Coping With Injury and Illness
Those of you who are signed up to my email list will know that I’ve recently undergone some (relatively) minor surgery. But because of that surgery I’ve been forced to take a break from exercise, or overexertion of any form (boo hiss!)
For a dance teacher and someone who is pretty much always on the go, this has been a tough few weeks. And it’s got me thinking about the effects injury, or even just illness, can have on us if they disrupt our normal routines.
It can be really tempting to push through the pain, at all costs, because we have a life, and a routine, and goals, and if we stop, we’ll fail.
I get that.
In fact, over the last few weeks, Ricard has had to tell me off loads because I keep “overdoing things”.
It is super hard to accept that you can’t keep maintain your normal routine but your mindset and approach to injury and illness will really help you turn a negative experience into a positive one.
And remember, fitness isn’t just about exercise, it’s about being physically healthy. And that means taking care of your mental health too.
So here’s a few handy tips that I’ve been using to help me maintain my sanity (and keep my anxiety & stress levels down) during an enforced period of rest…
Sleep & Rest
Okay, let’s start with the biggy, sleep.
We already know how important sleep is to our health in general, but when we’re recovering from illness or injury it’s even more vital we get enough zzz’s.
Firstly, illness…Studies have been done which suggest that sleep is necessary to help boost the immune system. In fact, sleep deprivation can make you both more vulnerable to infection and less able to fight it when awake. Therefore, if you’re suffering from a cold, the best thing you can do is have a duvet day. Good excuse eh 😉
And what about injury? Well, during sleep more energy can be used to restore your bones and muscles because it isn’t needed to power you and your mind. A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience discovered that subjects lacking sleep had fewer fibroblasts and capillary vessels. Both of these play a vital role in wound healing.
Furthermore, the production of growth hormone peaks during deep sleep. HGH is responsible for cell reproduction and regeneration, and therefore plays an important role in healing wounds. It also stimulates the immune system, useful for healing both injuries and illnesses.
In fact, some athletes are even encouraged to participate in sleep training to both prevent and heal injuries.
And rest is important too – don’t overexert , or be too hard on yourself. Bodies take time to heal, and resting will speed up the process.
Feeling twitchy, you don’t have to just sit around doing nothing…. Read a book, do some life planning, take a bath, have a coffee with a friend, go for a walk in the countryside (depending on your injury of course!) All these things are great ways to keep your mind off being unwell and don’t require too much energy – meaning more can be spent on healing 🙂
During the healing process – whether injury or illness – the body needs certain key nutrients to function optimally. You should focus on making sure you get enough of the following:
Protein – Protein is needed for immune system functions, skin health and the production of enzymes. In fact, it is the fuel you need for most bodily functions.
Vitamin A – Useful for skin health and cell growth, can also help fight inflammation
Vitamin C – Stimulates the formation of antibodies and boosts immunity. Also helps with collagen formation.
Vitamin E – Works as an antioxidant and boosts immune system.
Copper – Helps form red blood cells and works with vitamin C to form elastin and strengthen tissue.
Zinc – Boosts immune system functions, helps with tissue regeneration
Other nutrients – including B vitamins, iron, prebiotics and probiotics, may also help with immune response.
Patience my little friend…Don’t run before you can walk.
When you start to feel a bit better, it can be tempting to go all out and dive headfirst back into your normal routine.
Take little baby steps, see how your body reacts. If you get tired easily, are in any pain, or your illness/injury worsens. Stop.
Listen to what your body is telling you, don’t just push through it. You’ve been kind and let it heal nicely so far, just give it a little more time.
Once you’re a bit better and you start getting back into your routine, you might find that you’ve lost strength/flexibility/endurance/gained weight. You might even find that it’s a struggle to start with. That’ completely normal.
What you need to avoid is falling into a limiting mindset of: well what’s the point now? I got so far and now I’ve lost it all.
Try thinking about, or writing down, what motivated you initially. What’s changed?
What’s your end goal?
Break it down into little bite size chunks and take it one day at a time.
You’ll be amazed by how quickly you get back to where you were, and then some.
Mindfulness & Meditation
This is the biggie that will help with both staying fit and motivated while injured or sick.
Regular meditation or mindfulness (even a few minutes a day) will help you feel calmer, less stressed, and more rested.
This in turn means your body can use up more energy on healing you, and less worrying about that mistake you made a week last Thursday.
It is also normal to feel anxious about the fact you aren’t able to keep up your daily routine, to worry about the healing process, or to feel frustrated that you can’t do everything you want to do.
Mindfulness meditation will help alleviate some of that stress and allow you to focus on healing, and finding your motivation once you start to feel better.
In fact, research suggests that maintaining a positive attitude and using creative visualisation can help in the healing process.
Starting a meditation habit can seem a bit daunting, so I’ve created a little (free!) 5-minute instant calm meditation to get you on the right track.
Pop your details in the box below, and you’ll get access to it straight away 🙂
And don’t forget to get in touch and let me know if you’re struggling with anything fitness, mental health or diet related!
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Instant Calm Meditation
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whenever you need a moment for yourself.