Chronic illness, complicated as it is, leaves many searching for a simple answer.
Lately, a tantalizing headline has gotten much press in the social media ‘disease’ community (yes, I’m on twitter and you can tweet me @WorkWithIllness):
Help me, please. What’s the news here? That people who live with illness also experience anxiety? That exercise can help alleviate that anxiety?
I felt a particular sense of annoyance with this research when a client told me about an email she got from a co-worker. The email writer sent a link to this study with a note saying that since my client must feel very anxious about her multiple sclerosis symptoms, this is great news. Exercise is the cure.
My client lives with symptoms that are periodically difficult to manage and puts in a minimum of 45 hour/week on her job. She said that although the email writer’s a “jerk”, she wanted to talk about her guilt for not exercising and her paranoia that other co-workers would conclude that multiple sclerosis must be her fault. Can you relate to this?
I read several articles about this research and from what I can tell, the findings say:
- Exercise decreases anxiety for those who had not been exercising at all.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day is optimal.
But even if you can carve out that 30 minutes a day, that’s not the only challenge. You’ve got to figure out what to do and where. Vigorous exercise is rarely an option with debilitating symptoms (cross off that spin class). And with changing symptoms, some days even mild exercise can be a problem.
Additionally, for those who need a class or teacher to stay motivated, there’s the cost. True, running or walking outside doesn’t cost a dime but weather, like illness, is unpredictable. Extremes of any kind – heat or cold – can affect aggravate many health conditions. And there’s ice. Nothing like waiting all day to take that long walk after work but icy streets and bitter cold, especially in the dark, present real danger for you. Not exactly an anxiety reducer, is it?
Consider this. When you’re given suggestions or “solutions” about your health that you didn’t ask for, you’ve got some choices:
- You can respond angrily that they don’t understand.
- You can wallow silently in self pity and guilt.
- You can think about the suggestion, consider the source to decide if you want to respond and consider the suggestion to see if it fits for you.
For more ideas about talking about chronic illness symptoms at work, check out my Career Thrive When You Live with Chronic Illness Series.
Tell me, what do you do? How is that going?
On another note, a colleague has asked me to post this request: Women business owners: Have you experienced a past personal crisis while running your business and lived through it to tell the tale? If you would be willing to share your story, we would like to interview you for an upcoming book, tentatively titled “When Life Happens.” Your experience and lessons learned can help today’s women’s business owners navigate similar life events. If you are interested in being interviewed, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Share My Story” in the subject line. Chris will respond with an initial questionnaire to assess whether your story is a match for the book. If so, either Chris or her co-author Elli will contact you to schedule a 1 hour phone interview.