The lost art of Convalescence

This Winter has been tough and in the last few weeks I’ve seen a high amount of people who have sought my help in recovering from particularly bad colds, Flu and very persistant and debilitating coughs. When I say recovering, I’m not talking necessarily about the actual symptoms of the illness itself but more the weakness, lethargy, loss of a full appetite or perhaps inability to regain a proper sleep pattern or simply the feeling of ‘not being quite right’, after the illness has gone. Thankfully this recovery is relatively straight forward using Homeopathic remedies and even quicker if other essential components to good health are introduced.

What are these components – nothing mysterious, just common, old fashioned sense really – rest, fresh air, gentle exercise, good nourishing foods and plenty of sleep. Oh and taking the time to do all these things BEFORE returning to work or school or taking part in sport or any other strenuous activities that will drain us of our already depleted energy. This is the part that many of us – and particularly women – find so difficult to do – or not do!  Why is this?  Is it that we think we don’t deserve time out to recover? Is it that we don’t see it as important, or do we regard ourselves as so indispensable that the world will not turn without us firmly back behind our desks!? Or is it that every bit of messaging or advertising tells us ‘No need for time off work – pop this pill and carry on’.! Is it that due to email, social media, smart phones etc that it is actually extremely difficult to leave work firmly in the office or workspace because ‘it’s just an email or just a quick text ……….’!? Many Employers take advantage of the fact that they have constant access to their employees but they can only do that with the permission of the employee. If you set firm boundaries that work for you and are within the terms of your contract of employment, you should be able to switch off completely from your job, not be on permenant call.

Without boundaries, our work comes with us into every aspect of our lives and we can find it very hard to just switch everything off and trully be unavailable. This modern culture of ours, that is faster paced and quicker changing than ever before, means that we are often afraid that ‘disconnecting’ means that we will lag behind or miss something vital or that we are somehow not working hard enough. So we remain constantly connected, ever vigilent, on permenant alert, and inevitably adrenally fatigued, overwhelmed and stressed. The results of this are anxiety, disrupted sleep or unrefreshing sleep, sugar, alcohol or coffee cravings to help us through the dips in energy and the inevitable crashes that follow these false spikes in energy – so the cycle begins again! Unsurprisingly this lifestyle is not sustainable in the long run and we make ourselves far more vunerable to illness by persisting with it. But also because we don’t allow ourselves anything but the merest minimum of time off for illness (or anything else), we often return to work full tilt with what amounts to only a half full tank of fuel.  We are then impatient to get back to our ‘normal’ speedy selves so we can start the cycle all over again. This is nuts and so counter productive.

How many times have you sent your kids back to school knowing deep down that they are not really able for it yet? I must stress that I do not for one moment believe that this is because you are a bad parent, but rather it’s because you are either under pressure from your own job to get back in the hot seat, or fallen victim to the school ethos that if children miss so much as a day then their whole lives will be compromised!  Great fortitude and strength is needed by all parents in the face of such pressure! However, what happens is, like you, your child does not have recovery time, battery recharging time, before they too are back in their hot seats. So both of you are denying yourselves convalescence time and often becoming weaker and more vunerable to whatever is doing the rounds illness-wise. As Parents we are also teaching our children to continue in our footsteps – not investing in themselves and pushing themselves to work and perform even though they feel unwell is the lesson we teach when we do it ourselves!  I believe it is absolutely vital that we break this ridiculous and unhealthy pattern and build in proper time to recover from illness before expecting ourselves to function at full capacity then our children will learn from our example and the cycle will be broken.

Lets look at the dictionary definition of Convalescence:-
‘time spent recovering from an illness or medical treatment; recuperation.’
“a period of convalescence” recuperation, recovery, return to health, process of getting better, rehabilitation, improvement, mending, restoration.’
Note how all the language refers to time passing or a process rather than an event. The process of building ourselves up again and replenishing nutrients and resources that have been used up fighting an illness, demands us to invest in ourselves, to give ourselves the time and care needed to do this.  Sadly this seems to have become regarded as somehow admitting a weakness or vunerability and has become deeply unfashionable, and we wonder why there has been a massive increase in chronic illnesses – again particularly amongst women – in recent years!  If we ignore the early warning signs of minor illnesses, the signs that we have somehow become a bit more vunerable, that our immune systems may be struggling. If we pop a pill to mask symptoms and carry on until we just can’t keep a lid on that boiling pot anymore and we are often forced to stop and go to bed for a time. If we then rush back before we have a chance to recuperate, we are setting ourselves up for deeper, more invasive and more debilitating long term illness. Our failing bodies will force us to take that much needed rest and recuperation time!
I would like to call on as many of you as possible to start investing in yourselves, caring for your long term health as well as your short term – the statutory 3 days off work is not always enough, start listening, really listening to what your body tells you and stop artificially boosting flagging energy levels with stimulants like coffee, tea, sugar or alcohol. Eat regularly but proper whole foods, drink plenty of water, get out in nature and breathe fresh air as often as possible, go to bed earlier, take naps if you need it, rest rather than be ‘doing’, all the time – maybe following the ladies in the photo above and lie under a blanket in the fresh air!  Set a curfew time for electronic gadgets – is it really essential that you recieve notifications of every post, will you really suffer if you don’t look at your smart phone after 7pm? Never have your smart phone or tablet or laptop in your bedroom – we are at our most vunerable from harmful electronic waves while asleep and the blue light from screens has been shown to keep us awake.  Be mindful, in the moment, savour the simple pleasures in life without having to take a photo and upload it, schedule in quiet time, time for reflection and meditation and getting in touch with yourself even if it’s just to notice what aches and pains you have and make a plan to give yourself regular TLC –  whatever that means to you. Show your children that you do this and teach them how to do it too – many schools are now building in meditative practises like Mindfullness or yoga. Teaching our children how to tap into their own powerful emotional tools as well as how to eat, exercise and sleep well will make the difference between them being healthy adults or unhealthy adults and we as parents are their most powerful and influential teachers.
Perhaps if we all get into the daily habit of doing these simple things then we will start to understand the importance of investing in ourselves and once more embrace the lost art of convalescence. What a different world we would then inhabit!
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