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5 Tips for Starting a New Job with Epilepsy

A while back I started a new job as therapist. Having completed graduate school, I was so happy to be working in my field. Despite my excitement, my new job brought challenges. One of those challenges included management of my seizures. I developed new triggers and had to rework my daily routine to make sure I succeeded at my new job. Read on to find out how I navigated the first couple months of my new adventure!


Tip 1: Keep Track of Episodes

In my first couple weeks, I noticed my migraines happening more frequently.  I kept track of their frequency, what happened before they started, and how long they lasted.  I found a pattern to them. My head would start hurting after tense discussions with another co-worker. While I can’t avoid my co-worker forever, I can attempt to limit my interactions with this person.  I started taking deep breaths before, during, and after spending time with that person to relax myself.  I take a minute or two after each interaction to close my eyes and refocus my brain on my job instead of the stressful conversation I just had.  If I hadn’t kept track of my migraines and found this pattern, I would still be getting migraines regularly at work.

I also noticed that I had migraines at the end of the day.  I took a look at what actions I did every day and realized that most of them involved staring at a screen. Even though my triggers never included spending time looking at a computer screen earlier in my life, it seemed to be a trigger now.  This is a tough one–I have to use my laptop for all the paperwork that is done with my job.  So, I’ve learned to monitor my time with my laptop.  I limit myself to 2 hours of work at a time, after which I take a quick break by closing my eyes or doing a task that doesn’t involve a screen (making copies, writing appointments in my planner, making phone calls, etc).  This way, I lower the chance of a migraine and I switch up my work day so I don’t get bored!


Tip 2: Practice Self Care

This is a huge one.  As a therapist, I work with individuals to more effectively manage their lives.  This can sometimes cause me to think about my job outside of work and put stress on my mind. When my brain gets stressed, I start having episodes. To prevent this, I identified things that relaxed me, such as riding my bike or taking a walk.  Unfortunately, the weather isn’t always nice enough for these activities!  So, I made a list of other things that helped me unwind, such as taking a bath, watching a favorite TV show, or reading a good book.  Some days, even cleaning relaxes me!  Whatever you can do to take your mind off of serious subjects will help your mind and overall health.


Tip 3: Get Enough Sleep

I cannot stress enough how important sleep is.  Our bodies rely on sleep to stay healthy. It helps us rest and reset our brains, regulate our metabolism and bodily functions, and helps manage our moods. Plus, it gives us energy to get through our days!  Because our brains rely so heavily on this rest, there are consequences if you don’t get it. Seizures are more likely to occur if you aren’t getting proper sleep. Make sure to put sleep into your daily schedule.  It may be hard to do but your health is most important–your body will thank you!


Tip 4: Tell Your Employer on Your Terms (or Don’t)

You can read my longer answer here.  It is ultimately your decision.  In the United States, you are not required to tell your employer about your diagnosis.  That being said, it can be a good thing to do for safety purposes. You can teach your boss and/or co-workers seizure first aid.  That way, if you have a seizure at work, your coworkers can spring into action with the knowledge to keep you safe. It’s also good for day-to-day interactions.  I have one medication that makes me extremely tired.  Even though I take it at night, sometimes I accidentally take it with my morning dose.  I told my boss about this and now he knows that if he sees me super groggy, there’s a legitimate reason for it.  He and I went over what actions we both need to take in this situation.  It gives me peace knowing that I have put plans into action to keep me safe.

Related: Check out our guide on Epilepsy in the Workplace

Tip 5: Make It Fun

I try to make my job as fun as possible.  I’ve decorated my desk, created rewards for myself when I get certain tasks done, and I jam out to the radio when I’m on my way to an appointment.  I enjoy my job and find it easier to have fun when I’ve infused it with my personality.  I use bright post it notes and folders for organization and I color code my planner to help me keep things straight.  Keeping myself organized leaves me with less stress and personalizing it motivates me to keep doing my job!  Find your own way to make your job a little more fun and you will be happier going to work…even on a Monday!


Your Turn

Have you ever had to adjust to a new job?  How did you do it? Is there advice you’d give to others? Let us know in the comments below!  Or submit your story here.

Follow Leila Shields:
Leila shares stories on stigma and epilepsy based on her experiences and what she hears from others. She was diagnosed with Epilepsy at age 8 and is based in Pennsylvania.

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