Coping with an Injury
Back in February, I took a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Being rather clumsy, I thought “wow, that really sucked,” made sure no one saw it, and tried to stand up, only to be met with the worst searing pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I truly thought that at the ripe old age of 31 I had broken my hip. I used the snow and slush I was stuck seated in as an ice pack while I waited for my fiance to come home from work (fortunately closeby) and pick me up off the ground and get me to the hospital (sorry, to stubborn to pay for an ambulance).
Long story short, I spent several days mostly immobile followed by almost 2 weeks out of work. I had a lot of time to sit and think…about how much this sucked, about how useless I felt, about how I didn’t know how long it would take to get better, about what the loss of my income would mean for us, about all the progress I had made in fitness that was being undone seemingly with every hour I laid on the couch. Your mind goes to some dark places when you’re laid up and home alone with a cat who runs away when she so much as thinks you’re about to cry.
This was a depressing time for me. For someone who relied so heavily on their fitness to make a living – to teach barre, to visit health coaching clients, to wait tables part time – I had to recognize how quickly and easily all of that could be taken away. Not to mention that my major source of stress relief, exercise, was not an option.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very lucky because I could have been must worse off. Nonetheless, this was a challenge for me and I know there are others out there with even bigger obstacles. So I wanted to share some of my tips for getting through situation like this.
8 Tips for Coping with an Injury
1. Ask for help
I don’t mean just with your physical limitations. Have someone you can call when you’re wrapped up in those dark thoughts. Better yet, have a couple different people. Sometimes it helps to have someone outside your family give you the pep talk. I’m so happy that my mother was around that week and could come to my house to keep me company. And one night when I was really wallowing in self-pity and I didn’t want to trouble my fiance with it again, I had a great call with my best friend. Having a support network is key.
2. Focus on what you can do
It is literally too easy to focus on all of your limitations when you’re on the injured list. As corny as it sounds, try to refocus your thoughts on the things you CAN do. Even better, write them down so you have that concrete reminder. I couldn’t go to work, but I could hobble my butt to my desk and get it organized. And, later on, I couldn’t demo the exercises in my barre class, but I could do a damn good job describing every exercise to my students in detail so they could do them (PS thank you to all my students for being to supportive and bearing with me through that!).
3. Keep an eye on your progress
Celebrating the little victories was key for my motivation and spirit. I walked around the house without crutches! I didn’t take a muscle relaxer today! I figured out how to stand up without triggering an excruciating spasm! These were all mini victories that I proudly proclaimed to my fiance every night like a toddler who just went potty for the first time. Instead of dwelling on how down and out you are, look for those little victories and celebrate them.
4. Don’t be discouraged by ups and downs
At the same time, know that progress isn’t linear. You are going to have a couple great days and then one day that feels like a huge step back. It’s normal and it’s still part of your overall forward progression. Take it in stride, listen to your body, and stay focused on your goals.
5. Find some outlets for your stress
Got a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick back up? Or maybe a new one you’ve been wanting to try? Or maybe, like me, you realized you hate where all of your pictures and art work are hanging and want to completely rearrange them. Whatever it is, find something that you can do to keep your mind occupied release some stress.
6. Keep it in perspective
I don’t have a real statistic to back this up but I would say from my own experience that 9 times out of 10, there is some way that whatever is going on could be worse. And sometimes the only way to calm those voices in your head is to to remind yourself that you are grateful it wasn’t worse. There were many times when I had to say to myself “at least it wasn’t broken. Be grateful you still have both legs. You could have hit your head but you didn’t.” Kind of dark, yes, but it did help me realize that I had a shorter road to go than I felt like I did.
7. Feel the gratitude
For every little thing that someone does to be helpful or supportive, really take a moment to think about it and feel genuinely grateful for their help. You might be out of work and have no money coming in, but you’ll feel much richer just by taking 5 minutes to really feel thankful for that phone call from your best friend, or the dinner your neighbor dropped off, or that hug from your significant other when you were having an irrational meltdown… again.
8. Take care of yourself in the ways that you can
Exercising was out for several weeks, and I knew that. And as much as I wanted to smother my sorrows in a bottle of wine and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, I didn’t. Well, I had a little bit, but not the whole bottle or the whole bag. I knew my body needed my support to heal fast and I had every reason to want to heal faster, so I did all I could in my power to help it. I focused on good nutrition and hydration, I got plenty of rest, and, as soon as I was able to, I started with chiropractics and physical therapy.
When all was said and done, I “graduated” from physical therapy 7 weeks after my fall and I’m able to run and teach barre again. Still doing some strengthening exercises on that side and I need to be careful I don’t go too crazy, but I’m beyond happy to be back at it again.