Posted on 4/30/2018 by Mark Hutchinson
"Awareness is the first step in healing."
- Dean Ornish
"It's always hard to deal with injuries mentally, but I like to think about it as a new beginning. I can't change what happened, so the focus needs to go toward healing and coming back stronger than before."
- Carli Lloyd
Everyone gets sick sometimes. I was reminded of this last week when my daughter came home from school not feeling well. As a “high energy” child she is generally quite resilient and not much will really slow her down, but even she gets sick from time to time. As we followed the typical protocols for dealing with a fever over the next couple of days we had some conversations about being sick and what you’re supposed to do about that situation.
Of course, the first step is prevention. We all work to stay healthy – and it certainly feels like work sometimes! Yet no matter how diligent, or careful we are, some type of sickness will find us eventually. So when that does happen, what do we do about it?
The first quote above is so perfect because it goes to the heart of the problem that most of us have with sickness. We just aren’t aware that it is happening until it is well underway. This is where our long years of experience are really supposed to pay off for us right? As we get older shouldn’t we be more aware of what’s going on internally? Yes, we probably should.
My daughter had realized that something we wrong before her after-school running group but she wasn’t sure. She ran anyway. By the way it was 85 degrees outside. As we walked home (very slowly with rest breaks… and only two blocks) she berated herself for not listening to her body before starting the running activities. It was clear to her in that moment that she had not taken action on the awareness of something being “off” inside her. I think most of us have had an experience similar to this one. When did the sickness start? The answer usually is – before we were actually aware of it.
So my question to her was; if you were sure you were sick earlier would you have made different choices? Yes.
Here is another case were “Know Thyself” really comes into play. The more you can become aware of your internal state the sooner you can detect that something is not quite right. You don’t necessarily need to know exactly what the cause of the issue is, but you need to develop a sense for your health. We often rely on external tools to tell us our internal state but you have billions of internal detectors that are feeding you that information in real-time. Might as well use them!
Once you know you’re sick you are faced with another great dilemma. What to do about it.
I’m surprised by how many people respond to being sick by ignoring and eventually having to consciously push through the pain and malaise to keep doing their normal day. If you know that you’re sick, shouldn’t you make different choices?
I suggested to my daughter: Now that you’re sick would you like to be healthy again? She said “yes”. What should you do when you’re sick in order to recover your health?
The fundamental answer to this question is that you must change your mind. Your mind will lead your actions and your body so you need to focus on thinking in the right direction first. Being sick isn’t your normal state, so your approach to handling it is going to need adjustments. However, just blobbing out on the couch or sleeping for three days straight isn’t the most fun thing either. Think about the opportunity of being sick. This is a special time for you when you do need to focus primarily on healing but it is also a time doing things that fit best into the low-activity zone. Reading, watching movies, crafts, drawing, puzzles, simple games, writing letters, etc. there are so many low energy activities that rarely get our time that are perfect for this sort of time.
So she changed her thinking to being more aware of her internal state and then taking action by choosing to rest and recuperate in a way that aligned most of her energy on the healing and used the rest for feeling good in other ways. She managed her energy. She focused on being healthy again. She asked questions and learned ways to boost her energy.
Yes, it is no fun to be sick, but after our weekend of thinking about and doing the things that we needed to do to manage her energy wisely she said to me: “That was best weekend I’ve ever had with you.” That sort of thing melts a daddy’s heart for sure. But I’m most proud that she is wiser for the effort of making moment to moment choices all weekend that resulted with her feeling refreshed, energized and healthy again. I’m confident that she will make the most of sickness in the future as well.
This week work to be more aware of your internal feelings and overall health and if you do happen to get sick make sure to respond quickly by focusing your mind on what it will take for you to be healthy again. The time you spend in “sick” mode doesn’t have to be boring or feel wasted. Adjust your thinking to turn those times into something special and fun … and feel better while you’re sick.