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How To Manage A Chronic Illness in College

College and chronic illnesses are stressful enough by themselves – dealing with both at the same time sounds incredibly overwhelming! Managing my ulcerative colitis was one of my biggest concerns when I came to college. How would I get to my doctor’s appointments? Where would I get my medication? What if my symptoms flare up in the middle of class? Fortunately, with some preparation, I was able to create a system that works for me, and it was much less taxing than I expected! With medical resources, good planning, and self-care, you can have a successful college career while managing your illness!

1. Contact your school’s disability services office

Most schools can provide accommodations for students with disabilities and illnesses in order to help them keep up with their classwork. Reach out to your school’s disabilities services with medical documentation of your illness and your requested accommodations as early in the semester as possible!

2. Find a doctor and a pharmacy

If you’re going to school away from home, you’ll have to find a local doctor for checkups and emergencies. Your school’s health center might be able to refer you to practitioners in the area. If you need insurance, some schools offer student insurance plans as well. If you take medication, make sure that your prescriptions are sent to a nearby pharmacy.

3. Schedule your classes according to your body’s needs

Think about how your mind and body feel during the day, and choose your classes based on what you need as the day goes on. Is there a certain time of the day where you usually feel better or worse? Will you need time to eat or rest in between classes? Is it difficult to walk from one end of the campus to the other for consecutive classes?

4. Talk to your professors

If you’ve registered with disability services, your professors will probably be informed of the accommodations you may need, but it’s a good idea to let them know how your illness may affect your attendance, participation, or classwork. You don’t have to tell them everything about your illness, but talking with them may give them some insight on how they can help you succeed in your classes.

5. Find your niche

Living with a chronic illness can be extremely difficult, but you are not defined by your condition! College offers so many opportunities to discover where you belong and what you’re meant to do. Whether its your classes, your friends, or an extracurricular activity, you are bound to find something that reminds you of the happy and fulfilling life you can live.

6. Build your support system

Opening up to others about your illness can be difficult or awkward, but having someone who can help you get through trying times. Friends, faculty, and family can all provide comfort and support.

7. Maintain a healthy routine

Even though it might seem like you’re fighting a war with your body, it’s important to nurture and care for it! Make sure that you’re eating a balanced diet, engaging in physical activity, and getting an adequate amount of sleep. It make take some trial and error to figure out what foods at the dining hall or what types of exercise work for you, but sticking to your wellness plan can help you feel much better

8. Enjoy the little things

With so much stress weighing you down, it may seem like relief is impossible. But there are a multitude of simple pleasures that make life so much richer. A sunny day, watching Netflix in your pajamas, laughing with your friends, a delicious mug of hot chocolate… these are the things that bring joy into our lives. Take a look around and see what little things make you feel happy!

Angela Rusnak

Point Park '20

Angela is a sophomore Theatre Arts major at Point Park University. She is the secretary and treasurer of Her Campus Point Park, as well as the treasurer of Point Park's Feminist Collective and Active Minds chapter. Someday, she hopes to be active in the theatre industry as a performer, producer, artistic director, and/or playwright. In her very limited spare time, she enjoys dancing, reading, playing guitar, and drinking coffee.
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