Bouncing Back from Illness

It was a year ago that a dear family friend, Liz, was struck overnight by a life-threatening infection. One day she was active – as she always was – gardening, looking after her grandchildren, volunteering for charities and travelling around, and the next day she was hospitalised, in an intensive care unit, hardly expected to survive.

But survive she did and, twelve months on, she is recovering her physical strength and displaying a remarkable degree of mental fortitude – proof indeed that the two go hand in hand. She can now happily put on her walking boots and trek up to five miles – with a rest here and there. This is an achievement anyone could be proud of, let alone a woman approaching her mid-eighties.

Liz was very unfortunate and suffered a great deal. But her experience of illness and recovery holds many lessons for the rest of us. Here are some of the points I have taken from it.

  1. Do what the physio says. They may require you to make only small movements but regularly done you will soon see the difference. The improvement is incremental – the more you do, the better you get. Remember, you have to make an effort yourself to get better, as just resting will not do it. 
  1. Sleep a lot. We all know sleep is importantwhen we’re sick, but it bears repeating. Getting plenty of rest is a way of conserving your strength for the all-important process of recovering and bouncing back from an illness.
  1. Stay positive. This is easier said than done when everything you know about yourself has changed. Try applying the equation E+R=O (events + response = outcome) – the illness event happened there is nothing you can do about that – however, the way you respond will affect the outcome. You can decide to respond positively or negatively, and the outcome will reflect this.
  1. Friends & family. Let your friends and family help you – reach out and don’t be afraid to ask for support both physically and mentally. Some people are natural carers and others fearful of illness, but they may well respond positively to being asked to do something.
  1. Get outside. Lots of research is now proving what many of us intuitively feel – that going outside is good for our health. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a park, in the woods, or in your garden, being in nature can have a calming effect and improve your mental and physical health.
  1. Plan things. Make sure that you have things to look forward to. Even the smallest of goals is important: each one builds ambition for the larger ones, and you will soon enjoy the process of filling your diary and anticipating the events.

I wish us all good health but it is as well to think, talk and prepare ourselves just in case.