In a world that’s constantly about getting up and going, being productive and accomplishing everything you can in each twenty-four hour span, not feeling okay just plain sucks. It makes you feel even more defeated than you already do, beating yourself up for not feeling physically and/or mentally inadequate.
As I often do, I found inspiration for this post from my own thoughts and experiences. One day this week, I went to bed with a headache, assuming it’d pass after a good night’s rest. Boy, was I wrong. This little headache had transitioned to a full-on major migraine, accompanied by dizziness, sensitivities to light and sound, the whole nine yards.
I was definitely not feeling okay, and yet here I was, feeling absolutely guilty and degraded thinking of taking the day to take care of myself. In retrospect, it sounds ridiculous to think of dragging myself through the motions of the day knowing I’d be in a complete mental fog and in pain. But my personality is to be ambitious, ready for anything, always prompt and responsible and hard-working. Taking a genuine sick day feels like I’m giving up and not trying hard enough.
The same sentiment, perhaps even more so, goes for mental illness. If you’re feeling debilitated by depression or anxiety, not only do you feel awful for not functioning like a normal person, but others often won’t take you seriously if citing mental illness as a reason for your absence or tardiness. It shouldn’t be that hard to pick yourself up and get things done, right?
In either scenario, one of the biggest challenges is accepting the fact you’re not feeling okay and aren’t at your optimal wellness. It’s a mental hurdle you have to jump over to even begin taking care of yourself, so the sooner we can get to the TLC, the better. But how can we do that?
Accept this present physical and mental feeling.
There’s a reason you aren’t up to snuff. Maybe you’ve been letting your health slide to allot energy for accomplishing assignments and tasks on your to-do list. Maybe you’ve just succumbed to that time of year when the cold, dark weather leaves you in a funk and when viruses run rampant. Take this moment to accept that right now, you need to switch priorities. Your body is telling you it’s not well, and you need to listen to that instinct.
Get up and do something comforting.
What your body wants and desperately needs right now is care. If you were taking care of your child or a friend in this same situation, what would you do? You’d tell them to make a warm meal, drink lots of water, taking a nice bath or shower, all that jazz. Now tell that to yourself. Focus your mind solely on each activity, especially if it feels difficult at that moment. Feel the hot water on your body. Wrap your hands around a warm mug of tea. Really taste that steamy bowl of soup. All the warm things.
While we might not feel capable of getting up from bed and doing these things ourselves, forcing little baby steps and mindfully performing them takes you away from any guilt of self-doubt, if only a moment. Your body and mind will thank you for it, too.
If possible, do small productive tasks.
Again, the instinct when we do not feel okay is to do absolutely nothing and spend a sick day rewatching the same series over and over again. And hey, sometimes we do need to have time for complete dissociation from any responsibilities and just relax. However, if you feel up to it at all, set a plan in your head of little tasks you could accomplish while at home with minimal effort.
For me, that’s writing this very blog post and class assignments I can submit ahead of time. Maybe you can do some work online or clean one thing in your space. Even if you take a break from a Netflix binge to watch a TED Talk or something educational, that’s productivity, too. Don’t stress too much about this step if you really need to just nap (again, still productive for your health!), but if that guilt of “wasting” a day is eating you up, small things you can still say you accomplished are immensely helpful.
Prepare for the next day.
If you’ve spent your down time practicing self-care and treating yourself well, then the goal is that you can go back either the next day or when you aren’t contagious to the regular pace of life. The evening prior, take the time to set out everything you need for your typical morning routine and wrap your head around whatever the next day brings. It can feel overwhelming to jump back head-first into a hectic schedule after taking a super chill day, so don’t let that possible stress cause you more guilt about taking a break in the first place. You needed chill time, and you would’ve been worse off without doing so.
Not only should you move forward with a positive mindset, but you should also ensure your habits are supporting your physical and mental health to prevent another down day as best as possible. Not feeling okay is inevitable sometimes, but make sure you’re prioritizing immune-boosting practices and incorporating some self-care into each day to avoid a complete burnout and nasty sickness.
Your health is so incredibly precious. I speak from experience saying that the second you treat health as a minor concern and neglect appreciating what you have, you’ll dig yourself a hole and regret putting superficial, fleeting worries ahead of your well-being.
This is your reminder, today and every day, that it is okay to take a sick day when you need it, physically and/or mentally. You aren’t a failure for doing so. You deserve to feel well and to take time and energy you need to be well. Don’t feel guilty for being human. It’s okay to not be okay.
Mindful meditation: Dear Lord, fearful and guilty thoughts often cloud our vision when keeping up in this busy world, especially when our health falls short. Please help us accept whatever present moment we’re in and take the utmost care of the vessel and soul You created in Your beautiful image. Amen.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie