Coping with feeling overwhelmed as a chronically ill worker

When you have a chronic illness, managing your workload isn’t just about figuring out what you have to do and when you’re going to do it. Keeping on top of your work as a chronically ill worker often requires a careful balance, with plenty of attention paid to managing your symptoms and pacing yourself appropriately. Because of this, it’s unsurprising that many chronically ill workers find themselves feeling overwhelmed and daunted by having to manage their workload alongside their condition.
Pacing is a very individual condition management technique, and strategies for how to deal with feeling overwhelmed vary person to person. In this article we highlight some tips and recommendations from our community of chronically ill workers, sharing how they personally keep on top of things and deal with feelings of being overwhelmed in their working life.

Practical Tips for Chronically Ill Workers

“To-do lists can be really helpful, but for me, I find I work better and can prioritise my energy better if I separate the top 3 things I need to do that day, or week. It makes it less overwhelming and helps me figure out where my time and energy is needed most!” – Shona Cobb
“My biggest tip is to break each task down into smaller tasks […] and just do one thing.  Just pick one thing you can do, and do it. Even if it’s as simple as filing one piece of paper. Then celebrate that you got it done. YAY you!” – DS George-Jones
“I always keep a to-do list for each day and prioritise which tasks are most important so I know where to put my energy. Batch working also helps me as I can get something done that could cover the next week or month and saves me the energy of having to think about it every day”. – Megan Harrison

Managing Mental Expectations

“Try not to beat yourself up mentally on days that you can’t achieve so much. Everyone’s abilities are different and you are just as important as those who can achieve more. There will be other days where you have more to give.” – Jo Jackson
“Sometimes it can be helpful just to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Even on days where your to-do list is brimming and you don’t feel like you have a minute to spare, just take a breath and consider what really needs to be done and how you’re going to make it happen. Even if there’s nothing that can be delegated or postponed that day, taking some time to collect yourself can help you to work smarter and more efficiently than by just attempting to bulldoze through it all.” – Pippa Stacey

Meaningful Communication

“Having a good working relationship with your line manager can help reduce feeling overwhelmed with tasks. They can help you prioritise and even redistribute tasks between team members to find ones more suitable for you. When working remotely, ensure that you have regular meetings with them to discuss your progress on projects.” – Katherine Warburton-Gibb
“My top tip would be to learn to be honest with your employer. Having chronic illness it can be really hard to say no, but asking for help when you need it is much more effective for everyone involved than struggling along is. Honesty can lead to better inclusion because the more people understand your limitations, the more they can support you and hopefully not overwhelm you with work.” – Sarah
How do you deal with feeling overwhelmed? If you have any of your own suggestions to share, do come and say hello and join in the conversation over on social media!