Managing College When Chronically Ill Part 1
Going to college, in general, can be stressful and overwhelming, but add in a chronic illness, and it can feel impossible. That is why I have decided to share some of my experiences to encourage people who are battling health challenges and continuing in their education. This will be a two-part series. Today, I will be sharing my college experiences over the past few months. And how I am learning to manage college when struggling with a chronic illness.
Let me start by saying that it feels like I have two full-time jobs. One being college, and then my health. Since my CMT is progressing, it can feel exhausting trying to manage everything. Then there is also a part-time job I have, and wanting to spend as much time with family, friends, and writing. If you are a friend that hasn't heard from me in a while, this is probably why.
Only a few short months ago, I started going back to college in person. Yes, I was excited and thrilled to be attending classes that didn't involve being on zoom and hours on the computer. That was until I started realizing how much harder it would be. Once I began going back on campus, more changes took place. I started struggling to walk to my classes, understand everything from lectures, walk to the cafeteria, work on homework, and the list could go on.
But, even though there have been many struggles in college, there are some resources that have helped me. This has involved thinking more creatively (which I love), and then asking for help from student affairs on my campus. Today, I will be focusing on some of the resources or what I have learned that has helped me each day.
Here are just a few examples.
1. Use Calendars and Reminders
I'm beginning with this because it's hard to stay on top of everything if you are forgetful. In the past couple of years, I have been struggling with remembering everything. If there is an extra appointment or something not in my normal schedule, I will most likely forget it. And this is a problem when you are a student that already struggles to keep up because of pain.
What I typically use is the calendar app on my phone. This app helps me keep track of classes, meetings, or a planned get-together with a friend. Also, what I'm able to do is set reminders, and that way if I am working on an assignment, I will hear my phone go off, and that reminds me. I'm in the habit of checking my calendar regularly to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Another great resource is planners. These work well for extra notes and seeing the bigger picture of what I have for the day. It's also helpful if I am on the phone and need to schedule a doctor's appointment. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources that are out there now. Even before my pain got worse, I still used planners.
2. Set Shorter Goals
Setting short goals is something I am still working on. When it comes to having a lot every week, it can feel overwhelming for anyone. That is why I have been encouraged to set goals for myself, but only a few. And if I happen to be less fatigue, then I can try for another.
I may make a goal to start a paper. And after writing a page or two then I take a break. Then I will usually study or start ahead on reading before working on another assignment. What's more important is that I take the time to make sure my body is feeling okay before making my pain worse.
3. Be Prepared
What I mean by this is being prepared for what you might need during the day. As a college student, being back on campus has meant taking more with me. I always leave a bag in my car filled with textbooks, notebooks, or anything that I don't need at the moment. Also, this helps with my pain levels because carrying a heavy school bag causes more pressure on my shoulders and back. In my car, I also leave an extra jacket just in case I'm cold. If you are experiencing pain, cold weather can make the symptoms feel worse, so a warm jacket or sweater is helpful.
In my school bag, I always carry food. Most days, I experience dizziness or need to take something to help with the pain. I will then eat crackers or a granola bar. If you have other suggestions for snacks that I can take with me, feel free to comment below. Along with food, there are always a pair or two of fingerless gloves in my bag. These gloves help with my hand pain and when it's cold in a classroom. I highly recommend getting something like these to help with support and hand pain. And extra pens or pencils, and my audio recorder are a few other things I keep with me. These are what I consider some of my most needed essentials for each day.
Resting is important for any college student. But, if you are in constant pain or fatigue, it's needed. For instance, a typical day for me is attending classes, walking to and from my car, packing or eating a meal at the cafeteria, doing homework, and the list goes on. There doesn't seem to be time to recover, but going to bed early or resting more, will help. By resting, I mean turning off notifications, closing the laptop, and then laying down for 20 to 30 minutes. Or longer if you are feeling worse that day.
Recently, I have realized that I feel worse on the weekend because I am not resting enough. I will push myself past the limits and then end up regretting it. My pain will increase, and then by the time Monday comes around, I usually feel like sleeping instead of attending class. This is why resting needs to be a priority. I encourage you to rest as well if you are noticing fatigue or just feeling worn out. Taking even a half-hour can make a difference.
I hope these suggestions can be helpful for you. Even if you are not a student with a chronic illness, anyone can still benefit from the resources that are available out there.
When it comes to managing both college and health problems, it's important to find what works for you. Sometimes, this process may take a few weeks, or even months, to figure out. But, through trial and error, you will find what works best for you.
Managing College When Chronically Ill Part 2 coming November 8th.