I ended up getting sick over the weekend (my own fault, I went out and played outdoors in…sub-optimal weather) and was reminded how much harder it can be to take care of ourselves when we’re not feeling well. Illness and managing your mental health takes some work.
Sometimes maintaining or working towards our own well-being takes a lot of energy. When we’re sick, our energy is “drained” (really, it’s elsewhere. It’s taking care of our physical body and attempting to heal it and keep all systems online). When you pile that on top of all the messages we receive about being sick and what that means (you’re lazy, you’re faking, you’re an inconvenience when you’re not being productive, etc), it’s no wonder it can take a toll on our mental health.
Take it easy
It can be really hard to feel positive about ourselves when we don’t feel well. So what can we do? First things first, take care of your physical symptoms as best you can. Snuggle up in a blanket, have some tea, hydrate and attempt to get some nutrition in whatever way your body can handle it. Pushing through pain and illness is just likely to delay your healing and might make others sick. Let me pause for a second and recognize that it is a privilege to be able to take a day off. Not everyone can do that or afford to do that and so sometimes sitting under a blanket sipping tea is out of reach. If that’s the case for you, do what you can.
Wear clothes as comfy as you can get away with. Use a really warm washcloth to cover your face for a few seconds if you can. Give yourself the most slack you can- if something does not absolutely need to be done, let it be for now. Ask for help. Delegate where you can. Be willing to accept less than perfect from others while you’re healing. If that’s hard for you, give us a call. Helping people give up perfectionism is something we’re good at
Change your perspective
Next up is your thinking. In recovery (specifically recovery from addiction), there’s an acronym: HALT. It’s a quick and easy reminder to never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. That’s because all of those states leave us emotionally vulnerable. When we talk about recovery, illness is also important to address because it also leaves us vulnerable. That just means that what your healthy self would normally fight off (the tiny little voice that says “you’re a failure for not doing this one totally irrelevant thing perfectly”, for example) sticks around because your healthy self is weakened. You’re more susceptible to “garbage thoughts”. Those thoughts that don’t serve you at all and make you feel ashamed are more easily accessible when you’re already down. So mind your thoughts and keep feeding yourself healthy thoughts. “This is temporary”. “I deserve good care”. “My body needs this rest and it deserves rest”. “It is a good thing to rest when I need it”. “I can pick back up when I feel better”.
Rest is okay
It’s easy to fall out of healthy habits you’ve worked hard to cultivate when you’re sick. So how can you keep being intentional about your recovery, your growth, when you’re feeling under the weather?
When we’re exercising towards a goal (be it to lift more, run faster, etc), rest days are important. But often, rest days aren’t about not paying any attention to your body and your goals; they’re about resting and taking care of the muscles you’ve been working by doing things like stretching and foam rolling. As we’ve said many times here, it’s about intention. When you take rest, do so with purpose. Remind yourself that this is about choosing to rest and take care of yourself. Compassion is a word I want you to hold near and dear to your heart, especially when you’re ill. You deserve compassion as much as anyone else in the world. Compassion is not about making excuses, it’s about understanding that life can be hard.
Treat yourselves well, friends. Speak kindly to yourself and take breaks as you need them. Be good to yourself and be on the lookout for unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, even more, when you’re ill. Connect with Perspectives Therapy Services if you want to discuss further.
Kayla Valley is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) who works at the Highland location of Perspectives Therapy Services. She became a therapist to help people struggle with the depression and anxiety that she understands intimately. She loves being a Michigander and is an avid sewist who loves spending time with her cats and sugar gliders.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.