Healing isn’t linear: or two steps forward and one step back?
When you are healing, recovering or experiencing a challenging time, the improvements or progress that you see are often far from linear. It is very common to find that one day you feel more energetic and want to push yourself and then the next can feel like a, sometimes huge, step backwards. In the pursuit of good self-care, (a topic that you may well know is very close to my heart and one I feel passionately about), it is so important to embrace this as being simply the nature of the beast.
Good days and bad
On the good days you might want to really enjoy that stretch but finding the balance of what is too much can be tricky. Human nature is such that most people are not very comfortable feeling vulnerable or unable to do things they have previously taken for granted. Because of this you may well have found yourself, on many occasions, overdoing it and pushing too hard too soon. When this happens it can easily feel like a big setback but if you can move away from the idea that the progress you make ‘should’ be linear you might find it easier to listen to your body and what feels right for you at any given moment.
A concrete reminder
Whilst I am at home recovering from appendix surgery, I have noticed that my step tracker is a very concrete reminder of this process. Usually, I have a very active life but so far this week I have done the same number of steps that I can sometimes do in just one day! I had initially thought that I would gradually increase the number of steps that I would do each day until I got back to my more usual weekly level. Until yesterday, that pattern had indeed more or less naturally followed since operation day last Wednesday. But yesterday afternoon, after a wonderful, and really not very energetic, visit to see my horse, I realised it was time to stop. What’s more important was the acceptance that it was ok to have a more restful day and that it didn’t mean my progress or healing was going backwards just that it is important to respond, as best we can, to our body’s changing needs.
Sometimes your human mind can be in conflict with your human body
The surgeons discharged me from day surgery with the advice that I should avoid lifting anything heavy for at least two weeks. As someone who is generally used to being able to lift most things that I want to having to stop and think before doing so is a little odd and disconcerting. I’m, thankfully, no longer in any pain, which is wonderful but does also mean that I don’t have that immediate cue to remind me not to do anything strenuous. It is almost as though my mind forgets and I am having to create a new habit of slowing down my pace to allow my body to let me know before I do too much.
I am fortunate that in this instance the new habit is temporary but sometimes things can happen that might mean you need to create different longer-term habits to look after yourself after a change. More permanent changes can be harder to deal with and can affect how we see ourselves, our identity, as well as our confidence. There is no shame in asking for help as we navigate these transitions in our lives, however temporary or permanent they may be.
And remember that we are all control freaks!
I have written about this before but I think it is a topic worth returning to briefly here. It is human nature to want to feel in control of our environment yet we live in a world where many things are out of our control. Just switching on the news constantly reminds you of this and the absolute global nature of the pandemic has done so more than most events. You will likely also have a collection of small, medium and large events that have affected you more personally and individually. Every time one of these happens it is like an ‘out of control’ button gets pressed inside. You may respond very differently to this button than I would, or anyone else you know, but we all have one.
Simply knowing and accepting it exists and that you are likely to feel anxious, and possibly not make the best choices, when it is triggered can help. It can also be useful to understand that it is part of the human condition and therefore not something unique to you or a flaw or failing in any way. These buttons are much more likely to be pushed at times when you feel low, stressed, unwell, in pain or just generally more vulnerable in some way. Be extra kind to yourself at these times, be brave and ask for help if you need it and remember that taking some steps back will sometimes be exactly what you need.
© Dr Karen Janes, 28th October 2021