School, college and university

Sometimes the symptoms of a thyroid disorder will mean that it’s hard to concentrate at school or college and hence to keep up with your studies. It’s worth remembering that along with all the other changes happening in your body during your teenage years, your body clock also changes to run on average three hours later. What this means in practice is that all teenagers and young adults tend to move to a body clock which encourages them to stay in bed in the morning and to say up later at night.

Unfortunately, our education systems have not caught up with the reality of the teenage body clock, and so many young people struggle their way through the morning at school, college and university. You may find that you finish the week with what’s called ‘a sleep debt’ where you’re so tired you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday morning.

You may find that you have to take days off, either because you don’t feel well or because you have to attend doctors or hospital appointments during the day.

It’s really important that someone at the school, perhaps a teacher you get on well with or the school nurse, understands that you have a thyroid disorder and the effect this may have on your health. Try to be honest and open with them about how you’re feeling so that your teachers can support you as best they can. You can also signpost them to the BTF website and information leaflets which will give them more details about what you may be going through.

If necessary, and this will be especially important around exam time, ask your doctor to write to your school and explain your situation, as it may be possible for you to have extra time during exams or other support that will help you do your best.

When you leave school and go to college or university, the same applies. If you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of lectures or assignments then it’s important to talk to someone who can help you. You don’t have to tell anybody, but if you struggle with symptoms that may be thyroid-related (perhaps you are feeling particularly tired, or finding it hard to concentrate on tasks that wouldn’t normally be a problem) then it’s usually a good idea to speak to someone in the student support office to let them know about your situation. Many colleges and universities offer support to help students learn how to do self-directed study, and have good ideas and resources to help you to manage your time effectively so that you can have a good work/life balance whilst studying.

Work

When you apply for a job you don’t have to tell your employer about your thyroid condition. As long as your thyroid levels are under control there’s no reason why your diagnosis should affect your ability to do most jobs. Occasionally your thyroid hormone levels may be a bit out of control and this might mean you struggle with some aspects of your job. For example, perhaps you’re feeling very tired or finding it difficult to concentrate.

If this happens you may consider telling someone who manages staff at your workplace (human resources (HR)) about your thyroid disorder and about the effect you think it may be having on you. Most employers are flexible and supportive so you can also signpost them to the BTF website and information leaflets which will give them more details about what you may be going through.

Making the transition from education to the world of work can be a big change. Even if it’s something you’ve been looking forward to, it’s normal to find it’s stressful and tiring at first. Lots of people don’t like the first few weeks in a new job; it’s easy to feel like you’re a nuisance when you have to ask other people lots of questions in order to know what to do. Unfortunately stress and fatigue are known for causing problems with our ability to concentrate and remember information. It’s a really good idea to make notes to remind yourself how to do your different tasks at work. Some people also find that the time of day has a big impact on their ability to do certain tasks, for example, some people are best doing creative tasks in the morning, while more mundane tasks suit them best in the afternoon, while for others things are the other way round.

If you’re feeling unwell don’t forget you should arrange to see a doctor and ask for blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels and to see whether your prescription needs changing.

If you regularly need to have time off for medical appointments during work hours then it may be helpful to ask your doctor to write a letter to your employer explaining your situation. You might not want to, but if this is the case, it’s also a good idea that you offer some kind of explanation to your colleagues. You want to avoid the situation where they are having to do work for which you are getting paid on a regular basis! Resentful colleagues are not fun or easy to work with, so it’s good to be as open with them as you can, and to express appreciation for the help and support they provide you. It’s also good to make sure you offer support to them when it’s appropriate for you to do so. You might be surprised how much goodwill you can generate for yourself by doing some simple little things like asking your colleagues if they’d like a tea or coffee when you get one for yourself.

Living away from home

Leaving home for the first time, for whatever reason, will bring mixed emotions. It can be a very exciting time but will be daunting as well as it will probably be the first time you’ll live independently from your parents or carers. It’s therefore important you take all necessary steps to make sure you keep healthy and look after yourself well.

If you have a thyroid disorder then you should make sure you register with a GP (if you’re in a new town) soon after you arrive. You can also ask your GP or specialist doctor at home to write a letter for you to take to your new doctors’ practice that gives details about your diagnosis and your current treatment. This will make things easier for you if you need to arrange blood tests or get repeat prescriptions before your new doctor receives your medical records.

There’s a lot to cope with when you leave home, even if you feel ready to be living on your own, or sharing a space with friends. You will discover that being solely responsible for your finances and living space brings with it a whole host of tasks that you might never have given any thought to before. If managing your energy levels is an issue for you it’s a good idea to pace yourself. Think about the household tasks that need doing each week and spread them across the week. If you try and make sure that you tidy up after yourself you can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend having to dust and clean (it’s always harder to do the cleaning if you’re living in a bit of tip). Make a note in your phone or in your diary of when key things like bills are due so you don’t get caught out, and make sure as many of them as possible are put onto direct debits.