So this last week saw me suffering with a pretty terrible cold that could have derailed my entire week – which also potentially brought down my poor unsuspecting manager when I went to work thinking it had trailed off only to discover it was the calm before the storm (whoops). Obviously, I sulked. No one likes being sick after all. But this was supposed to be the first week back at work – a week of organising and planning and feeling in control. Not only that but this was also the week that I anticipated getting to work on that rewrite of my manuscript – the rewrite, the one that would whip it into shape and see me on the road to publication.
However, I’m now almost a pro at being ill. Having a long-term, chronic condition like M.E can do that to you – mainly because you don’t get any choice about it. Therefore, I’ve learnt the hard way that whilst being sick can be mighty inconvenient, it doesn’t have to rule your life in the short term. Here’s what I do to try and maintain some successful composure when I fall by the wayside:
- Know how to delegate
There are some things that have to be done – the dog needs walking or kids need to get to school. Are you the only person in the world that can do these things? As much as you want to feel indispensable, you’re not. Where you can, pass on things where you are not integral. This includes those meetings you organised but aren’t necessarily the key contributor and applies to those urgent tasks that other people are capable of. It hurts to admit it, but we’re not the centre of the universe.
- Spend time planning
Most of the time I spend being ill is either on the sofa or in bed. Not conducive to any other activity than groaning, moaning and wailing about just how bad I feel. Occasionally, though, I panic about all those things I had planned to do that I’m not getting done because I’m sick. Now, when I’m in bed and can’t sleep because of my over-active brain (and mucus filled lungs), I re-organise my life to ensure that, when I’m well, those things I want to do can still be done. Note the emphasis on want – something to get excited about, not to fear getting well over. Always allow yourself at least three days – don’t re-arrange everything for tomorrow, because tomorrow you might still be sick.
This way, when you get back to being your lovely self, you don’t have to worry about trying to fit in everything you have missed and will have a clear understanding of how your schedule is going to work. No more first-day-back worry about how to catch up on all you’ve not done because, you’ve got this.
- Accomplish low impact goals
During this last week I had planned to start the rewrite for my novel. I’ve been in no fit state to do that. Instead I installed Scrivener – a writing program – read the instructions (despite having used in the past) and imported my work into it. All of these things were small, niggling tasks that didn’t take much energy and I probably wouldn’t have spent much time over had I been rearing to go. As a result, I now know much more about the program I’m working with and have a solid foundation to begin what I had planned to start a week ago. Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but at least productive and related to my intended goal.
I also spent time reading – not a lot, and never for too long – and appreciated the chance to slow down a little bit. Is there a book you’ve been planning to read for ages? A friend you planned to write an email to but never found time? Something small that seemed insignificant amongst all the bigger goals can keep you sane when you are unable to achieve the much loftier ideal. At the heart of it – don’t take the small stuff for granted!
[Another thing I did when I was ill was to draft this post – leaving me more time to write this week! Sneaky, but *yay!*]
- Make sure you REST (aka – Know your limits)
Most people think this means lie on the sofa and watch TV, or read or check emails or some other mundane task that doesn’t take up a lot of energy. What rest actually is, is nothing: no listening to music, no talking, no reading. It just means lie down and let your body and mind rest. I practice mindfulness and this is what taught me how to be ‘at rest’. It’s the closest I can get and it really helps me deal with the myriad of symptoms I suffer and the need my body has to get enough rest. When you’re sick, this is what your body (and sometimes you mind) needs most. Don’t ignore it.
- Give yourself credit
At the end of the day, when you still feel rough and you think that you haven’t accomplished anything, remember that you haven’t been at your best. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to complete the possible, even when we aren’t capable of it – and thus these things become the seemingly ‘impossible’. Most people are sick for a few days, a week, maybe a month; it’s temporary and is unlikely to irreparably ruin your life. It’s a setback, but if you can allow yourself the time to rest, responsibly delegate what can be passed on and perhaps keep yourself sane and encouraged by contributing to your wider goals on a very small scale then perhaps when you get back to full health you’ll realise that getting sick wasn’t the inconvenience you expected it to be.
What do you do when you get sick? Any top tips or suggestions for how to prevent illness from disrupting your work/life?
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