Last week I shared five things you can do to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury and this week I continue on that theme by sharing five more.

A setback can be really disappointing. It’s typically not expected. And given everything you’ve been through, it can feel like an exasperated, ‘Now I’ve got to deal with this too?!’ feeling.

So to help you cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury, let’s move on to this week’s 5 tips. And if you didn’t read last week’s blog be sure to as it contains other helpful ideas on how to cope.

A setback in your recovery can be disappointing. Especially when it's not expected. Given everything you’ve been through, it can feel unfair. Read 5 things you can do to help you cope. Tell a friend

1. Your recovery may be more like a transition to a new place

Last week I referred to our expectation that the recovery process means we go back to the way we were before the illness, injury or latest relapse.

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury - This is a pic of a graph where the Y axis represents the degree of recovery and the X axis represents time. There's a person thinking their recovery will be an upwards and straight trajectory back to normality, i.e. their pre-illness or injury self. But often in the case of serious health issues, this is a myth because the body is changed forever.

Sometimes I wonder whether that expectation helps us to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury. Because sometimes we don’t go back to the way we were. We enter a new place because our body has changed.

This can be full of uncertainty because you don’t know what the new place is like and what you will be able to do there. Take it gently, move slowly. Allow yourself to get used to being in this new place.

It’s like moving into a new home. You have to get to know the new home, what works, what doesn’t and its quirks. You have to decide how you want to put your stamp on your new home, and what you need to do, and can do, to do that.

This takes time so give yourself that time to adjust.

How to cope with a setback in recovery from illness. One way is rethinking how we think about recovery. This pic is of a quote, "We often assume that recovery means we go back to the way we were pre-illness or injury. But sometimes that isn't possible because our bodies are changed forever. When that happens, recovery is more like a transition to a new place."

2. Find an activity you enjoy and can do within the constraints of the illness or injury

The purpose of this is to have a healthy distraction. The activity can be anything you enjoy: reading, catching up on a tv series, watching movies, knitting, drawing, painting, making jewellery, genealogical research, doing puzzles, teaching yourself a new language, gaming, listening to the radio, whatever.

This kind of healthy distractions are also good for your mental health, which, if it’s in a good enough place, can help you cope with the setback in your recovery.

3. Continue to do the daily activities you do when not ill (if you can)

For example, it’s very easy when we are ill to just let everything go and we lie in bed or on the sofa for days and not wash or change our clothes. Because there is nothing we can do, right? This feeling can double when you have to cope with a setback in recovery.

Picture of a girl lying on a sofa with one leg covered in a blanket. She is coping with a setback in recovery from illness. She is asking herself the question, 'When did I last wash?' There's a brownish-grey cloud around her to reflect that she hasn't washed in some time.

Whilst I was in hospital with Transverse Myelitis gradually getting weaker, losing the ability to walk, and not knowing why this was happening, I promised myself that regardless of what would happen, I would somehow manage to keep myself clean. Looking back, this was a really good thing for me to do.

I washed my face in the morning, brushed my teeth twice a day and showered every other day. I would drag myself to the shower (or be wheeled in) and endure the pain of showering. I had a high degree of neuropathic pain at this point so water hitting my skin felt like I was being pelted with nails. Raising my arms to wash my hair was painful too. Keeping clean was a challenging physical and mental effort.

I would also change my from my pyjamas to my ‘hospital day wear’, sweats and a sweatshirt. Feeling clean and fresh after washing and changing my clothes, I felt ready for what that day would bring and more able somehow.

Why keeping myself clean was a good thing to do

These are several reasons why I think keeping myself clean was a positive thing to do.

Note: The daily activity you choose doesn’t have to be keeping yourself clean. It could be reading. Or making a cup of tea or something else. A thing to keep in mind is selecting a gentle activity you can still do, even if it’s to a much lesser degree.

It was part of my daily routine prior to becoming ill and when we continue to do such activities when we are ill, it’s a reminder of a normality we are familiar with. That can be comforting.

Daily activities can give our days some structure in what otherwise can feel like an endless episode of illness or injury.

Daily activities can also have a positive psychological impact. They give us that important sense of control when we’re in a situation where we can feel powerless at times. They also give us a sense of personal agency, i.e. that we have the ability to influence things and change something for the better. It’s about doing what you can to help yourself and your situation.

This is another pic of the same girl lying on a sofa whilst coping with a setback in recovery from illness. She looks brighter. She is listening to radio which is giving the positive reasons of doing light and gentle daily activities when coping with a setback during recovery.  She is saying, 'Good points. Glad I moved the radio closer to me.' So in effect, she has been practicing what the radio show is talking about. She moved the radio close to her so she could listen to programmes whilst recovering, which is a light and gentle daily activity.

4. Treat your body like the temple it is

Your body may not feel like a temple at the moment. It may feel more like it’s in need of a whole scale refurbishment. And when you feel really bad, it can feel easier to reach for comfort food which isn’t as healthy for you.

But your body needs a lot of nourishment during a setback. Eat and drink healthily. Get as good a rest as you can. If you can take some exercise or do your physiotherapy, do that. Even if that is walking around the room or light exercises in your bed or chair. This is all stuff that is in your control to do as mentioned last week.

When you are dealing with a setback in your recovery, make sure to treat your body like the temple it is. Eat and drink healthily. Your body needs the nourishment. Tell a friend

5. Use your support network

For conversation, companionship and to help you with what you need help with. Let them know specifically what you need help with because that is helping them to help you. But also let them know what you may not need help with and explain why.

Many times people in our support network are very keen to help us so you are not being a burden. However, there are times when we want to do something by ourselves to test ourselves, to see what we are now capable of doing, to check if there has been some recovery.

But we can also get a sense of accomplishment when we do something on our own. When you’re ill or injured and more reliant on others, there is less opportunity to gain that sense of accomplishment. So if you don’t want someone’s help for those reasons, let them know that and that they are actually helping you by not helping you.

This pic shows the girl on the couch again. But now she is sitting up and going through some papers and old magazines and newsletters. A friend is asking her, 'Do you need help with that.' The girl on the sofa respond, 'No, that's ok. I want to see how kong I can go before fatigue sets in. To see if that has changed at all.' The point of this is that it's good to explain to others the reasons we don't need their help. Because those reasons could be about us checking in with ourselves and our bodies to see what we are capable now.

What’s it like for you?

What has helped you to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury? Is there anything which did which is not listed here? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to cope with a setback in recovery from illness or injury or another aspect of the health issue you are dealing with, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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