Balancing School While Managing AS
Starting school while living with the often-times debilitating symptoms of AS can be nerve-wracking. About six months ago I began my first semester of journalism, and despite how ready I felt mentally, my body wasn’t reciprocating. Nonetheless, I made it – I survived my first semester, but it was no walk in the park. I had to cultivate what little energy I had left in me to complete the last few weeks. By the end of the semester, I was entirely burnt out. Now that I am entering into my second semester, I have learned a few things on how to better manage my AS while attending my post-secondary education.
Lighten your course load
The first thing I did after getting my schedule was contact the head of my program and discuss dropping some of my courses. This could differ depending on your symptoms, but in my personal opinion, I suggest knocking down your course load by a few classes to ensure you have the time to rest and prioritize your over-all wellbeing. For me it was best to drop down to part-time, so I only had four courses a week and was able to manage my time better.
Email your professors ahead of time
Before my first semester began, I made sure to email all of my professors about my illness and what they might expect. Whether it be about missing classes because of appointments, spending the day in bed because of a bad flare-up, or needing an extension on an assignment due to your brain fog, being transparent with your teachers will give them the opportunity to assist with your assignments and course load.
Spread out your assignments
Time management will be your saving grace, especially towards the end of the semester. Assignments will inevitably start piling up and will be worth more toward your grade, therefore it becomes necessary to spend more time on these assignments which can end up leading to burn out. When I got toward the end of my semester, I felt my fatigue beginning to wash over me which made getting up for classes more difficult. I also experienced a heavier feeling of brain fog than usual. This is when I learned to spread out my assignments more by setting a smaller amount of time aside every single day, rather than working for hours in one sitting. I would recommend getting a day planner as this has helped me tremendously.
Remember to stretch
Sitting down at a computer for lengthy periods of time always leaves my spine angry with me. I started getting in the habit of stretching in between classes, sometimes in the middle of class depending on how I’m feeling (kudos to virtual learning.) Even if it’s just getting up from your desk and walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water, removing yourself from being hunched over your desk can make the world of a difference and save you from worsening your pain. Heating pads can also made sitting at your desk more tolerable.
At the end of the day, the most important part is to remember that everybody experiences AS differently—so listen to what your body needs.
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?