This week I’m talking about self-care, and how important it is to be kind to yourself, especially when you’re sick!
Most of my friends will read this title and laugh. If there’s anything I’m *not* known for, it’s taking care of myself. Okay, maybe this is a lesson that I’m still in the process of learning, rather than one I have already learned, but I’m on my way there so I still feel like I can talk about it with some authority.
I’m the kind of person that always needs to be doing something. I exist with a constant need to be productive; to achieve something or create something with my time. I wake up and think: “great, how can I make the most of my hours today?”
Yeah, it’s exhausting.
I got sick last week. I had the worst cough. I felt like my lungs were going to cease to exist every time I coughed. It was so bad my flatmate even bought me a Covid test (it was negative, so maybe I’m just a wuss).
Usually when I get sick I’m a “power through” kind of person. Or, I used to be, anyway. I used to think “why should I let being sick stop me from doing stuff?” even though I was probably miserable “doing the stuff” and I would have been much happier in bed.
A lot of this mentality was born from working in the hospitality industry for so many years before I got into marketing. I don’t know what it’s like now, post-covid, but pre-covid the mentality was very much “unless you’re literally dead, you have to come to work”.
Because most bars and restaurants are understaffed, it can have a big impact on your colleagues if you call in sick. There was always a *sigh* on the other end of the phone when you called in. Even worse, your manager was always sceptical. You could feel them thinking “are you really sick, or are you faking it?”, even more so because you would hear them say these things behind the backs of your colleagues.
(Personally I think if your staff are faking being ill to not come into work, you’re probably doing something wrong as their boss. But I digress.)
There was one horrendous winter where I had tonsillitis four times because I was breathing in so much smoke lighting the coal fires at the pub I worked at. (How extremely Old and British does that make me sound?).
Once, when I was horrendously sick (dissolving lungs kind of sick), there was nobody to cover my shift. I was scheduled to work for 14 hours that day (they call that an AFD – all effing day), and nobody could come and let me go home. Luckily it was a quiet evening, so I sat on a table in the corner doing the paperwork for beer orders. All of the regulars looked on at me with pity as I sat casually dying in the corner.
(Sometimes I miss working in hospitality, and then I remember stories like these…)
Rewind to my third article in this series…
Learn to Take Care of Yourself
When Covid struck and we were all stuck inside anyway, I finally tried out the whole “staying in bed when you’re sick” thing. I recovered from my cold within about three days, instead of the usual seven-to-ten.
So, it really does make sense to look after yourself when you’re sick?
I guess when I was young and invincible, I assumed that my body was capable of recovering and doing everything at the same time. Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn’t, but it definitely is not anymore.
Last week, even with the worst cough in the world, I spent two days in bed watching Netflix and receiving tea deliveries from my friends (yes, even my international friends know the most important thing to bring a British person when they’re sick) and I was already feeling so much better.
It still pains me to stay inside. (Especially living on the fourth floor—there’s something really strange about knowing that my feet haven’t touched the true ground in several days). I still instinctively wanted to spend my days in bed working, writing, just doing something that I could class as “productivity”, but I tried to push these thoughts aside and let myself truly rest.
What do you know, it’s four days later and I’m right as rain.
It’s true that it pays to take care of yourself, and you’ll recover from an illness much quicker if you just give yourself a damned break. But I think there’s more to take away from this lesson. Something about having patience, and being kind to yourself for longer-term benefits. The older I get, the more I find myself being kind to my future self, and going after long-term gains instead of short-term benefits.
And, long may it continue! Because I am always grateful to my past self when the time comes to reap the reward.
How do you prioritise your wellbeing in times like this?