One neat trick for one day of energy (chronic illness edition)
February 24, 2020 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I've been invited to interview for an amazing doctoral program. The interview is this Thursday from 8am to 5pm and it is going to be rigorous. Multiple interviews, scenario role plays, etc. Yay! But. I have a chronic illness and am currently in a real downswing. Fever, exhaustion, low appetite, on and off GI distress. I haven't been able to complete a full work day without rest in the last month. Boo. What, if anything can I do to maximize my energy on Thursday?

I am already planning to hydrate like crazy. Wear comfortable clothes and layers. Get enough sleep

I may also take a Sudafed mid-day as it gives me an energy burst without the jitters from too much coffee.

What else should I consider?
posted by jeszac to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you take Tuesday and Wednesday off from work, too?
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Don’t oversleep. Stick to a good sleep schedule for the days ahead not just one night. Get up at 5.30, so sleep at 8 or 9, and have very quiet gentle mornings with a good breakfast like porridge for slow release fuel so that by 8am you’re solidly awake. Bring protein snacks like trail mix to eat throughout interview breaks so you have energy.

If it’s fever, take Panadol or whatever meds are appropriate and treat the fever at least at night so you sleep well. I take so many daily meds I’ve noticed I’m resistant to taking additional meds until it reaches a severe threshold. This is ridiculous and I have been gently yelled at it by my doctor, but I think fairly common among chronic illness people who don’t want to perceive themselves as sick because they have been warned so often they are hypochondriacs, and so underplay their pain. Take your meds!

Good luck with the interview!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:41 PM on February 24, 2020 [7 favorites]


Do you respond well to any other stimulants, and do you have access to them?
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


I think you should consider asking them for accommodations. Ideally, they would spread the interview over several days, instead of having the whole thing on one day. But if this is impossible at short notice, they may at least be able to provide you with extra break time - perhaps in a quiet room - and make sure that you have adequate access to restrooms.

Good luck!
posted by HoraceH at 4:22 PM on February 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


If you have to travel to the interview, don’t do it the day before so you can recover from that. Take zinc for a few days leading up to interview day so you don’t have a cold on top of your current flare. Have safe-for-your-GI-tract snacks in your bag at all times to avoid low blood sugar moments. If the schedule has breaks, spend them resting. Do not be too proud to say “I’d like to sit down; can we talk over there where there’s seating?” in the middle of informal social conversations.

This probably goes without saying, but be kind to future you: don’t have anything at all scheduled for the next couple days after it, and have easy food around so you don’t have to do much.
posted by mismatched at 4:46 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Oh, one final tip from days where I overspend my own personal energy bank: do not end up in a situation where you have to drive yourself home after this.
posted by mismatched at 4:58 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Seconding requesting accommodations. I am a professor and if I had a prospective student disclose disability/illness and request accommodations I would do whatever I needed to to make the process work better for them. We want to see you at your best so we get a real idea of what you are capable of. Also we would be worried about legal liability for not taking your condition into account.

I know some universities/professors are not enlightened about this kind of thing, but I'm not sure you would want to be in a doctoral program that is unwilling to make accommodations for your illness. (I know that's easy to say from the outside, but seriously, you don't want to find out two years in that they just won't work with you on what you need to be successful).
posted by lollusc at 5:15 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Thanks for all the excellent thoughts so far. Keep them coming! To clarify: Unfortunately, because of the nature of the program and the structure of the day, accommodations would be very hard to request.
posted by jeszac at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2020


Vitamin B12 gives me an energy boost - I usually take it on the day of an event. (Test it ahead of time in case it doesn’t agree with you!)

Make sure your food for the day is rock solid, tried and true stuff that your GI tract can handle, won’t stain your face or clothes, doesn’t smell strong, etc. Plan ahead for breakfast, lunch, drinks, snacks.

Good underwear

Switch your socks mid-day for nice clean dry ones

Bring a toothbrush and toiletry kit to refresh yourself mid day. I like mouthwash and gum (between things, probably don’t chew gum during the things)

Try to lie / sit quietly and clear your head partway through the day- maybe in your car

Make sure you’re warm enough- figure out professional looking layers and a way to carry them

Try on your outfit, hair, makeup, grooming, accessory choices ahead of time - do a full try on of the outfit and packed bag, to ensure it all fits, is ironed and repaired and looks great. Polish your shoes, figure out which bag, pen, folder, all that stuff. Professional water bottle. Coffee mug. All of it, chosen and nicely hung up ready to go that morning, with no decisions left to make.

Good luck!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:25 PM on February 24, 2020


In my opinion this is what caffeine* is for. I don't normally drink caffeine, but if I have to be on for a whole day when I'm not feeling well I have a cup of green tea in the morning. For me that is the sweet spot of more energy without completely losing my mind.

*My phone autocorrected caffeine to vagina, which has to be the best ever.
posted by medusa at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


Even if you can't obtain accommodations, as someone who regularly conducts doctoral-level grad school interview days, I think you should disclose your disability and explain how it affects you, in a matter of fact way. Programs cannot legally hold it against you, and if your energy is flagging at the end of the day and you underperform, there will be a clear explanation.
posted by shadygrove at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Modafinil if you can get it, adrafinil if you can't.
posted by metasarah at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


I've been finding acupuncture to be helpful for my energy levels and appetite, and I also have a chronic illness that tends to exhaust me, et cetera.
posted by katra at 9:00 PM on February 24, 2020


Prof here to third the advice to disclose. In comparing candidates, someone who's low-energy might be seen as less interested or interesting. If you can explain it, it helps us see the real you.

Don't forget that you are interviewing them, too. This is an opportunity for the program to show whether and how it can be supportive. That's good to know.

Actually, a pretty similar thing happened to me in my job interview, and now I have tenure, so.

Good luck!
posted by Dashy at 10:35 PM on February 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Grad student here to nth at least disclosing your situation, even if accommodations aren't available. This is valid information about you, that should not in any way be held against you, but also consider this: if you get an offer based on being a person you're not, all of the time, you have no idea how they'll accept you as the person you actually are. As someone who hit chronic illness while in a PhD program, I can tell you there are plenty of ways you can be sidelined that don't come to the level of violating the ADA. Please, find a way to make sure this interview is as much about finding if they are a good fit for you as you are for them.
posted by AthenaPolias at 7:25 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


Follow up:

Despite my reservations, I called and disclosed my status and they were incredibly receptive and have set aside a quiet room for me to rest between events. Y’all were one hundred percent right and I’m glad I acted on AskMetafilter wisdom rather than my own fears.

Also I reached out to my doctor who prescribed me Ritalin to try out today (so far so good) and then use to get through the afternoon tomorrow.

Big thanks to all of you. This advice was a game changer.
posted by jeszac at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


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