It’s a natural response after you’ve been hurt to take time to heal. But too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Whether it’s a knee injury or a lost job, there’s a time to rest and a time to push on.
On the rare occasion that I come down with the flu, I like spending a few days curled up in bed with a bowl of hot soup. When a relationship ends, the best way to lick my wounds may be with a carton of butter pecan ice cream and a binge session on Netflix. I realize the benefits of resting and withdrawing after being hurt. The problem comes when we baby ourselves too much until we convince ourselves that we are weaker than we really are.
That message came through loud and clear in an article by Elizabeth Gilbert in the March issue of O Magazine. Gilbert shares the story of her many years spent with knee pain and the many things she tried to get it to stop hurting—everything short of surgery.
After the remedies and treatments failed, she decided to take time to listen to her body. In desperation, she asked her knee what it needed. This may seem like an odd approach, but the message she got was to stop coddling her knee and instead to really use it. To get back to running.
That made me think about when I broke my ankle years ago. After going through physical therapy, I was becoming resigned to walking with a limp and using a cane for the rest of my life. After all, I wasn’t young any more. What else could I expect?
After putting up with limited mobility for several months, I got tired of it. I had restricted my physical activity and was extra careful about how I moved. Still, my ankle ached. My spirituality teaches me to talk to my body, so I gently massaged my ankle and asked what I should do. The first idea that came to me was swimming laps, something I hadn’t done in years.
I started going to a pool near me and did the physical therapy exercises I had been taught in the water. Soon I able to swim the length of the pool. I worked out four days a week and before long, was able to walk without a cane. And without a limp. And without pain.
It’s easy to get caught up in fearful thoughts when tending to ourselves after something hurts us. And it makes good sense to treat ourselves with a little tenderness. But as Gilbert wrote, “we must also be mindful not to baby ourselves to the point of incapacitation.” Know when to rest and when to get back up and go. You can do more than you think.