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Injuries and Illness: What to Do When You Can't Do Anything

Sometimes injury and illness happen when we need to slow down whether we want to or not. If we haven’t been caring for our bodies or managing our stress it serves as involuntary downtime. My friend Zach reminded me of a pretty powerful word quoted from Homer Simpson, “crisitunity” which was taken from the Chinese word meaning both crisis and opportunity. In other words, take the negative and view it as an opportunity to learn and grow from. Everything has its reason for happening even if it may difficult to see why and we must shift our perspective and accept it without judgement.

This month I had suffered 3 injuries all within 4 days of one another. First, my shoulder then two days later I broke my rib (both from surfing) and the next day when I had no business being anywhere but the couch or in bed, I got stung by a stingray which also later got infected. Yes, I should’ve given it a rest after the first incident and I went against the advice I give you as a health educator. I am just like any of you that perhaps hears their body, but doesn’t listen and the joy of running or surfing or hiking outweighs the pain… Until it literally knocks you off of your feet and you just can’t anymore. The moment I got stung I thought “this is what I get for not listening”.

The toughest part about being injured isn’t necessarily the physical pain itself, but coping with the frustration of not being able to do the activities that you enjoy. After two and a half days of being on the couch I started to feel the crazies creeping in. I was so bored that I couldn’t stand to watch anymore Netflix or read another book or browse the interwebs. I was so focused on what I couldn’t do like surf or yoga or even just go to the beach or for a walk. I wasn’t even able to sit to meditate or even take a deep breath!  As I laid there, staring at the wall, I felt it happen. I let go and surrendered. I fully accepted where I was physically and there was so much I couldn’t do, so I started thinking in terms of what I could do.

What you can and can’t do will vary depending on your situation of course, and sometimes you may be able to modify your activity. This wasn’t an option for me at this time and I’m living proof that if you push it and don’t listen the first time, you’re just going to make things worse so it’s better to take it easy now. Here are my suggestions for if you find yourself in my situation:

1.       Surrender. This is great advice for any moment you find yourself in daily life that you have an aversion to or any time you can’t control the moment (which is 99% of life). By surrendering, you are accepting yourself and your current physical limitations. There’s no point in wallowing over not being able to be out there doing your thing. Your focus is on rest and recovery and that can be one of the toughest challenges we must learn to embrace.

2.       Be open to receive. It’s hard to admit when we need help. It’s also really nice to remember how much your friends and family love you. If you need someone to stop by the store or help you lift something or just sit with you for awhile it’s okay to ask. Chances are, you probably won’t have to and they will be asking you what they can do to help. It was surprisingly difficult for me to allow myself to receive help, but by accepting that help when you need it is good practice for being gracious for even when you don’t.

3.       Be patient. In most cases, your condition is temporary. The body is an amazing thing that will do its best to put itself back together, as long as you give it the tools it needs to do so. It’s really easy to be frustrated with it and even angry over it’s shortcomings, but give it love, rest and the nutrients it needs and you’ll be better in less time than if you pushed yourself too soon.

This advice is great even for day to day life, but it’s what really saved me from my frustrations with my physical body until I could get off of the couch. It will probably be a few more weeks before I can get back in the water or on the mat, but I am able to work and walk and I have gotten pretty good at jigsaw puzzles. If you need any recommendations for a documentary to watch or a good book to read I’ve got plenty!

Grace Peterson