Being Mindful at Work

Alexandra Reiche
Written by
Alexandra Reiche

For many of us, work is an important (and time consuming) aspect of daily life, and it can be challenging to stay true to yourself when the demands of your job come pressing in, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. But here are a few simple reminders on how to be mindful in dealing with the challenges of MS in the work environment.

1. Treat Yourself

If I’m having a hard time at work due to my MS or other factors I like to “treat myself” when I get home from a long day. I’ve found that it’s a super-effective way to brighten my mood and gives me something to look forward to throughout the day. Some of the ways I like to treat myself are by going to the movies, snuggling up on the couch with a good book, or simply getting an ice cream on my way home. Whatever you want to do to treat yourself, you should do it – you deserve it.

2. Acknowledge What’s Good for You

If we’re unhappy with an aspect of your workplace, we have a tendency to blame ourselves. “I need to toughen up” and “I shouldn’t let this get to me” are the first things we utter when we get the chance to vent to our family or friends. Wrong. What we need to do (I myself took a long time to realize this, and even longer to put my epiphany into action) is follow a simple principle: If you’re a flower that needs rain, don’t stay in the desert. This metaphor helped me in getting over self-blame and acknowledging we all have different needs, all of which are absolutely justified, regardless of MS. So if my needs include a friendly, understanding and fair environment, I’m not going to stay with a company full of bullies.

3. Say “No”

This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn, and it’s vitally important if you have MS. Because stress can have a particularly negative effect on us, we need to be extra-careful not to take on too much work, or assignments we don’t feel comfortable with. If you want to keep your diagnosis private, you don’t need to even mention your health issues. Instead, you can simply say, “I’d really like to help, but the quality of my other work would suffer if I took on this assignment on top of everything else.” And if you’d like to share your diagnosis with colleagues or your boss, here are some tips.

4. Don’t Always Fight the Fight

This is something that I learned from the awesome Jessica Williams. I read an interview with Williams, in which she related one of the lessons she learned from her therapist: You can be angry, but if you don’t feel up to it, you can fight the fight another day. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you constantly have to stand up for your values, rights and opinions in a trying work environment. You’re absolutely entitled to stay in your little private bubble and gather strength for another day.

5. Know Your Worth

To quote the badass Agent Carter: “I don’t need a congressional honor. […] I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Replace “congressional honor” with “praise” or “this promotion” and you have the perfect mantra. I know how hard it can be to keep believing in yourself if your MS symptoms or your work environment seem determined to bring you down. Know your value. Because you rock.

6. Realize when it’s time to leave

Leaving a job is one of the hardest decisions you’ll make in your life, especially when you’ve been diagnosed with MS. I know from my own experience how desperately you might cling to a job and the positive memories that go with it. Maybe you don’t know where else to go, or you’re scared to take the big step into self-employment or early retirement. These reasons are absolutely legitimate. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re worried. You have every right to be. But being mindful is really important, so listen to the voice in the back of your head when it tells you that despite your efforts – and these don’t even have to be related to MS – it’s time to leave. Know that your own mental and physical health is your number one priority and that you don’t need anyone’s approval for your decision to quit. The only person you need to answer to is you.

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