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Fibromyalgia: 3 Strategies for Workplace Success

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Juggling a career—and social life, family, and the demands of fibromyalgia--can be challenging. Find the help you need from Jenni Prokopy—a woman living with the chronic, widespread pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Watch the video below as she shares some of her favorite tips for working smart and healthy. A transcript of the video is also available.

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Read the transcript of the video, "Fibromyalgia: 3 Strategies for Workplace Success," below:

Hi, and welcome to Fibromyalgia: 3 Strategies for Workplace Success. My name is Jenni Prokopy and I'm just like you—a woman living with the chronic, widespread pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Juggling a career - and social life, family, and the demands of our illness – can be challenging. Today, I'm here to share some of my favorite tips for working smart and healthy. 

Tip 1: Evaluate Your Skills and Abilities
Tip one: Evaluate your skills and abilities. Whether you've recently been diagnosed or you've been living with fibromyalgia for years, it has likely impacted your work style and abilities. Now is the time to evaluate your skills: What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? How do you measure workplace success; is it financial stability? Positive reinforcement from peers or a supervisor? Climbing another rung on the career ladder?

Take some time to get clear about what you can and like to do, and see if it matches your current employment situation. Maybe you can't do everything you did before you developed fibromyalgia, but you can probably still do some things. Maybe there's a way to adapt your work, or maybe it's time to consider a different kind of job.

The answers to these questions will help you shape your working future. If you're struggling with the process, there are some talented career coaches out there who can help you find your path, so don't be afraid to ask for help.

Tip 2: Managing Your Work Day
Tip two: Manage your work day. So much of living well with fibromyalgia is energy management, so take a close look at how you spend your day at work. Acknowledge your limitations; maybe you need help with some tasks, or you need to delegate them…or maybe you just need to take short breaks throughout the day. Work with your supervisor to create a schedule that suits your needs.

You may even want to ask for the option to work remotely. Not all companies offer this option, but if you think you'll be more productive in the comfort of your own home, it's worth the effort to ask. I know I've done some of my best work in my PJs. And when you're not feeling your best, working from home—on your schedule—is a great alternative to using up all your sick days.

And speaking of sick days, it's inevitable that you will have to take some, so drop any guilt you're feeling about taking time off. Fibromyalgia can be unpredictable—some days are just going to be worse than others—so it's understandable not to have a perfect attendance record.

If you're concerned about handling your workload (or what your supervisor might think about your absence) create a backup system so someone can step in when you're gone, or build extra time into your deadlines so a sick day here or there won't throw off an entire project. Most important: Your health must come first. Honor your body and take time off when you need it. You may experience overall greater health and productivity.
 
Tip 3: Focus on Self-Worth
Tip three: Focus on self-worth. Besides the obvious financial benefits of working, most of us derive a great sense of self-worth from being part of the workforce. When our illness limits our ability to work—or even forces us to stop working altogether—it can be a huge blow to our self-esteem.

Whatever career path you follow, keep asking yourself if you're deriving pleasure and value from the work you do. If you're forcing yourself to continue working in a way that's not healthy, what good is that? Instead, you may want to find a different kind of job, one that's physically easier, or more enjoyable.

And even if you can't work at all right now, you may want to find some way to volunteer or otherwise participate in your community. The friendships we build at work can nurture us; you can also build valuable personal connections outside the workplace, connections that keep you feeling positive. No matter your situation, reach out and become part of something bigger than yourself—it's just one small way you can feel better.