It’s Tuesday, and I’m on the couch working on my laptop, dealing with joint and back pain. Although crawling into bed sounds inviting, I continue to work on an operations budget, an upcoming meeting agenda, and two contract amendments, all while icing my joints and heating my back. I moved this couch into my office so I could easily switch from my desk to a comfortable surface during a flare-up.
Living with chronic pain from endometriosis, as well as other conditions like pulmonary embolism and connective tissue disease, isn’t easy. I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 15 years old, so I have spent decades perfecting the dance of knowing what my body needs in the moment. In my endometriosis care “toolbox,” I have heating and ice packs, essential oils, CBD/THC salves, over-the-counter pain meds, meditation, and stretching.
When my job switched to remote work in 2020, I had my reservations. But now I’m actually grateful for the unexpected blessing. The quiet, slower pace and the forced recharging at home both help me thrive in a super-focused space where I can be comfortable. Although I miss the camaraderie of a shared office, I do not miss the pain and discomfort I experienced in the workplace.
Shifting to remote work has had a tremendous impact on my health. Here’s how I manage my endometriosis now that I’m at home.
1. Create My Ideal Workspace
My desk chair never seems to make me comfortable, regardless of the added pillow for back support, which is why I have a couch as backup. On difficult days, you’ll find me on the couch icing, heating, or therapy-gunning anything that’s hurting. Although I start work around the same time daily, working from home does allow me to adjust my start time since there’s no added commute.
2. Make Time to Move
Regardless of pain, I am determined to keep my body in motion. That’s why I walk my dog three times a day, have calendar alerts for screen breaks, and use a standing desk. The dog walks help me get in steps and fresh air. During my screen breaks, I love blasting music and having a solo dance party or light stretching. The standing desk is beneficial to blood flow but also relieves discomfort when certain pains are induced by sitting. Doing all of this can be difficult during an endometriosis flare-up, but I know that even a light stretch is beneficial to my pelvic floor and core.
3. Embrace Healthier Living
At the start of the pandemic, my hematologist recommended smoothies as a way to get more greens and other fruits/vegetables into my diet. The goal was to strengthen my immune system and incorporate healthier eating habits. I thought I’d hate smoothies, but they serve as a morning boost, especially on days I’m experiencing pain. Having time to make a smoothie or even cook meals during the day has improved my health. (Though I do miss the sweet snacks in the office’s lunchroom.) I do not subscribe to the popular endo diet but have found that adding in more natural foods and avoiding processed foods help minimize flares.
I’m also able to schedule online therapy during my lunch break once a week. I will always encourage talk therapy, especially for someone living with chronic pain or who has survived any form of trauma. For me, therapy allows me the space to discuss what it feels like to be disabled and the “sick girl” since my teens. With my unofficial emotional support dog by my side, I feel comforted from home and empowered to have these discussions.
4. Tackle Daily Tasks a Little at a Time
Household tasks have always been an added layer of exhaustion. After a long day at the office, I had to muster up the energy to do laundry, wash dishes, or clean up around the house. Now, working from home, I can throw in a load of laundry between calls, run the robot vacuum, and do small amounts of housework when I have the energy. Tackling these tasks during the day has freed up my evenings for rest or other passions.
5. Stress-Free Bathroom Use
This may be TMI for some, but anyone who deals with messy periods or tummy troubles will relate. Now that I’m home, I no longer have to wait for the ADA bathroom stall in the office. Also, no more anxiety or shame if someone hears me in the bathroom. I don’t have to deal with period accidents because I can’t get to the bathroom in time, and I don’t have to sneak period products into my bra, pocket, or sleeve. Everything I need is within reach.
6. Control My Work Environment
As much as I miss my work friends stopping by my office, updating me on their days or venting about a situation, at home I control how and when I talk to people. I certainly don’t miss hiding my heating pad on days I’m in pain, elevating my feet on a box under my desk, or racing to the bathroom to discover I bled through my clothes. At home, I can focus on my work, as well as be more attentive to my body.
Working from home may have its drawbacks. Sometimes, it’s hard to unplug and tune out the work. There are days when I should completely take off work, but I push through the pain. This is not something to brag about, but it is something I am working on — carving out time to take care of myself.
I recognize that my experience working from home will be different from someone else’s, but I love the way I’m living now. I still love the work I do and the people I work with. But making this shift to remote work has been vital for my physical and emotional well-being.