the same position. It is important to take breaks and change positions as often as possible but it isn’t always possible. I used a wedge for lumbar support and kept a footstool under my desk so I could elevate my legs when needed.
I always feel some level of pain, but the type, intensity and location varies. Even though pain is unavoidable you can be prepared to deal with symptoms as they arise. I had a heating pad, ice packs, tea, and water bottle at work and in my fibro bag I carry my medications, my tens unit, shaded glasses and muscle pain creams.
I am no longer working at the place I did when I first was diagnosed and learning self-care in the workplace. I have worked at my current job for 2 years now. It does not have the high stress like my previous job but I find that I am still using the same self-care tools to help keep my symptoms manageable.