Recently a client told me that maybe it would be better if she just got sick so she could spend a few days in bed resting. For the past week her entire family had been fighting off one bug after another, and she was exhausted. I shared my strategy of taking time off when I feel the first hints of less-than-wellness, preferring to spend my time in bed resting without being miserable.
It really got me thinking how we’re programmed in our culture to keep going, going, going no matter the cost to our health. We’re taught to push through discomfort and to force ourselves to carry on at any cost. In order to receive permission to take time off, from an authority figure or even ourselves, we often need to be seriously ill, oozing bodily fluids, devoid of all energy, and utterly wrung out.
Then it takes a week or more to recover when a day or two of rest might have been enough to avoid the entire episode. From a productivity point of view, it’s completely inefficient. From a wellness point of view, it’s completely bonkers!
Choosing to prioritize my health has shifted my thinking completely. I recognize the value in protecting my life-force energy and making choices that maximize my well-being. When I don’t work, I don’t get paid, which only reinforces my desire to defend my health. Taking two days off is rarely easy, yet it’s always easier than loosing a week or more of work.
My most recent bout of almost-sickness led to some serious soul-searching. What could I change to prevent a future incident? What is it that I give myself permission to do when I’m sick that I don’t have permission to do when I’m well? Is it possible to provide that without needing the threat of illness? Spending two days in bed creates its own problems in the form of stiffness and backache and isn’t the most ideal solution.
For many people it is about rest. But I fiercely guard my precious sleep, so that’s not it. For me, the answer was obvious. I’m “allowed” to do nothing and watch movies when I don’t feel well. It’s about downtime and entertainment. Pieces of the puzzle that are often missing in my daily life.
I’ve decided to upgrade my plan from resting when illness threatens to making time in my schedule every week for play and fun. Finding blocks of time that aren’t about being productive or learning or even creating (as much as I enjoy these things) is the prescription.
If I willingly give my psyche the time it needs to thrive, it won’t need to demand it through illness. Which isn’t to say that I’ll never be sick again. I wish! I’m still living in a human body, with all its frailties and imperfections. Yet I can give myself the best chance possible to prevent all preventable illness by making pro-active decisions.
And that’s really the best I can do.