Breaking through Bio-Disruptions – Women’s Health in the Workplace (pt.1)
disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
According to Google Dictionary that’s the textbook definition of disruption. In life we often look for items to breakup that which is unpleasant; When you’re on the phone too long with someone who can talk your ear off and the call drops, when no one else joins the teleconference (that you didn’t want to be on anyway) and the facilitator decides to reschedule the meeting, when the class ends early because of the power outage, etc. But what happens when that which is unpleasant is breaking up that which is going great – like your career?
Sometimes it feels like we as women are the only ones who face major health changes while managing our 9-5 and/or isn’t discussed as open as when the main character is one our male counterparts. From the lower end of the scale with changes such as fluctuating weight and hormonal imbalances, menopause (pre/peri/post), to the more serious diagnoses such as cancer – women around the globe have struggled with having to manage it all, and then manage our emotions. YBD has made it our aim to talk more about how Women’s Health effects the Woman at the Workplace and we’re starting the series talking about Auto Immune Disorders.
In December of 2007 at the start of a dreary, damp southern winter in Atlanta, I sat across from the Rheumatologist having yet another screening (which led to a formal diagnosis) for SLE: Systemic Lupus Erythematous, better known as Lupus. For years I had battled with fatigue, joint pain, unexplainable headaches and migraines, and boy was it taking a toll on my mental health and daily productivity. I was relieved to know what “it” finally was since that meant I could get on the road to treatment, but what about my job? Would I need to miss any more days of work? I can hardly lift my laptop let alone smile in everyone’s face when it hurts to crack a smile, AND I’M SO TIRED! Fast forward 12 years and I’m managing my health successfully, yet I know so many more women who are suffering in silence. Whether your trial is Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis (certainly I can go on, these are just a few) here are three suggestions that helped me and can help you too as you manage your health and manage your career.
1.) Keep A Journal.
This is a great way to take the words that are in your head that cause anxiety and pain and dump them on paper. Journaling can help express emotions you may not be able to express out loud and bring you a measure of comfort. This is also a great place to write down your triggers when you feel (fill in the blank) and tie them back to what you ate, what you drank, time of day, who you were with, etc. Share your journal entries/logs with your doctor as appropriate so that your medical team can stay on top of the best treatment for you, keep up good communication – Segway to no.2
2.) Keep your leader in the loop so you can adjust and readjust your duties.
Huh? Did you just say to map out my goals for work in line with the times I see my doctor for check-ups and evaluations? Absolutely! Know that this takes good communication with your leader and will involve a measure of trust. (we’ll cover having these tougher conversations with your leader in another blog). If your job requires you to travel often to complete big projects and jetlag will flare up your symptoms, why not talk to your leader about scaling down your work load for 30 days post-travel? When you and your leader sit down at mid-year to discuss how things are going, are you taking into consideration that weather changes trigger your illness? Is this the time to ask to come in a little later in the morning so you have more time to take meds and ramp up into the work day? I know I know; you don’t want them in your business – but tell them yours if you’re managing theirs and ultimately their bottom line. This is also a great time to have learn more about your company leave benefits, if you haven’t taken advantage of them already. Include state and federal disability programs in your research and talk about the viable options with your leader. They can be your advocate when it comes to company changes that will directly impact your work and the way you work. Don’t cut them out of the plan.
3.) Find a support community – at work!
And if your company doesn’t have any affinity groups, employee resource groups, or business partnerships with third party groups START ONE! This can be an online community or closed Facebook group. If that is over the top, at minimum have a co-worker on speed dial you trust and who can be a listening ear when you’re at your desk. It may be someone on your team who can help you get your work done, it may be a skip-level manager who can speak for you at the tables you may not have a seat at, or it can be someone who can help you find additional resources, medical and otherwise, as you navigate your work day. You don’t have to go through it alone and you may be pleased to find that your search for support finds the open, extended hand at your workplace of someone that’s searching for help.
Not every diagnosis comes with a one-size-fits-all treatment plan, so do your research. Your Big Debut does not advocate one type of medicine, treatment option, hospital or doctor over another and is in no way shape or form qualified to give medical advice. When it comes to battling your bio-disruptor at work, know that you CAN do it and you WON’T have to do it alone – we can’t stress that enough.
In the meantime, Good Health and Wellness Wishes to you as you slay your work day!