Reframing a "Sick Day' into a "Healing Day"
Monday morning I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a MAC truck. I couldn't breathe through my nose and felt as if I was on a rollercoaster every time I lifted my head up and down. I felt the inevitable panic set in - I was sick.
Gone are the days of a sick day meaning that I get to stay home from school while my mom makes me my favourite chicken noodle soup while I get to snuggle in bed watching cartoons.
Now, as an adult, when I wake up feeling sick my mind goes into PANIC mode thinking through all the tasks that I should be completing that day. My brain decides to turn into the most dramatic being on the planet and begins to think that my entire existent will be ruined if I’m not able to get my work done that day and I feel myself getting short with others feeling like a wounded animal (like I said.. The dramatics appear when I'm under the weather.)
As I was sitting in my pool of despair trying to deny how I was feeling, I had a moment of clarity. I wondered why I thought that my “tools” could only be beneficial when I was operating at 100%, and not be helpful on days when I’m feeling sick. Instead of pretending to do work with less than a quarter of my capacity or aimlessly scrolling through social media feeling sorry for myself, I began to experiment with some of my favourite tools to see if I could reframe my perspective of the day.
#1 - Start with my 3-Why exercise. Over the years I’ve developed the habit of asking myself “Why” three times to get to the bottom of a problem I’m dealing with, especially when I catch myself in a destructive thought pattern. Here’s what it looks like:
- The problem: I woke up sick unable to do my job today and my thoughts are spiralling because I’m taking next week off of work and I have so many things I need to do before I can leave without panicking.
- First WHY - Why am I sick? I’m sick because I’ve been pushing myself over the last few weeks without taking days off and I was around my young nieces who have been battling the daycare flu.
- Second WHY - Why are my thoughts spiralling? My thoughts are spiralling because I’m always nervous before I leave work for any period of time and I’m panicking that I won’t be able to get everything done that I need to get done. I’m in a self-deprecating mode because I struggle to accept that I can get sick.
- Third WHY - Why do I think I’m impervious to being sick? Part of my identity is attached to being the founder of a wellness food company that supports people’s health which makes me feel like I should have all the tools and products in the world to NOT ever be sick.
The honest truth can suck to acknowledge at times, but by going through and asking yourself “why” multiple times it allows you to separate out why you are feeling what you’re feeling. Once you've created some mental distance to your emotions, you can start to create a plan to get yourself out of that spiral.
#2 - Acknowledge & offer Grace. By acknowledging that I struggle with the lack of control over my own health when I’m feeling sick, it brings a sense of calm. By understanding that my negative thoughts are coming from my ego, I’m able to allow those thoughts to pass and not be defined by them. By acknowledging that I’ve been pushing myself without break I’m able to clearly see that the ONLY way my body could take rest was by picking up a cold that forced me to rest.
After acknowledging what came up from the questions it was time to offer myself some grace. I gave myself grace to let go of my need to control my health and grace to understand that my attachment to my career is a gift because it's my life's true passion. I gave my body grace to feel what it needed to feel and thanked it for signalling that I needed to prioritize rest.
#3 - Build a "Healing-Day" Action Plan. I am an action-oriented human at my core. I wanted to reframe my perspective from calling this day a "Sick Day" to a "Healing Day" - I knew that in order to do so that I needed to create an action plan that allowed me to rest, but also get a few things off my list in order to tame my overactive brain. Here's how it looked:
- 10 minute check in with my team to let them know that I was under the weather and would only be accessible by text/email.
- 5 minutes to create a list of the 3 things I (truly) needed to get done for work. By limiting myself to 3 tasks I could tackle one at a time in between acts of self-care and was communicating to myself that these 3 tasks were ENOUGH for the day. It's easy to create an overwhelming to-do list with 40 items on it, but when we choose what is enough for that day you allow your brain to mentally check out once those tasks are completed.
- 10 minutes to create immune tonics. I mixed up our Nook's Immunity Shot with hot water and extra ginger to help decongest my chest and reduce the inflammation in my body and warmed up some of our Immune Broth to make sure that I was staying hydrated.
- 1 hr bath with lots of essential oils and epsom salts to allow my body and head to relax + 20 minute positive affirmation meditation while in the bath to release my negative thoughts and shift them towards healing. I practiced gratitude for my body, thanking it for protecting me against flu bugs and for having a strong immune response to help fight whatever I had picked up.
- Unlimited nap time. Our bodies are the most relaxed after a bath, so after I dried off I snuggled up in bed without setting an alarm to let myself get some extra rest.
- Lunch Time. I had Nook’s chicken lentil chili in my freezer so I pulled that out and enjoyed it with lots of extra spice to nourish my body with whole food ingredients.
- 1 hr work session to complete two tasks. By putting a time limit on myself I knew that I could muster enough brain power to complete two tasks in under an hour which gave me a sense of control without over exerting myself.
- Slow body stretch. I took the time to thank my body for fighting whatever it was fighting while gently moving my body (think holding child’s pose for 5 minutes) and kept reaffirming the fact that I was having a “healing” day versus a “sick” day.
- Another nap with a book. I let myself go back to bed to signal to my body that I was listening to it. I didn’t sleep, but ending up reading a book for an hour or so which took my mind off of the current situation and let it drift off into a compelling story.
- 1 hr work session to complete my final task. Again, I allowed myself to have a strict time limit to finish my final task for work so that I felt like I had still contributed to my to-do list as well as gave myself permission to fully shut off my work brain for the remainder of the day.
- Enjoyed a slow dinner on the couch. I had this week’s Red Lentil Dahl in my fridge which I warmed up along with another batch of immunity tea. The turmeric root, ginger, and spices in the Dahl really helped open up my airways and support my immune system and was very easy to digest.
- And to finish off the day... A ridiculously early bedtime. I was in bed by 8pm, threw on a calming bedtime story podcast, and drifted off into a deep sleep.
When I woke up 10 hours later, I was ecstatic because I could finally breathe through my nose. I didn't have a lingering headache and I could move my head up and down without feeling dizzy.
By reframing my day from a “sick day” to a “healing day” I was telling myself that I was working through this cold and that I was capable of a quick recovery. I sat through an extending meditation in the morning thanking my body for healing so quickly and for giving me the opportunity to have a joyful and productive day at work.
By shifting our perspective on being sick to currently we are able to reframe our thoughts and give the care and attention our bodies need without resentment or guilt. Our bodies are capable of so much. We simply need to be reminded to listen to them every once in a while.