Working with a Chronic Illness


Lisa Alioto

08 September 2020 22 comments

Life with a chronic illness is extremely difficult.  Challenges seem to hit you right and left and you never know what to expect.  So how do you hold down a full-time job and live with the unpredictability of a chronic illness?

Prioritize Yourself

Above all, I think it’s key to prioritize yourself.  The better self-care we can provide to ourselves the more we will have to give to our job.  As they say on an airplane – put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.

This could not be more true than when you have a chronic illness and have other responsibilities on your plate as well.  If we don’t take care of ourselves, it’s an even more uphill battle to take care of our other responsibilities.

Pace Yourself

Pacing is also going to be key to our success.   Pacing during our mental activities is more important than one may think. As my doctor reminded me this month, mental activities are “expensive” to our energy envelop.  TAKE BREAKS.   And by this he meant take complete breaks – no television, switching of activities, etc…  Take a complete rest from all activity.

Monitor Your Stress Levels

Whenever I feel stress coming on, I first remember myself that I have a chronic illness. In the scheme of my life, is this new thing really worth stressing about.  Quite often I find I no longer stress about what is now the small stuff as I have bigger things on my plate.

If an unavoidable stressor does come along, I try to minimize it the best I can.  I break it down into small manageable pieces to avoid the stress from impacting my chronic illness, making the whole ordeal an even bigger mess.

Tell Your Employer?

If you have special needs or accommodations that will help you do your job better, don’t be afraid to ask for them.  That said, remember that your illness is your own and nobody’s business unless you choose to share.   You are well within your rights to keep it to yourself, especially if you can self-manage it in a way that doesn’t affect your job.


I know, I already said this but it can’t be said enough.  Self-care is so important when you have a chronic illness (or even when you don’t!).   Prioritize yourself and make sure that you are pacing, truly resting, and being kind to yourself.

Don’t knock yourself down for not being able to do all that you used to do.  It’s a hard acceptance pill to swallow, but the sooner you can manage to swallow it, the better you will feel about your days.

How do you Manage Life with a Chronic Illness?

Are you still able to work?  If so, have you told your employer?  Have you found accommodations that work particularly well for you?   Have you found a pacing strategy that works well for you?

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22 thoughts on “Working with a Chronic Illness

  1. At some point in our lives we need to re evaluate the kind of life we are living. In most cases our routine and how we handle day to day activities are the very reason why we have chronic illness. it is worth to ask if we really need to do this or do i really need to be in this position or company or is it about time to make a change and probably head to a better and healthier living. Oh yes easier said than done, but we have to change at some point and hopefully its not too late…

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Those are great insights for those with illnesses that do not just land in someone’s lap for no reason at all. I would give anything to change my circumstances if that would change my illness. I completely agree that if ones illness is caused by their circumstances and they can change them, evaluating one’s options are a definite must.

  2. I don’t have a chronic illness but I used to suffer from chronic pain and that presented a lot of similar struggles. It was always such a huge distraction and so draining. I definitely think telling people helps, sometimes you’re surprised by how much people make an effort to accommodate x

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Absolutely Sophie – sometimes that extra helping hand is just what you need

  3. Being kind to myself was exactly what I did when I was going through some medical issues. I work in a fast – paced environment, so I had to discuss my situation with my manager. And, we were able to find ways where I can still do my job, while recovering from my illness.

    1. Lisa Alioto

      That is fabulous Fritzie – I’m glad it worked out so well for you. And that you are doing better now. 🙂

  4. Jennifer Van Haitsma says:

    These are all things I try to do! Unfortunately, my boss is me as I’m a SAHM. lol. But I try to get a little peace and quiet for myself everyday where I’m not doing chores or anything. That really helps!

    1. Lisa Alioto

      That is great that you can find some down time to rest during your day Jennifer!

  5. This reminds me of my recent article on if you should tell your employer about your mental and physical health issues or not.

    If you’re thinking about telling your employer, the check the national laws for your country and discrimination and requirements of both you and your employer, so you can make a informed decision about telling your employer. A lot of employers, in the UK at least, are legally required to take all reasonable measures to help someone to do their job if they have a health issue.

    In the US there seems to be a similar legal requirement, but only for businesses with over 15 employees

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Yes – and even then in the US it can be dicey. One really has to know their employer to know how they may be treated.

  6. These are some great tips! I’m a huge advocate for self care. It’s so important to do.

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Thanks Alison!!

  7. Self-care and a good pace are so important! It makes it so much easier to exercise patience with yourself, especially when working with a chronic illness. Great post!

    Anika |

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Thank you Anika! I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  8. Very informative post with some great tips. Selfcare is very important. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Lisa Alioto

      You are welcome Lomash – glad you enjoyed it!

  9. I don’t have a chronic illness but I have no doubt that these tips will be helpful to so many people.

    1. Lisa Alioto

      I hope so 🙂

  10. Loved your tips. Especially pacing and monitoring one’s stress levels when sick. ? I think that it’s important to take care of ourselves and let our health be our number priority. ?

    1. Lisa Alioto

      Agreed Elle – we need to listen to our bodies more and take better care of them.

  11. Thanks for sharing this article, I really felt like my needs/fears were seen if that makes sense? I was (in some ways, luckily) a SAHM before I became chronically ill so I haven’t had to make any big decisions re: working just yet. I think that I’ll probably choose to go self-employed and work from home in some capacity for the flexibility and control because you’re so right, we do need to prioritise our health and I don’t see any employer prioritising it as highly as I would myself. 🙂

    1. Lisa Alioto

      That sounds like a fabulous plan Hayley – I’m glad that you are in the position to do that. That will allow you to prioritize your health and pace your workday.

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