Working When Ill: How to Get Things Done


You know how you feel when you have a cold? Your head is muggy. Your breathing, labored. Aches and pains, unrelenting. Focus? Next to impossible.

How can you express yourself coherently or dig deep into your creative soul to get things done – to work – when this is your reality?

For many of us with chronic illness, this is our reality, daily. Somehow, though, the comparison – the congruence of symptoms and their impact on the ability to work – is not commonly recognized as legitimate. The UK government is currently running its “scroungers and strivers” campaign. This operation defines anyone that receives even a partial government benefit or payment, a “scrounger”.

That would be me, then. Though I have never fancied myself anything remotely “scroungish”. And neither, I would hazard to say, has anyone who knows me.

Working with a chronic illness is exactly like trying to work with an acute illness: challenging. Only more so, since an acute illness – like a cold or flu – will eventually pass, where many chronic illnesses stay. And stay. And stay.

Which is why, for many who are chronically ill, working can feel like a far off – and farfetched – dream. We would love to, of course. We will. It’s on our to-do lists. High priority! …..Just as soon as we’ve sorted out the insulin, cleaned the nebuliser, found a place that we can access in our wheelchair and, of course, stopped hurting every moment of the day.

It’s tough. I know.

Just as challenging: the tangle of emotions, issues and attitudes around working when chronically ill. These present perhaps, the deepest, most frustrating problem of all: having something special and valuable to offer the world, and having our circumstances – disability, finances, lack of education or resources – constantly limiting what we can do. It is far more than physically painful. It hurts the soul.

How does one get around such roadblocks and get to work?

Create Flexibility

It may seem like having to work means having to show up, physically, to get the job done, but that’s not always true.

Case in point: I’m a qualified Reiki Master. Usually, this line of work entails renting a room in a holistic centre, providing clients with an hour long session, then being paid by each one. But that doesn’t work for me; by the time I’d get to the centre, interact with the client, and navigate a route lacking in wheelchair adaptions, I wouldn’t be well enough to actually provide quality Reiki.

Solution: I incorporated flexibility into my skill set. I created Sparkle Reiki Darlings , a remote healing service, where I support people across the world, from my own home, in hours that work for me. Think: What do you want to offer? How can you shift it to better fit your needs, as well as the needs of those you serve?

Start Where You Are

I am hurting. Right now, as I write this. My writing isn’t as good as it could be, perhaps not as good as it would be if I weren’t in pain. But if I wasn’t, if pain weren’t a part of my life, I wouldn’t have the experience to write this. Perfectionism is something everyone must overcome. Our work, whether we’re ill or not, won’t ever be perfect. It’s fundamental to be accepting, in each moment, with each project. To acknowledge, “I’m doing the best I can, with the energy I have today. And it is enough”. You are enough.

Set Up Systems To Support Your Wellness

What makes you feel well? Honestly. Take stock. Know what makes you feel better – be it a deep sleep, daily bath, limiting your email time to save energy for what’s really important. Whatever it is, whatever gives you a boost, do it. And don’t feel guilty about supporting yourself – it’s all a part of your being your most productive.

Build A Healing Blueprint.

Know where you’re going and when you’ve arrived. It’s easy to come at healing like an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Diving in, grabbing a bit of everything, but not consciously reaching for what is the best fit. Results? Not knowing what works for you, and where exactly to go on your healing

journey. (If you want to build your blueprint with me, be sure to get on my mailing list. I’ll be announcing an exciting new offer soon, for just this purpose.)

Save Your Energy

Check out what’s available to help maximize your time! Use virtual assistants, auto-responders, email templates, Google calendars, Tweet Deck or Hootsuite. Make a list of all the tasks you need to do for your business and then do some research – what exists out there to make getting through that list easier?

Secure Support And Accountability

I do difficult work. It’s a labour of love, but it is h-a-r-d. What makes it possible? Accountability and support, and I know they will help you too. Being part of a community that’s aligned with your goals, filled with supportive people doing what you want to do and who are willing to share their secrets: it’s a precious thing, and grossly underestimated in becoming an enthusiastic – and productive – member of the workforce. (Looking for a community to be that special space for you? I run one! Join us in The Trail Blazers’ Facebook café by purchasing Pitch Perfect: What’s Wrong With You? or Trail Blazing Live. Our exclusive café is open only to those who have gone through my training. We can’t wait for you to share your brilliance. Come on over and get in on the action!)