September 12, 2017 by Dymphna

Truth Bomb Tuesday: Reflections on Being Sick

If you’re sick you should take it easy. But that doesn’t have to mean being unproductive.

Seems that’s there’s a bit of a lurgy going round. It’s taken the wind out of my balloon for a bit.

So I know I can over-analyse things a bit, but I’m thinking, what are the lessons that come with being sick?

And in particular, when you hit that point where your body finally overcomes your will. That point where you can no longer just put your head down and push on through. When your body goes, nope, that’s it. We’re throwing in the towel.

You and this flu are going to spend the week in bed together like newly weds on a honeymoon, but with more Lemsip and less Champagne.

The first point is an obvious one. Slow down when you need to. You’ve got to give yourself that permission. I know that’s tough when you’re not working for yourself, or when you are working for yourself and no one’s paying you sick leave.

The modern world isn’t really geared around being kind to our bodies.

But if you can, give yourself permission to recover.

There’s no free lunch here. We can push on through when we need to. It’s like the body always carries around some reserves it can draw on in an emergency.

And when you get sick, it’s like the antibodies come to you and say, “boss, we need to process this sickness vector that’s taken hold. Can we shut things down for a bit?”

And at that point, you seem to have a choice. You can say, “Ok then, let’s take a break.” Or you can say, “NO! I’ve got marking to do. Work is really getting busy. The kids need me to make their lunch etc.”

And with a conscious choice and a force of will, you can ‘postpone’ your sickness.

But when I say postpone, I mean it. It’s like you just push it back in your diary. You still have to deal with it one way or another.

And most times we only take time off when things have gotten so bad that our priorities shift and we just don’t care about our to-do list anymore. Sod the marking, I can’t even feel my toes.

So if you can, and this gets easier as you regain your financial freedom, lock restorative rest time into your schedule. Make space for nothing time. For lying on your back and looking at the trees time. Whatever it is that gives your body permission to slow down, stop, and recover.

The other point I’d make is about the stories we’re telling ourselves when we’re sick. I do this a lot myself. I’ll refuse to slow down and give myself a day off because there’s just so much important work to do.

But is it really that important?

Those times where you do get so sick that the whole city could be on fire and you still wouldn’t get out of bed, are you really that missed??

Does the world grind to a halt without you?

I’m the boss of my own company. I call the shots. But when I’m out of the game, my team makes a go of it without me. They find a way.

And if I’m honest, part of me is actually a little disappointed that the entire organisation didn’t collapse into farce as soon as I took my eyes off the ball.

A lot of the perceived importance we place on the roles we fulfil – at work, or in the community or in our family circles – is just a perception. It’s a story.

And it’s a story we tell ourselves because all humans want to feel useful. They want to feel like they’re making a valuable contribution that will be missed as soon as it is gone.

All the more so if we’re working in a role that doesn’t really feel like we’re doing all that much to make the world a better place. We start inventing stories about how what we do really matters, and how our role is central to its success.

(Without those stories, we have to face up to the soul-crushing reality that we’re puddling our lives away on someone else’s dreams.)

And so we are attached to our ‘importance’.

So here’s a tip: if you get sick and are then surprised to see just how well the world gets on with out you, might need to check whether your actions and your values are in full alignment.

The last point I’d make is that ‘slowing down’ and ‘taking it easy’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean abandoning being productive.

Sometimes it does and that’s great. But there is also a certain ‘mindless’ activity that can be very useful to connect with.

By that, I mean that space when we let go of that strategic, problem-solving part of the brain. We get ourselves out of the knot in our eyebrows and neo-cortex, and just let our bodies take the reins.

Just let our selves move effortlessly through our work. Not over thinking it. Not thinking at all.

Just slowly and gently move through what you have to do, doing only as much as you are able.

This takes a bit of trust, but give it a go and you might be surprised at just what you’re able to achieve on auto-pilot, while you have a little nap with Lemsip in the driver’s seat.

It’s a skill worth developing anyways. Perhaps being sick is a good excuse to give it some practice.

Anyway, t arere’s my thoughts this flu-season. Hope everyone is feeling robust and supported and has all the resources they need.

And if you are sick, get well soon.

How do you keep things flowing when you’re sick?