We live in a world that worships hardship. As if pain is the only way to live life to its fullest. There is no way of being other than showing up for life — overworked and exhausted. On most days, we write an overachiever’s to-do list and beat ourselves to death when we are unable to accomplish it. If we don’t hit the gym for some time,
we start to swim in a pool of self-loathing. Even when we are relaxing, the thoughts of unfinished work, the lurking deadline, the laundry and dishes take up all our mind space. Even when our bodies are still, our mind never rests for a moment.
Our holidays are planned in such a way, trying to pack maximum, that we come back with more pictures than good memories. We come back more tired than rejuvenated. We need time to recover from our hectic holiday.
So, in such a circumstance, the only way to truly surrender to the moment and become fully what I call ‘activity-less’ is to fall sick. Our bodies are our best friends and that’s why they know what we need the most. When mentally we do not want to stop, our body presses the emergency break.
Falling ill brings out the child in us. We want to be close to our loved ones, the exact people we take for granted and do not invest in on busy work days. We miss our mom or simply want to cuddle with our partner. We seek the comfort and the protection of bodies that are non-threatening as opposed to the constant high-pitched, stressful interactions with bosses and clients.
Most importantly, it’s only (sometimes not even then) when we fall ill, that we allow self-compassion to kick in. I have been taking steam, eating healthy, and drinking fluids all day long after I caught a viral fever. On a normal day, I wouldn’t give myself more than 10 minutes to shower. We don’t do the bare minimum for ourselves on most days, while trying to fill our days with work that serves only someone else, mostly in return for a pay cheque and sometimes validation.
We are so conditioned by the ‘work is your worth’ culture that falling ill can be guilt-inducing. Many wear ‘I worked through an illness’ as a badge of honour.
An illness can throw us off our routine, which can be frustrating but it can also clean the rut we have fallen into. It can reboot us so that we return with greater vitality. It’s a good time to ponder over how we are damaging our bodies and minds.
Finally, save your sick leaves for when you fall sick and use your casual and privileged leaves for fun activities like vacations and weddings. We often feign illness and use up sick leaves. Know that falling sick is a part of life. There is no escaping it. Plus, let’s normalise taking leaves without having to lie that we are ill.
A few dos and don’ts when you are recovering from an illness:
Take the break without guilt
Rest like there is no tomorrow
Do not bother about the bad skin or hair
Don't exercise if you are a fitness freak
Eat without watching calories. The objective is to get yourself back to health, not maintain a certain weight
Don't let anyone tell you that you are making a big deal out of a 'small illness'
Draw boundaries and decide for yourself what is an appropriate response to an illness
(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter)