Getting sick or injured is no fun. The condition pulls you out of your comfortable life and routines. Whether you want to or not, you have to give up or alter your daily habits in order to be able to cope with the sickness or injury. Not the funniest thing, but there can be positive aspects of it.
I am nursing an infected wound in my thigh, which means the strategies are very top-of-mind. The wound reminds me of its existence with every step, but there is some good coming from that. More about it later.
It’s not always easy to cope with setbacks while maintaining a productive outlook, but it beats anger and self-pity every time. What follows are few of my strategies for dealing with sickness and injuries.
The Ultimate Rule: No complaining
By complaining you will convince yourself that your life is horrible. Also, no-one wants to help you when you complain. When asked you can and should be authentic and tell how you feel, but don’t complain. The next additive rule helps with this.
The negative visualization is probably the most valuable tool in the stoic toolbelt. Rather than visualizing all the wonderful dreams you want to have in the future, negative visualization focuses on contemplating all the horrible things that could happen to you and thus increase your tranquility and fulfillment with what you already have. When eating you could think what your life would be like without the sense of taste or touch. Walking outside you could think what your life would be like without the ability to walk or see. Every time you part from a loved one can be a cue for you to meditate on your life alone without him or her.
Instead of being horribly depressing, the practice forces you to see how fortunate you are in having all the things you usually take for granted. You will be happier and more appreciative of the things you already have. You will want what you have. And when setbacks happen, you are already ready to live with them.
You can, and should, have things you enjoy in your life, but becoming dependent on externals for your happiness or peace of mind will deprive you of your tranquility, the ultimate stoic goal.
In this way I am happy that my infected wound causes me pain, reminding me of the ability to walk, to be healthy and only suffering from a minor infection. Things could always be worse.
Rule Number 6: Don’t take yourself so damn seriously
Everything is not about you. It’s not. Was someone rude to you? It has probably nothing or very little to do with you and all to do with the other person and the stuff in his life. Something horrible happened where there is nobody to blame? So what. You can probably learn something from it. And even if you can’t, there is nothing you can do about it now. Breathe deep and move on. Don’t take yourself so serious.
The rule applies to sickness and injury in that it doesn’t help to fret, be angry or be in self-pity over the condition. It happened. It’s not that bad. Make the best out of it.
The rule is from the Art Of Possibility. If you are wondering about the other rules besides the number 6 there aren’t any.
Use the time for recovery activities
Use your head. Think through problems or thought experiments you have not had time for. Do an 80/20 analysis of your personal life as well as career. Think through your future goals and dreams. Think how you could be more productive in all areas of your life. Plan a vacation.
Read good books. Get some classic non-fiction books as well as fiction books to read through. Books are underestimated in the time of the Internet. For some excellent, influential books, you should look through Tai Lopez list of 150 best books.
Go through your to-do list. Eliminate everything that is not important and/or urgent. I classify fun and exciting activities as important. It’s easy to fall into having a to-do-list that is full of things you “have to” or “should” do or obligations. Don’t forget to add fun and exciting activities and schedule them into your life.
Take care of things you never have time for. You could use the time to do things around the house or garage. Go through things that have been sitting on your to-do-list for too long. Things you don’t “have time” for, but know would have a massive impact on your life and your mood.
Keep engaged. Don’t just lay down and pity yourself, watch series and things like that; you will want to kill yourself after the first day (or that’s true for me). Get around people in cafés, read books, call loved ones on the phone, watch documentaries or movies, whatever your condition and taste.
Use sickness or injury as an excuse to catch up on sleep. All kinds of important things happen when you sleep. We tend not to sleep enough. Now is your change to catch up on all the sleep you need, with the excuse of being sick or injured. You rarely need to explain the necessity of sleep to others, but you might need to justify the apparent waste of time to yourself. Use the condition to quiet your inner critic, when it lifts its ugly head. Sleep now to recover faster.
Breathing exercises. You can train your body with breathing exercises like apnea breathing. Breathing exercises could even help you recover faster. Try the box breath, lymph breath or apnea breath for conditioning and recovery.
These are some of my favorites at the time of injury and sickness. Use what is usable and discard what is not.