The decision to embark upon further learning is really exciting and can be a little daunting. Whether you are heading off to university, undertaking vocational training, or finessing your skills through professional training or additional learning at work, it’s so much more than just the learning. It’s a lifestyle adjustment, it’s finding the balance between learning and working, and it’s meeting new people.
Taking all of this on can seem overwhelming for almost everyone but learning to navigate this chapter of your life while simultaneously managing your CML can feel like an extra challenge.
We have curated a list of useful tips to support you as you head into studying, learning, or training with CML.
Eat, move, sleep, repeat
- If you are currently receiving treatment for your CML, you may be dealing with nausea, digestive issues, and loss of appetite – all of which can make it hard to prioritise a healthy diet. Focusing on eating a well-balanced, healthy diet with plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fats, and enough calories to sustain your weight and energy levels1 is especially useful when you are learning, studying, or training. Consuming a varied, nutritious diet can also contribute to improved cognition and better concentration levels2.
- If you feel up to it, regular movement can help to increase energy levels and mental clarity; two essentials in preparing you for those long hours of studying3. Exercising does not need to be intense workouts. While you are learning, you may only have enough time or energy for a 30-minute walk during your lunch break, or regular trips to the kitchen to fill up your water bottle, and that is fine. Movement is movement and anything is always better than nothing.
- It goes without saying that practicing good sleep hygiene is beneficial for everyone. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on attention and can impair working memory, which will of course affect your ability to learn effectively4.
Get the most from your learning
It’s very easy to sit at a desk for hours on end when you are studying or working on coursework. While it’s great to find a flow with your work and to be in the zone, the power of frequent breaks should not be underestimated.
- Fatigue is a very common symptom of CML and side effect of treatment, so long stretches of work can feel draining and ultimately quite unproductive. Methods such as the Pomodoro technique promote small chunks of hard work and concentration, scattered with frequent, short breaks to allow you to manage distractions, take short rests, and make better use of your time5. You can read how to follow the Pomodoro technique here.
- If you feel able to, why not head outside for a walk on your lunch break? As well as having endless benefits for your physical and mental health, walking is also known to greatly improve attention levels, and decrease levels of stress6.
Taking on learning in any of its many forms is definitely a challenge, and doing it with CML may feel like an impossible feat at times. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t forget to use the resources of your workplace, college, or university. It’s a good idea to reach out to the support systems that are available to you. What you disclose it up to you, but it can be beneficial to explain as much of your circumstance as you are comfortable with so that adjustments can be made for your learning, work, coursework, placement and exams if need be.
While embarking on further learning, training or education may be a huge goal for you and may feel like the most important part of your life right now, so too is your health. You are only human, and if even after trying all of the tips above it still feels like too much, there is no shame in putting your learning to one side for now. The option to come back and finish what you started is there for you if and when you feel ready.
- Gómez-Pinilla F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–578. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421
- Lambourne, K., Tomporowski, P. (2010). The effect of exercise-induced arousal on cognitive task performance: A meta-regression analysis. Brain Research 1341, 12-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2010.03.091.
- Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 3(5), 553–567.
- Mohammad, F. Investigating the Impact of Walking on humans Health.