Last week, Patricia shared her recent wellness challenges so I decided to share some of my wellness learning this week! As you might already know, I broke both of my feet in April and it has been a little difficult to live life normally as a result. But, I always try to see the bright side of things and I think that these challenges have actually taught me some valuable lessons. So, I’m going to outline some of those learnings below. Hopefully hearing these lessons helps some of you who might be facing challenges now or in the future.
Wellness Learning 1: Needing Help Doesn’t Mean You’re Weak
My biggest wellness learning was that it was ok to ask for help. We are often told that being independent is the key to being successful. But, this idea of having to be in charge in order to be viewed as efficient can be really damaging. On one hand, if you never ask for help, you might get overwhelmed and be suffering in silence. On the other hand, if you do ask for help, you might feel guilty that you couldn’t do it alone.
We have talked before about the importance of getting support when you are experiencing challenges in life. Classic research supports this too. This is true for physical, mental and emotional challenges. I honestly would never have been able to get through this time without the help of my husband. First, I had to learn how admit that I needed help. Then, I also had to accept that I couldn’t complete my day normally any longer. At first, that was frustrating and I felt guilty about asking him for so many things. But, I realized feeling bad was silly. If roles were reversed, helping would make me happy.
If Brendan had broken both of his feet, I wouldn’t hold it against him. Plus, helping others really energizes Brendan. So, while it was hard for me to accept help, I was not bothering him as much as I thought. Overall, it’s important to think about how you feel when others need help – you probably don’t judge them! So, it’s important not to judge yourself either.
Wellness Learning 2: It’s OK to Say No
One of my biggest weaknesses in general is that I have a hard time turning down work requests. I have been given the advice many times to say “no” more frequently when people ask me to serve on committees, to review papers for journals, or to take time to help students or colleagues. However, I have really benefited from other people’s kindness throughout the course of my career, so I struggle with feeling ok to turn things down.
However, because of my injury, I could not stick to my normal schedule. I remember the very first day of classes that I had to return to teach was 5 days after my ankle surgery. So, I had to teach two classes back to back, for a total of 6 hours on campus. I was sure that I would be able to handle it, despite warnings from family and friends that it might be too much. However, while it was nice to get out of the house, my feet were throbbing by the end of the day. I had to admit to myself that I had done too much too soon. Moving forward, I held a few of my classes online instead. I also had to cancel some work travel, reschedule some meetings, and turn some in-person meeting into conference calls.
But, through all of this, I realized that I actually had more flexibility in how I set up my schedule than I thought. Some of the meetings worked just as well as calls. Some of the things that I felt guilty about rescheduling were absolutely fine to push off. Meetings that I had to cancel were able to move forward without me. It’s really important to have control over your schedule in order to avoid burnout. But just because I have a lot of control over what I put on my schedule, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a cluttered calendar that I don’t take stock of as much as I should. Overall, I realized that saying no is ok – life goes on and you don’t need to be a part of everything to be productive!
Wellness Learning 3: Slowing Down Helps You to Savor Life
I was in bed for several weeks. So, I had the opportunity to slow down and actually spend time relaxing. It sounds strange but having broken feet actually gave me a good excuse to stay home and do things that I rarely do. I watched a whole TV series. Also, I spent all of my Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sunday days, just sitting with my husband and hanging out. Finally, I didn’t attend any events on weekday nights, so I had more downtime then.
Overall, I was more rejuvenated and replenished. It shouldn’t take having a major injury to learn to slow down. But, for me, that was the only thing that was going to force me to take a pause. We have talked before about the importance of taking breaks. As a result of this experience, I had a lot more time to enjoy being at home and to spend time with my husband, which was great!
I remember once when I was in my PhD program, I had a similar experience. I got food poisoning and was super sick for a day. Somehow, I felt an extreme sense of relief because I had an excuse to take a day away from my work. It’s not a good thing when you prefer a day of food poisoning to your normal day. I had to say no and take more breaks, without being forced. I re-learned the same sort of wellness lesson again this time around. Now, I want take more time savoring life.
I hope that these lessons were helpful! What have you unexpectedly learned from facing life’s challenges? Do you find it tough to accept help, say no, or slow down? What are you doing to address those concerns? We would love to hear from you below!