Navigating a Chronic Illness as an Athletic Training Student

tired athletic training student in class

Maintaining good health while pursuing your athletic training degree can present unique challenges, especially for individuals dealing with chronic illnesses. Juggling your health and academic goals may seem overwhelming, but we’ve compiled a few tips to help you set realistic expectations and prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Illness

Dealing with a chronic illness can be a rollercoaster journey. From the diagnosis process to ongoing challenges, it’s important to recognize and accept the impact your illness has on your life. Many experience chronic pain without a clear diagnosis, or experience pain as an “invisible” disability. Accepting this reality can allow you to work around any limitations and find ways to achieve your goals despite the challenges.

Tip #2: Communicate with Your Superiors

A crucial step in succeeding academically while managing a chronic illness is opening up to your program director and other faculty members. Although it may feel daunting, sharing your situation with them can lead to a better understanding and support. You may be hesitant to discuss your condition with your program director, fearing it could affect your availability and opportunities. However, your program directors are there to help you succeed and help you adjust your activities to accommodate your health needs. Transparent communication ensures that your well-being and ambitions are considered while maintaining reasonable expectations.

Tip #3: Seek Support and Counseling

In addition to confiding in your program director, take advantage of the resources available on campus to manage the impact of your chronic illness. One valuable resource is a campus counseling or wellness center. Sharing your mental and emotional well-being struggles with a counselor can provide you with helpful tools to navigate the challenges associated with chronic illnesses. Remember that seeking support is a courageous step, and the services provided by your college or university are typically free for graduate students. Prioritizing both your physical and mental well-being is instrumental in managing the stress of balancing graduate school with a chronic illness.

Tip #4: Practice Self-Compassion

A crucial piece of advice for anyone balancing graduate school with a chronic illness is to be kind to yourself. Imposter syndrome and constant comparisons to peers are common challenges in academia. Instead of pushing yourself relentlessly, which can lead to long-term physical, mental, and emotional strain, prioritize self-compassion. You have to take a break, or the break takes you. Setting boundaries with yourself, friends, and colleagues is vital to prevent overburdening yourself. Listen to your body and prioritize rest and self-care. Remember, if you neglect self-care, any boundaries you set lose their value.

Managing a chronic illness while pursuing an athletic training degree may seem challenging, but it can be achieved with the right tools. Acknowledge your illness, communicate with your program director, seek counseling support and practice self-kindness. Prioritizing your physical, mental, and emotional well-being alongside your academic goals is crucial. By maintaining a balanced approach, you can accomplish everything you set out to achieve while taking care of yourself.

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