Managing your education and illness


Paige Atkison

Paige Atkison, Reporter

As someone who is living with several chronic illnesses, I can personally attest to how difficult it can be to manage schoolwork and health. Juggling medications, medical appointments, and surgeries is daunting enough by itself. When added to the pressures of college, physical illnesses can seem insurmountable. But despite how frustrating it can be to balance your health and education, it can be done.

The most often overlooked component of planning for your semester is accounting for your health. When selecting courses and building your schedule, it is imperative that you take your health into account. I am personally guilty of this. Each semester I sign up for courses and undertake multiple responsibilities without considering how my physical illnesses will affect my ability to complete my tasks. I convince myself that I’m healthier and that I won’t need to take my illnesses into account, despite knowing that I’m setting myself up for failure. For example, I create my weekly schedule without including extra time for emergencies. If I need to run to the doctor’s office or take time to rest, there’s no time allotted for it in my schedule. This pattern, when repeated, leads to missed assignments and constant stress. The simplest way to avoid burning out is to account for the possibility of your condition worsening sometime during the semester.

The simplest way to assess how difficult a course may be and whether or not it will work with your health is by talking to your professors. Opening up about illness can be difficult, especially if you believe your illness should remain private or if you believe it will cause your professor to view you differently. I struggle deeply with opening up to my professors about my health. Though I know my professors likely won’t treat me poorly due to my illnesses, the possibility frightens me. Despite my fears, each professor I’ve had has treated me with kindness and worked with me to manage my coursework.

Speaking openly and honestly with professors is the first step in creating your academic safety net. An academic safety net is simply a system of actions you can take to ensure that your grade will be safe if you have a medical emergency. Should you need to miss a class that you planned to attend or you cannot turn in an assignment due to your health condition, it is important to make sure your grade is high enough to minimize the damage. The least appealing way to ensure your grade remains high is to work ahead. While completing assignments far before the due date can be boring, it ensures that your assignments will always be completed on time, even if you become ill. Similarly, completing all extra credit assignments offered can protect your grade in the case of an emergency. When completing group assignments, set up a back-up plan in case you become ill and cannot participate during class time. I’ve found that the best time for solidifying my safety net by working ahead is during the weekend. I spend my weekends working ahead and doing additional studying, which provides more time for for me to rest during the school week.

Finding time to rest and take care of your body can be demanding, but it is of the utmost importance. Spending time resting and tending to my medical needs allows me to reduce stress and prevents my flares from worsening. Though it feels tedious to dedicate large swaths of time to self-care, caring for your body is in turn caring for your academic success. You must care for your health if you intend to succeed.