Tips for when you are sick, signed off work and being told to ‘rest’ when you are an active person.
I would class myself as a healthy active person, I never suffer from colds - I’ve never experienced Flu - I’ve never even had ‘cramp’. But this year has been slightly different - I have had an unusual year, full of a great deal of learning curves!
Whilst travelling the Nepal and the Philippines, I contracted food poisoning a few times and after the 3rd time it didn't go away fully for a good six weeks. Some days I would be fine and others it would return in full force! Although this sounds minor, it was a bit unnerving to handle as I was out there to take advantage of all the active sports available. The Philippines has many activities to do - kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, waterfalls, caves you name it - you can do it.
I trooped on as I was determined not to let this prevent me from getting wet-suited up and getting active! I did feel for my travel buddy at the time, who had come all this way with me and then me not being on ‘top form'.
Moping about in a hotel room (or should I say hostel room or spare room of a locals house) would not in any way of helped in this situation - I would of missed out on so many incredible experiences - and I truly found getting up and getting stuck in, even if you felt a bit weak, actually made you feel better mentally and physically in the end.
Since being back in the UK I have been hospitalised three times with something called “Quinsy” - those of you who haven't heard of this (I sure never had) Its when an abscess develops in your throat near your tonsils, but it closes up the throat to the point of not being able to speak, eat, drink or swallow - so a little frustrating…
It is highly uncomfortable and depending how severe, it can cause unbearable pain throughout your face, ear, neck and jaw causing muscle damage so you're unable to open your jaw properly. The part of it which threw me the most is how much the whole thing effected my energy levels and my active lifestyle. My job is active. My hobbies are all active. I love having a lifestyle of keeping fit and strong and eating clean good food - and it knocked me for six! I think this is mainly to do with the fact I was unable to eat or drink so was struggling keep my strength up or my meds down.
However, as soon as I was admitted in to hospital the first time with every IV drip going - I sat and thought to myself very quickly - ‘Why am I here?’
I am one of those people who believes there is a reason for everything that happens in life. There was a reason I was in hospital with this illness, there was a reason it was at my busiest time of year in regards to work. There was a reason for all of its timing.
I embraced this thought immediately, and although I felt mega mega rough - I felt my body was maybe telling me to “slow the heck down Bex, you cant continue at this pace.” I hadn’t realised it at the time, but I had worked 21 days on the trot, I was exercising 6 days a week and was redecorating my flat at the same time in the lead up to this illness.
When you go through what others perceive as ‘a rough time’ when you’re sick or brake some bones etc, you could just sit and wallow, mope around looking miserable - speak negativity into yourself the whole time and waste masses of days of your life watching trash TV and average Netflicks.
I refused to do this.
I mean, if I’ve been given this time, for a reason, I don’t want it wasted. I was told specifically to ‘rest’, not to run, not to do yoga and not to work - I at least want to get some good out of it at the end, rather than look back and say to myself “what have I done for the last 3 weeks? and respond “I’ve sat on a sofa and achieved absolutely nothing.”
Every single negative has a positive and has the emotion ‘love’ intwined somewhere in it. I read not long ago about this and my favourite quote was
“having to clean the toilet could be seen as a negative and like there is nothing you love about it, but this is untrue - because at the end, you love that you have a sparkly clean toilet. Right there, is your love.”
So…I decided to learn some new hobbies. Get some productiveness out of this. As I felt it was the best thing I can do!
Firstly I had to rack my brains as to what were ‘restful’ hobbies and activities - as every hobby I currently had was active - running, aerobics classes, SUP boarding, yoga, snowboarding, hiking etc… Apparently the doctors orders were “yoga is not resting!” (much to my annoyance!)
By pure random coincidence (godincidence) I had bought a new book off Amazon called “Happy” by Fearne Cotton - it was actually a mistake purchase, and I didn't even know what the book was about. This book could not of been bought at a better time as it was so relevant to help my present attitude to what was going on, creative and encouraging, an all round positive educational read- it completely changed my time in hospital. It was so good in fact I ended up buying a further 5 copies for friends and giving it out as a gift to the people I thought relevant.
This book prompted me that creativity in the form of art, song writing and general writing is a beautiful restful hobby, and something I used to do all the time, but hadn't for many years.
I am also a practicer of mindfulness, and this is another hugely eye opening ‘hobby’ that out of everything I’ve done in life, I could not recommend it enough - because of the huge improvements it makes on your everyday life. How you see things, how you hear things, how you approach situations in business or with friends - it really is transforming and I enjoy life so much more now, just from learning to be more calm and balanced with my emotions and more aware of others.
I used to be a bit of a hectic baker - so decided to continue my hobby baking but be mindful whilst I'm doing it. Bake with plenty of time at a relaxed pace, enjoy each part of preparing the ingredients and seeing it all come together. It completely transformed it into a different hobby rather than ‘rushing’ baking.
My six top tips of things to do when you are frustratingly debilitated and off work are…
1.) Beautiful things happen in your life when you distance yourself from all the drama and negativity.
Think yourself well! Positive thinking has heaps of positive effects on the body. We all know about the placebo effect - scientists have proven it and more and more people in the medical industry believe in its amazing effects. Keep telling yourself “I’ve got this” “I am gonna get through this” “this is only a little bit of rough, in a whole life of awesome” and you can hold me accountable if it makes no improvement what so ever.
I actually forced myself to smile when I was feeling at my very worst / in the most pain and even doing that changed how I felt inside - shocked me really!
2.) Be productive and get creative!
Whether you’re crap at art, or good at it - who cares?! At least you will come out the other end of whatever illness you have having done something! Painting, photography, writing, baking - all are productive and put a smile on your face personally and can on others too.
An example of this is I began taking 20 minutes out of my evening each night to go and watch the sunset and to photograph it. This is not only beautiful to watch, but I can then capture it to also show others if they missed out on seeing it. Sunsets and sunrises are artwork in themselves, a different piece to see every day of ever changing art. It makes me feel happy inside and full of gratitude when I see these, and just appreciate the world we have around us.
3.) There is no drug that can do for you what self love, good food and moving your body can. Fact.
Time is precious. Don't waste it watching trash tv continuously on the trot for weeks on end (that you don't really want to watch anyway), eating terrible food and lying on your sofa! Granted - if you've been debilitated in some way with broken bones etc, I understand you might be in a case where you cant move to well, But if you can move - do it! Lying down all day wallowing does.not.help. Feed your soul and Love your body, treat it like a precious child you want to grow to be healthy and strong. A short walk to sit in the garden and grab some of that clean fresh air we love so much, changing position often on a bed if that is what you are confined to, getting up and standing by the bed and doing some stretches..these are all positive things! Don’t get me wrong here, a bit of trash is what some enjoy, what I have found is watching things that feed your brain and that you learn from make you feel so much more productive and like you’ve accomplished something in your debilitated state. BBC Planet Earth documentaries are ace for this and so are TED Talks on youtube or i-player. They literally cover every topic imaginable and are fascinating 10 - 20 minute talks on subjects and theories around the globe.
“I noticed I was starting to become the emotions I was feeling, dressing in baggy awful dark clothes which made me look terrible and worse than I actually was, I was eating horrendous food that i knew was so bad for me” - ‘fearne cotton - happy’
4.) “You are what you eat, the food you put in your body changes your chemical make up”
I spent approximately 12 months trialling different foods and different diet plans on a road to discover the difference it made to my body. I did two months cutting out dairy, two months cutting out refined sugar and processed food, two months cutting out gluten/wheat and various months cutting out alcohol (that was a toughy!) and also specific meats. The outcome of this was nothing but beneficial as I now completely understand and know my body, I know exactly what makes me feel lethargic and steals my energy, I know exactly what gives me indigestion, I know what makes my muscles ache first thing in the morning. So now me and my body can work together as a solid team!
I am not in any way at all suggesting you do this exercise for 12 months at all - that was just a personal choice of mine after speaking to many neuro - specialists at the brain tumour research lab in Hackney and various nutritional therapists on the effects of food on the body. I also was being sponsored at the time by a large honey packing company and wanted to see the difference of substituting all refined sugar in my diet with honey. What I am saying is - put some goodness into your body! Billions of pounds of research into the affects of food on our body isn't ‘some myth’ there is some science and evidence behind it! Feed yourself well. Cut out the packeted ready meals full of all sorts of chemicals and eat real wholesome food. It doesn't have to be lettuce leaves, it genuinely can still taste real good! There is a reason the rates of heart disease, cancers and obesity and general illness has rocketed over the years and life expectancy is shorter since more and more unnatural food has been introduced onto the super market shelves.
5.) Be grateful and mindful.
Gratitude breeds joy and happiness.
When you are grateful for the people who are around you, and the stunning intricate world we live in - it brings you joy, it brings you smiles, it brings you peace and happiness inside.
Being mindful that the doctors are trying to help you, as well as the nurses as well as your family and friends - appreciate this. In the UK the NHS gets heavily slated, which saddens me a bit, because we don't seem to realise how understaffed they are, how many hours they work, and how hard they work with so little breaks. This is something to be mindful of if you aren't having private medical care.
Also be mindful that if you are giving off a negative, angry attitude to your friends or family - it makes them less likely to want to come hang out with you and visit you! I am fully aware It is super hard to be positive sometimes, especially if you feel really really rough or are besides yourself in pain. You will get through this out the other side though, focus on all the exciting and good things to come once you are better again.
6.) READ! read. read. read!
There are so many awesome books out there, short ones and long ones. Creative ones, interactive ones - find the ones that make you tick!
I never used to think of myself as a 'reader', it would take me months on end to read a book, unless I was on holiday and I would invest some substantial time in reading whilst laying on a beach. I’ve discovered what makes me tick are the passions I have in life…why I didn't realise this before I do not know. I love anything about creation, anything about mountains, mountain sports, explorers, adventurers, the human body - mind connection, food, space and the universe and of course puppies. Sure enough If I start reading books about these topics, I get totally engrossed and cant put them down! Its pretty rare in the busy western lives we lead to take time out to go an sit down and read, you’ve been given this precious opportunity to have this time - so take it!
I really hope these little tips can help just one person out there who may be suffering with a illness or broken bones and is bored out their mind! I ended up enjoying more than loathing my time feeling horrendous in hospital because I learned heaps from new books, and heaps about myself and what I enjoy. It was a discovery into a new way of living. Although I have just got back out of hospital again after an operation to fix my illness this year, I can manage it all with such a different perspective that it isn't actually all that bad, knowing it has all occurred for a reason.
That reason I believe is this is just life’s little way of telling me to ‘hit the pause button’ briefly, to give me the chance and time to reevaluate the way I was previously living. I also never would of began blogging and writing again had I not gotten ill this year - and for that alone I am grateful.
P.S. If you would like any book recommendations - please don't hesitate to ask!