Patient Blogs | Asthma
Work & Asthma: Making It Work
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My asthma has been well controlled for a few years now, but it wasn’t always that way. Early on, a simple cold would often turn into a bronchial infection, which would then send me into an asthma flare. I was miserable. I just wanted to be able to breathe normally! Was that too much to ask?

As with many health conditions, my asthma would often affect my workday. During those moments, I had to find workarounds. I had to freestyle my days as a freelancer. I had to be creative and resourceful.

These days I still use some of these tactics. They’ve helped me make it successfully through more than 20 years in the workforce.

Breathing Issues

Most of my jobs have required me to talk, and talk, and talk some more. Since COVID, I feel like the amount of calls has gone up as teams across the world have replaced boardroom meetings for "bored room" virtual calls! Early in my asthma journey, I would get winded while on calls. I would have to stop, take a breath, and start again. It was quite embarrassing. Here I am – talking about one report or another, and I would sound like I had just run a marathon. One time, a co-worker did ask if I had been running. “No,” I thought to myself. “It’s just asthma.” I let her think maybe I had run a marathon because that’s what everyone does at 10:50 a.m. on a Wednesday, right?

If I was winded at my desk on a phone call, I was definitely winded for more active work tasks. I thank God I didn’t have a manual labor job, but sometimes there would be movement in my job. I’ve worked jobs where there were outdoor events, community service, or some level of physical activity. Inevitably, embarrassment would slowly creep in whenever I needed to ask for an accommodation. While everyone else was swinging a hammer or helping set up event spaces, I would throw my hand up quickly to volunteer to take pictures or work registration.

Just Not Feeling Great

For years, asthma would make what would start as a simple cold much more complicated for me. I knew if a head cold moved down to my chest that I would be in for the long haul. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb when I battled a sore throat for weeks compared to my peers and their 2-day turnaround on a cold. It would take me so much longer to start feeling better. In time, I learned to work super hard to start treating a cold in the early stages. Often that would (and still to this day) help me recover faster. Unfortunately, I felt like I was being a baby for calling out at the first moment of a sniffle or scratchy throat. It is what works for me, and I figure my leadership would prefer I take off a day to nip something in the bud than need over a week because my lungs have become inflamed and my cold has kicked off an asthma flare.

Manage Stress or Else

Stress can send your health in any number of directions. It doesn’t clock in and clock out on a schedule. It can peak and fall in unexpected times – if not watched – and wreak havoc on your body or your asthma. If you’re like me, you may be tired of hearing about the role stress plays in health, but that fact isn’t going anywhere. I wish it wasn’t true. So because work and stress go together like Jim and Pam (The Office), that means I have to strive to keep it in check. For me, the stress management tactic must fit the stressor. If my manager is making a Friday feel like a Monday, then I’ve had to work to change roles, change departments, or change jobs. The relationship between worker and boss is too close to be toxic for too long in my opinion. If my stressor is a project that I’m nervous about, I’ll get input or ask someone to help me with some of it. If I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, I’ll be open about it with my boss and peers. For every work stressor lobbed at me, I’ve developed my set of ways to hit back.

Taking care of your asthma is work. But working with asthma doesn’t have to be hard.




Photo Credit: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 2005

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with asthma in 2005. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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