Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

You may not be given guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury: what to do, what to avoid, etc. And in the early stages, a lot of your energies are focused on treatment, surviving the ordeal and recovery.

But then a few months or even years after the medical crisis, there’s that part of you that doesn’t feel quite right, definitely not the same as before. Living in a changed body and that experience of losing control can take its toll not just on your physical body, but your mind, heart and soul. I am writing this post to speak to that part of you.

 

Healing your heart, mind and soul

 

I believe that to bring healing to our hearts, minds and souls, we have to get to know ourselves in ways we may not have had to prior to the illness or injury.

People often say they love people watching and learning about how ‘people tick’. The work I am speaking about is learning about how you tick so you have greater control over your emotional, psychological and soul health.

I want to share with you some questions which will help you get to know yourself better and thereby develop your own set of guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury.

I came across these questions whilst travelling across the internet. They were created by John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, author, philosopher and one-time priest. He is no longer with us, which is a shame as his work is lovely. I learned they come from the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. So of course I immediately purchased it to add to my collection.

 

Pic of book To Bless The Space Between Us

New book in the house!

 

The book offers thoughts or ‘blessings’ for periods of change in your life whether that be marriage, birth, new job, new home, adulthood, illness or something else. They are meant to help you on your journey from the known into the unknown, which a transition such as a serious illness or injury is all about. It’s very good. And it’s a book you dip into as and when.

Here are the questions.

 

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions

Copyright © 2007 by John O’ Donohue

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deeply did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

 

Thought provoking aren’t they?

 

Pic of woman reading thought provoking questions which get her to think about how her day was

Reflecting on how your day was

 

If you wish, buy the book. Put the questions somewhere where you will see them every day. It may be enough to glance over them and keep them in mind as you go about your day.

For others, you may wish to use this to explore yourself more deeply and write responses to these questions. Particularly if you are on a quest to change something about yourself (even if you don’t know what that is yet). How often you write your responses is up to you. Some of you may wish to do it every day, or every few days or once a week.

These questions provoke deeper thought, the kind of reflection that helps you identify patterns and themes and identify the changes you wish to make. Self-reflection promotes self-awareness, one of the critical components of change.

 

Pic of formula of change equals self-reflection plus intention plus action

A formula for change

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What do you think of these questions? Which ones particularly resonated with you? Are there questions you ask yourself which you don’t see here? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

Questions by John O’Donohue. The rest of the blog is written and pictures drawn or photographed by Barbara Babcock, 2018.

 

References

As published in the USA – O’Donohue, J. (2008) To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. New York, USA: Doubleday.

As published in the UK – O’Donohue, J. (2007) Benedictus: A Book of Blessings. London, UK: Bantam Press.

 

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness or injury is reckoned not to be a good combination. Being positive is often seen to be the better choice.

For example, I often hear people say, ‘Well, you can either get depressed and upset or you can be positive,’ in relation to living with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Many times, the person presents it as being happy is the right choice. Because who wants to be depressed and upset, right?

I get that. The fear that depression and sadness can overwhelm us and once we go there, we won’t be able to get out, is very real. So, we don’t go there at all. We shut that door and double lock it. Depression and serious illness won’t get us.

Picture of a person trying to lock out the depression and sadness of their serious illness

Locking depression and sadness out

 

I acknowledge this works for people.

I also want to acknowledge that for others, ignoring how sad and/or depressed they feel and striving to focus only on being positive may not. And I want to tell you why.

If you are one of these people, you may find what I share here will help your thinking around this and restore calm in how you feel about yourself.

Is it wrong to feel depressed when living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury? Is it better to focus on feeling positive? What are your thoughts? tell a friend

 

Why the choice between depression and serious illness or being positive may not work for you

 

It’s a choice between two ways of being. An either-or choice. Be sad or be positive.

You only have two options.

On top of this, depression and sadness can have a negative connotation in our society so being positive is the ‘correct’ choice.

 

Your choices are laced with judgement

 

Have you selected the right choice or the wrong choice?

It’s not fun to be seen as the person who selected the ‘wrong’ choice, i.e. being sad and depressed. It also assumes that is an active choice we make. But sadness and depression doesn’t work like that. They can creep up on your unnoticed. Or come unexpectedly to be your new companion.

Pic of a person telling a sad person to snap out of it

If you only you could just snap out of depression and serious illness. But it doesn’t work like that.

 

So of course you plough on, trying your damndest to be positive, because you can’t let the illness or injury ‘win’. Yet inside, there is a well of sadness filling up that you keep trying to push down.

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

You are expending your often times limited amounts of energy in these opposing directions. How long will your energy last? In my experience, not forever. Here’s an alternative.

 

Rather than give yourself a dilemma, give yourself a trilemma

 

This is what a tutor from my first coaching qualification told me. This was an important learning that has helped me (and others) in coping with difficult situations like a serious illness.

When we say we have a choice between this or that – being sad or positive for example – we give ourselves two choices, or a dilemma. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘black and white thinking’.

What if you gave yourself a third choice? Or a fourth choice? So you have a trilemma or a quadlemma.

This is about moving from

either this or that

to

either this or that or that or…

You can give yourself as many choices as you wish.

Pic of the either-or dilemma and giving yourself more choices

Giving yourself more choices

 

When you have more than two choices, you give yourself more possibilities.

When you have more than two #choices, you are giving yourself more possibilities. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness tell a friend

 

These possibilities open up new ways of being and doing which may better meet your needs. You are no longer stuck with two choices neither which may be right for you.

When you have several possibilities, you have a choice to select one that is appropriate for you at that time. This helps to build your muscle of flexibility. And the ability to be flexible and move among choices is so important to living well with the impact of a serious illness or injury.

More possibilities also help to take away the judgement of seeing your choice as being right or wrong. It becomes the best choice for you in that moment.

 

Giving ourselves choices acknowledges the many ways we feel

 

Importantly, when we give ourselves choices, we are acknowledging that there are many ways we can feel at any particular time.

If we just give ourselves only two choices laced with the judgement that one choice is correct and the other wrong, then we discount something very real we may be feeling.

It is NORMAL to feel incredibly sad when we are dealing with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Acknowledging how you feel gives validity to your experience. This validity can be very healing.

Acknowledging how you feel about living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury gives validity to your experience. Validity helps the healing process tell a friend

 

Acknowledging your sadness, depression and serious illness also develops your self-awareness. You are in a better position to recognise what you need and then make a choice to meet that need.

When you meet your needs, then you are much less likely to end up unpacking and living in the sadness and depression.

So I encourage you to acknowledge the many ways you feel – desperately sad some moments or days, hugely depressed on others, sad but not huge amounts at other times, pretty good on other days, downright happy and thrilled in other moments, etc, etc.

Give yourself choices in how you feel, your needs and how you meet those needs.

Pic of a person saying that acknowledging their feelings brings benefits of validity and choices

 

What’s it like for you?

 

How do the thoughts in this article resonate with you? How are you at acknowledging the many ways you feel in relation to your, or a loved one’s, serious illness, serious injury or chronic illness?

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness

Managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury is key for a successful transition. But because it is about you managing your expectations of yourself, it can be one of the hardest things to do.

You are someone who believes in doing a good job. And you will go the extra mile to make that happen. After all, you have high standards and are proud of that and the work you do. It gives you great satisfaction.

You may also feel the need to prove to others that you can still do your job and do it well. And you enjoy your job and are keen to continue in your role.

So you try to do your job as best you can, as close as possible to how you did it before your illness/injury. But despite your best efforts, you are finding you can’t. You’re tired, maybe feeling dejected and not feeling like yourself anymore. You wonder if you can still do your job. And you may be afraid others are thinking you no longer can. You try to find the energy to plough on, to keep going in the hopes your recovery will kick in and you will soon feel like your old self.

Managing expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or injury is key for a successful transition. Yet it can be one of the hardest things to do #returntowork tell a friend

 

It’s understandable

 

You don’t know any different. As I often say, you don’t know what you don’t know when you are seriously ill or injured. We know what the doctors and nurses tell us and the messages society gives us around health, illness and disability (the latter which may not be relevant to your situation or correct). We know how different our bodies feel. But we often aren’t given info on how to live well with the ongoing impact of a serious illness or injury including returning to work.

So how can you stay in work doing good work and being happy with that whilst dealing well with the impact of your illness or injury?

As I said up front, managing your expectations of yourself at work is key. There are four things you can do which will help.

  1. Adjust your expectations of yourself
  2. Learn how to live in your changed body
  3. Learn how to manage the impact of stress
  4. Set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

Four things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work

 

These may feel like pretty chunky steps. And they are. This is an ongoing process. Not a tick box exercise where you do steps 1, 2, 3 and voilà you are a new person. So for a start I just give you some key tips for each and refer you to related blogs I have written on related topics. What I do know from my personal experience and that of my clients is that these steps work.

Read about the 4 things you can do to manage your expectations of yourself when returning to work after #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to adjust your expectations

 

Adjusting your expectations of yourself requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your illness or injury. The changes may include what you are no longer able to do or unable to do as well or as quickly. You may have very much valued what you were once able to do.

They could also be new things you have to do because of your illness/injury. Like having to know where the toilets are where ever you go outside your home due to having bladder and/or bowel issues. Having to inject insulin before every meal due to diabetes. Or eating more healthily and exercising more.

Acknowledging the changes you have had to make may or may not be easy as I mentioned in an earlier blog on returning to work. It depends on the type of change and whether you would have welcomed the change pre-illness/injury.

Adjusting your expectations of yourself at work requires you to acknowledge the changes you have experienced as a result of your #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Linked to this is redefining who you believe yourself to be. This is about change at the core of you, your sense of identity, which is a fundamental change. This is a journey and can take time. Being willing to try on other ways of being and doing in the world can help you move through this stage with more ease and less emotional turmoil.

 

Redefining your identity is a fundamental change in belief about who you are

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to live in your changed body

 

The blog I wrote on preparing for your return to work has tips which will help you learn how to live in your changed body.

Pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of this. Clients have said learning to do less at work, not trying to be the hero and fix everything, and taking regular breaks helped. Also, being willing to use aids that helped them manage their symptoms, such as a hot water bottle or a fan to cool themselves. Which aids you use will depend on the ongoing residual symptoms you live with.

Setting goals for your rehabilitation and returning to work will also help. As well as listening closely to your body and making adjustments to your routine as a result.

#pacing yourself to manage your energy levels is a key part of learning to live in a changed body after a #seriousillness or #injury and will help you adjust to the work routine #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to learn how to manage the impact of stress

 

It’s important to manage stress because it can exacerbate any residual symptoms you may be living with. This is stress from external events and self-induced stress.

I’ve seen with clients how stress at work kept then awake at nights, the lack of sleep contributed to their fatigue, the fatigue meant they could not work or work as much as they would like, etc. It became a vicious circle.

Self-induced stress often comes from our habitual ways of being and doing in the world which no longer serve us. But we might have not yet realised that our habitual strategies have outlived their useful life. It’s important to identify these and make changes. One client made changes by identifying what was in her control to do and as a result she reported feeling less pain.

I also recommend you read these two blogs on using your personal power well to manage your health and wellness – part 1 and part 2.

Being very aware of what causes you to feel stressed and managing the impact effectively can reduce any negative impact stress can have. Important when you are returning to work after a #seriousillness or #injury #returntowork tell a friend

 

Managing your expectations of yourself requires you to set your boundaries with others on what you can and cannot do and stick to them

 

This is so important. And can be so hard to do. Because it means you have to say no to people. And sometimes we don’t like saying no because we feel we aren’t helping the other person and we like to help others. Or we feel obligated to do what other people need from or want of us. Or we feel a need to make others happy by doing what they want from us.

This also requires you to develop the belief (if you haven’t already) that you are important, your needs are valid, you are worth it, and so it is ok for you to put yourself first and look after yourself. AND to operate on that belief in your life.

What I wrote about managing others’ expectations of you in a earlier blog in this series on returning to work helps you to start setting those boundaries on what you can and cannot do.

And remember, boundaries can change for the right reasons during the process of returning to work.

How easy do you find it to set boundaries at work and stick to them when living with the impact of a #seriousillness or #injury? #returntowork tell a friend

 

But something else is key in all of this

 

The willingness to adapt and be flexible.

And being gentle with yourself. Shower yourself with compassion.

 

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion

 

If you try something and it doesn’t work, focus on what you learned and try something else. Also make sure to have good people at work and in your life who encourage you.

Remember, you are doing the best you can in not the easiest of circumstances.

 

Picture summarising what you can do in managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

A summary of the blog on managing your expectations of yourself when returning to work after a serious illness or injury

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What aspects of the above blog resonate with your situation? What do you find difficult or easy to do? If you have returned to work after a serious illness or injury, what have you done to manage your expectations of yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you will soon be returning to work after a serious illness or injury or are already in the process of doing so and want to work through the recommended steps in this blog with support, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

Managing expectations at work after illness or injury

Managing expectations at work after illness or injury

Managing expectations at work after illness or injury is so important in ensuring your return to work is a good enough transition. And linked to this is what you tell people.

You may be wondering what to say to people, if anything, about what happened to you. You may be thinking it’s none of their business, or maybe you wish to say something to certain people. Or maybe you are happy to tell people everything.

How much information we share is different for everyone, so it’s your decision regarding how much you share. However, how much you say to whom about the illness or injury you have (or had) has a link to managing expectations at work after illness. The expectations you have of yourself and what others have of you regarding what you can do at work after a serious illness or injury.

How much information you share about your illness or injury and its impact on you links to managing the expectations of yourself and others when returning to work #seriousillness #seriousinjury #returntowork #healthcoaching tell a friend

 

If expectations are managed appropriately, then everyone is on the same page and it limits misunderstandings. So this blog is meant to help you think through what you want to tell people and how much information you may need to give them so your return to work is a good enough transition. I give you a series of questions to help you do that.

 

Who do I need to tell?

 

It’s the key people you work with the most often and/or will be involved in your return to work. They typically include your line manager, their boss, Human Resources (HR), occupational health (if your company has one in-house or work with an external provider), fellow team members, and your own team if you have people reporting to you.

There may also be other people internally and externally in your organisation with whom you work. How much you tell them, if anything, can depend on the type of work you do together, how much you work with them, and your relationship with them. You don’t have to tell people everything. And some people don’t need to know anything.

 

What do these people expect of me?

 

Having an idea of what you think people may expect of you is a starting point for discussion. It’s also an opportunity to identify any assumptions you are holding about others which may not be true or helpful to your return to work.

Give these questions some consideration.

  • What do you think your line manager, their boss, HR, occupational health, fellow team members, people who report to you, and others expect of you in this return to work process (other people internally, clients, etc.)?
  • What do you expect of them? Your expectations may be different for each person. And there may also be themes in what you expect from people generally.
  • What do you expect of yourself?

 

Three questions to help you identify your own and others expectations of you when returning to work after illness

To manage expectations when returning to work after illness or injury, you need to know what they are.

 

Some common responses I’ve come across include:

  1. They will get rid of me if they knew I fall a lot/ am incontinent/ need to take more breaks, etc. (insert how you are affected now).
  1. I worry they will expect me to go back to the way I was before my operation. But I am not sure yet I can do everything I did before.
  1. I expect my employer to sort things so I can return to my job like before. There’s not much for me to do.
  1. I have no idea what to expect. My boss has changed and I haven’t even met the new boss yet.
  1. I have no idea what my team members expect of me. I don’t know what I expect from them.
  1. I expect it will take me a few weeks to adjust and then I’ll be fine to work full-time like before.

First, be wary of making assumptions of what others are thinking such as the ones in points 1 and 2. We cannot mind read and if we do and then act on those assumptions, we can end up creating a difficult situation for ourselves. And that is the last thing you want to do.

Make sure to check with your employer what they expect from you as you return to work after a #seriousillness #seriousinjury This can help you identify any unhelpful assumptions you may be holding #returntowork #healthcoaching tell a friend

 

I would caution against leaving your employer to do everything as suggested in point 3. If you do this, you kind of take yourself out of the process and become a passive recipient. And you may not like what comes your way. There are things you can do to help your employer help you. This blog and the previous two I wrote (here and here) about returning to work are meant to help you do that.

On points 4 and 5, then give a good think around the questions on what you expect from yourself and others. If you have a new boss you haven’t met yet, then that is an added consideration. You have a whole new relationship to establish. I won’t go into detail on this point, but I want to acknowledge that it can happen.

On point 6, prepared to be flexible on how long it will take you to adjust to working again and the changes which may have happened in the interim at work. Recovery from illnesses and injuries do not work to our own or others’ timescales. Sometimes the process may be slower than anticipated, or like two steps forward, three steps back. That is normal. When something like that happens, of course it’s disappointing. It is also a sign that we may have overdone it and it can give us information on where our limits currently are.

Be honest with yourself from the start and set a realistic timetable for returning to work. This can be revisited and adjusted as time moves on.

 

What information can help in managing expectations at work after illness?

 

I often find that the employer wants to know if you can do your job as you did before and how long it will take for you to get to that point. If you won’t be able to do your job as before, they often want to know why that is, and what does it mean for your future in terms of what you can do. And they want to know what you can do now.

This can feel kind of invasive. Your employer may want to know a lot about you. Knowing this helps them to plan on how to get the work done, and you and your job are a part of that plan. And you only need to give them information as it relates to you in your role at work.

I often find the employer needs reassurance from a third party ‘expert’ in your illness or injury, like your doctor, occupational health, and/or info from a charity. Some people who find their employers wanting such information can assume their employer doesn’t trust them and focus on that. And the relationship can go downhill from there.

When you assume that your employer doesn’t trust you and you operate from that assumption, it doesn’t put you in a resourceful state to deal with the situation. Instead, think of what information you can provide to back up what you are saying and to educate them regarding your needs. This can go a long way in managing your employer’s expectations.

 

How has the illness or injury affected me? How might that impact my ability to do the work I do with each of these people?

 

The previous blog in this series on returning to work addressed the question on the impact of your illness or injury on your capabilities to do the various parts of your role. That blog contains advice on how to start figuring that out prior to returning to work so I recommend a read.

Think through the role you do and how the illness/injury you have/had might impact your ability to do the work you do with each of these people.

Then ask yourself…

 

Based on that, in which parts of my job do I need support from others?

 

For example, some tasks may take longer because of fatigue, mobility issues or chemo brain and having longer lead times for projects would be useful. Or you may require help at times with finishing a task. Or you physically can no longer work the hours you used to so the amount of work you can do has to change.

Or you need to work two days a week from home because the commute is very energy draining so people need to know how to contact you. Or maybe you don’t need people’s support with certain tasks. But you just would like people’s understanding and patience.

Think through those tasks you may need help with, what you feel you can do, what you know you can no longer do, as this will help you identify your needs and where and when you may need help from others. Also think about who can provide support and what kind of support they might be able to provide. This is particularly relevant to those with whom you work closely – your boss, team members, and people who may work for you.

Share what you need from people. I know this may sound odd or even downright scary. In our society, it’s not looked on favourably to have needs and I wrote a series of blogs on that topic here. However, most people like to help others and are happy to. But to receive the right kind of help, you need to know what help would best suit you and to communicate that to people.

 

Most people are happy to help you during your return to work after a #seriousillness #seriousinjury But to receive the right kind of help, you need to know what help would best suit you and to communicate that to people… tell a friend

 

And based on that, how much information about the impact of my illness or injury should I give to people?

 

It can help to give people some information on the condition/injury you have to help them put into context the impact of that illness or injury on you and your current needs. So if you have fatigue and your brain works more slowly and you are in a job that requires a lot of brain power then you may wish to say how the illness/injury you had can cause fatigue and impact the brain.

This is particularly important for conditions where the impact on you is invisible, for example, fatigue or chronic pain. If you share nothing about the impact of your illness or injury, people may not understand why you require adjustments and support.

When people are left with little information, they often start to fill in the blanks themselves. And the story they create in their heads may not be correct, which won’t help you if they start acting on the story they have created. It makes it much more difficult for you to manage their expectations.

Also, I want to share a point on the concept of recovery. People often assume recovery from a serious illness or injury means you go back to the way you were. That is often not the case. Not only can your body be changed forever, but also how you feel in your body and about the whole situation and what it means for you. This is an area where stigma and bias can make an appearance. I’ve written about that and dealing with it here, here and here.

 

In our society there are biases and stigmas which surround recovery from an illness or injury.

The biases and stigma which surround recovery.

 

A side benefit of providing just enough information can be to educate and even reduce the stigmas and biases that exist in our society around the capabilities of people who have experienced a serious illness/injury. This too can help with managing expectations at work after illness.

You may not need to give everyone the same amount of info. Give people what they need to know in order to support you and you to support them. People may talk among themselves so you may find others you did not give much information to learn of additional information from others. So, if you don’t want people to share, say that up front. You can’t control whether they share or not at the end of the day. But you can state what you would like and if they have agreed to that but then act contrary to it, you can then go back and ask them why.

When returning to work after a #seriousillness #seriousinjury, you may not need to give everyone the same info about your illness/injury and how it affects you. Give people what they need to know in order to support you and you to… Click To Tweet
Questions to think about to help you in managing expectations at work after illness

Questions to download and have a think about.

 

Finally, regular meetings are key to managing expectations at work after illness

 

Regular meetings with the key people you work with are important to keep the lines of communication open, which in turn are important in managing expectations at work after illness. These meetings are good for discussing your progress, any challenges and planning how to meet them, how the support you need may be changing, and to discuss any updates on your medical situation which is relevant to your return to work. Occupational health can be involved in these discussions.

Given that there can be a lot of unknowns regarding your recovery – what your recovery will be like and how long that will take – these meetings also allow you all to acknowledge the unknowns and plan around them.

The people involved in these meetings are usually your line manager and maybe even HR. Meeting with team members and people who work for you tend to focus on the jobs you all do, progress being made, and what support you need from each other.

And if you demonstrate proactivity in these meetings by scheduling them or encouraging they are scheduled, coming prepared, sharing information relevant to your return to work, etc. that makes you look good. You are doing your bit to help your employer help you.

 

Picture of a woman being proactive in asking her boss for a meeting about her return to work after illness

No one will be proactive for you. It is only yours to do. Getting support can make it easier to do.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

How much information about your illness or injury are you comfortable disclosing to people you work with? What advice do you have to share on managing expectations at work after illness. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you will soon be returning to work after a serious illness or injury or are already in the process of doing so and want to work through the questions in this blog and have a sounding board as you do so, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

How to prepare for returning to work after illness

Prepare for returning to work after illness or injury. Is that a thing? You’ve been through a serious illness, perhaps life-changing for you in some ways, treatment has ended, your recovery is going pretty well and returning to work is now on the horizon. Hurrah!

You just want to get back to work. Back to normality! Your regular salary and not sick pay. Being with other people again. Making a contribution. There may be concerns and worries of course. But getting back to normality like work is a key milestone.

Then you get back to work, you go for it, and you crash. Hard. Your body isn’t coping. You have to go back on sick leave. You’re thinking, ‘What the… *insert fruity language*?!?! You feel so disappointed.

 

Pic of someone returning to work after illness and it doesn't go well

When the return to work doesn’t go to plan.

 

I totally understand how that can happen. It’s pretty common actually. If you’ve haven’t been seriously ill before, how would you know how to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury? You don’t necessarily know that stuff. It’s not like your doctor gives you an info sheet on it.

I’m going to share a few tips to help you avoid that. I split them into four categories – Mind, Heart, Body and your Role at work. This is about taking a holistic approach to prepare for returning to work after illness or injury.

Click here on how to prepare your mind, heart and body to return to work after a serious illness or injury. #returntowork #seriousillness #chronicillness tell a friend

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your mind

 

Manage your expectations of yourself.

We often expect our return to work after illness to go like this.

Person returning to work after illness expecting a smooth return to work

People’s expectations for returning to work can often look like this

 

It’s more often like this.

Pic of a graph demonstrating that the return to work after illness is not smooth

A return to work after illness often looks like this.

 

Be gentle with yourself.

It’s very easy for your pre-illness expectations of yourself to come to the fore when you start returning to every day normal activities. It’s normal for this to happen because your pre-illness expectations of yourself are all you know. But I often see clients battle to live up to those expectations. And I use that word ‘battle’ on purpose. It’s like a fight, ‘I will not let this illness and these symptoms beat me. I will WIN! I WILL last the whole day at work!’

This kind of fight is a negative fight as you have actually handed over control to your pre-illness expectations. You have become their slave. It can be a very unhappy and frustrating place to be in when you find that no matter what you do, you can’t live up to those expectations.

The thing is, your pre-illness expectations may no longer match your body’s capabilities. Your body has changed. Therefore, your expectations of what your body can do also need to change. They need to align with your new capabilities.

Being able to adapt is key for this to happen. But with adaptation comes acknowledgement of what has happened to you. For some, this process of acknowledging the change can be hard.

This brings us to your Heart.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your heart

 

Losing valued levels of physical and/or mental functioning can be hard. Your body and/or mind no longer do what it used to do. What you need it to do. What you want it to do. It can feel like your body has betrayed you. And that you are at war with it. You may be feeling very angry.

You feel like you are no longer you. But you also know you are you. You can feel so contradictory. Your heart hurts.

It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling. To give your feelings some expression, to spend some time with them. As I’ve said previously, you don’t have to unpack and live in those feelings forever and ever. You just visit. And the length of that visit is up to you. If how you feel can feel overwhelming, get support from someone who can help you spend a little time with the feelings to understand what they want to tell you.

Picture of person coping with unpleasant feelings

You don’t have to unpack and live with overwhelming feelings.

 

Also, speak gently and compassionately to yourself. You’ve been through a lot. It’s ok to move more slowly, to do less, to not do things as perfectly, to not achieve as much. Focus your energies on the things that matter to you.

Your heart will thank you for this. And you will feel better.

 

How to prepare for returning to work – Your body

 

Finally, it’s important to gently prepare your body to return to work. Returning to work after an extended period of probably not being very physically active can be very draining physically and mentally.

Think through your typical work activities and ways you can simulate them at home. The purpose of doing this is to really feel how you your body copes with them and learn where your limits are.

If you are returning to work gradually, for example, 3 days a week for 2 hours each day at the start, set up that routine at home.

Make sure you get up at the same time you will need to when you return to work. Wash, get dressed, eat. Go through that routine to see how your body copes. Set yourself activities to do in the time frame you will be at work – say 2 hours of paying bills, work on the computer, some errands (if you can do them), a bit of light cleaning, tidying, calling people.

You can simulate a meeting. For example, meet a friend for coffee and notice what it’s like for you to get to the coffee house, visit with your friend, deal with the noise around you and being in public, and return home.

Do these activities at different times of the day to see how your body responds.

As you do this, notice how your body feels. Do you feel really tired? Do your symptoms get worse? Or do you find the activities distract you from the symptoms? Do you find it doable? Or too much? Do you find you cope better in the morning or afternoon?

This will give you an idea of what your body is capable of and the tasks you can and may not be able to do back at work. Of course, what you can and cannot do may change the longer you simulate work activities at home and then when you are back at work.

Before returning to work, get your body ready by simulating your work routine at home. You will learn how your body copes, its limits, and what adjustments you may need back at work. Read more about it here. #returntowork… tell a friend

 

What does this all mean for your role at work?

 

After having simulated your work routine at home, think of your work environment. First, think about the physical environment: how furniture is arranged, is it open plan, do you not have a desk, the lights, getting to the different areas within the office you will need to go, etc. Is there anything there which may be an obstacle? Do you need to make a request for a reasonable adjustment? I wrote about what reasonable adjustments are last week and you can read more about that topic here.

Also think of the non-physical aspects of the environment. Does your work have a recommended time frame by which they expect you to return to work full-time? How flexible can that time frame be? (The after effects of illness and injury don’t often work to others’ time frames including your expected time frame.)

What is the culture like? Are your teammates helpful? Is your line manager understanding, and their line manager? And HR? Do you have people at work who can help you look after your interests, whether formally or informally? What support will you need? How will you manage the pressure?

I appreciate these are a lot of questions so take your time in thinking them through. I have just a few more questions about your role at work

What tasks can you currently do, cannot do at the moment, or you may no longer be able to do ever? This is important to consider because if you have an idea on this, you can communicate this to your employer at the appropriate time to help them help you return to work. Also, if you cannot do the significant tasks in your role, then you may need to consider doing a different role.

Let me give you an example. I once knew someone who worked in a department store arranging their displays. They were affected by an illness which affected their balance and mobility. So they were no longer able to climb up a ladder. This significantly impacted their ability to do their role. They had to change roles in the organisation which did not require them to climb up ladders and carry heavy items.

If you think you are no longer able to do your current role, or only a part of it, are there other roles you could and would like to do in your organisation? You may not have to ask yourself this question, but I ask it just in case you do. I’ve had people say to me if they had only thought that there could be alternatives, they would have thought them through. So think through possible alternatives if that is what you feel you will need.

Prepare for returning to work

Questions to ask yourself as part of your preparation for returning to work after a serious illness or injury.

 

Those are my key tips how to prepare for returning to work after illness. All the very best with your return. And come back next week when I will be sharing what to say to whom and managing your own and others’ expectations at work.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What key tips do you have to share with someone preparing to return to work after illness or injury? Has anything in particular worked for you? Or do you have questions about your situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, and will soon be or have returned to work and would like support to ensure it is an effective transition, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

Support for carers – 4 things to consider to help you care effectively

Support for carers – 4 things to consider to help you care effectively

There is good support for carers out there, but I’ve found there are some things which aren’t always explicitly talked about. And if carers knew about them, which are often of a psychological nature, they would realise what they are experiencing is normal. This awareness would also reduce the chances of the carer operating from the dark side of helping.

So I am going to share 4 things to consider as a carer to help you in your caring role. (There is more I am sure, but this is a good enough start.) This is the last post in a blog series about the dark side of helping people whose capabilities are limited by illness or injury. It is meant to support those of you in a caring role whether you are a spouse, partner, another family member, friend, colleague.

 

But a quick recap on what the dark side of helping is

 

In the first post, I explained that the dark side of helping is when someone helps another, and the person helping hasn’t asked if it’s needed. It’s a proactive form of help, which is deemed to be a good thing in our society. But it has been assumed on the part of the helper that the person being helped needs or wants it. The person being helped hasn’t asked for it, so it may not be wanted or needed.

Pic of man insisting on helping a person who uses is sticks and is carrying a bag, the dark side of helping

 

In the second post, I wrote about the impact the dark side of helping has on the people on the receiving end of such help, their views of it and the reasons for that. The third post focused on proactive strategies you can use to manage situations where you are holding on to their anger and getting angry yourself.

So let’s move on to the four phenomena which happen but aren’t often talked about and what it means for you as the carer.

 

Support for carers 1 – Being able to withstand difference to support effectively

 

So much is required of you to enable you to support someone effectively. It can take a lot of patience on your part. It is so important that you have good support from people you trust, respite breaks when you can, and your own life. This all enables you to top of your inner-resources so you can stay with and keep going without wearing yourself out.

Pic of a carer's balance account of inner resources getting low and people offering to help

It’s important to keep your balance account of inner resources topped up.

 

If you’ve known the person you are caring for for years, it can be very hard to see them so different. This is a big test for some. Can you withstand standing before this difference that feels uncomfortable for you? Can you give yourself the time to become more comfortable with it? Support from others can help you do that.

 

Support for carers 2 – Being able to notice and sit with your discomfort and anxiety

 

Sometimes when we are very uncomfortable with a person or situation which is so different from what we once knew, it can highlight the anxieties we consciously or unconsciously hold about the difference. For example, seeing someone formerly physically active who no longer is due to an illness or injury. We can feel (even on an unconscious level), ‘That can be me one day,’ and that can be hard for some people to experience. Or you could be thinking, ‘I didn’t sign up for this. This wasn’t in my life plan!’

It can also highlight our assumptions of illness, health, disability and capabilities. For example, some in society think that if you have a disability, you are no longer capable, or being ill is somehow a bad thing. But others feel that a disability means being differently abled. (I opt for the latter as it is the realistic scenario. Just because your body doesn’t work like other people’s, it doesn’t mean you are deficient in any way. You have the same dreams, hopes and fears as everyone does. You have a difference and finding ways to adapt your approach to do what you want in life is key.)

When we help from a place of anxiety and assumptions which discount the abilities and desires of the person we are helping, we often do it to calm our anxiety and reduce our stress levels. That ends up taking precedence over the needs of the person we are helping rather than there being a reciprocal relationship where the needs of both people are met.

To help effectively we have to learn to recognise when our anxiety and unhelpful assumptions are triggered and be able to hold that whilst helping people in the way they wish to be helped.

To help effectively we have to learn to recognise when our anxiety and unhelpful assumptions are triggered and be able to hold that whilst helping people in the way they wish to be helped. tell a friend

 

Support for carers 3 – Getting to know the ‘new’ person, getting to know yourself now

 

Linked to this, you may feel that they are a different person. They are to some extent because of the all the change they are dealing with. Yet they are still the same person they were before the illness or injury. You know that too. It can feel like a contradiction and I’ll explain why.

When a loved one has a life-changing #seriousillness or injury they often feel like they don’t know themselves anymore. This is normal. Read the reasons why here. tell a friend

 

The person who has become ill or injured is going through a process of re-defining themselves. They may not be fully aware they are going through this process. It involves figuring out who they are now as a result of the illness/injury and who and what they want to become. That unfolds as they go about living their life with the consequences of the illness or injury, figuring out what they are capable of now, etc. And this is the only way to do it. It’s not a process where you arrive at an end destination, find your new self, put it on and go, ‘Ta da! Here I am world! The NEW ME!’

 

Pic of person trying to buy their new self-identity and sales person telling them it's free out there in the world

Finding your sense of self again isn’t like buying something. You have to live your life to discover your new identity.

 

Also, many of their personal traits, characteristics, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, etc. that existed before the illness/injury are still there. This also needs to be integrated with who they are becoming.

This process of redefining themselves is about integrating the person they were before with the person they are becoming so they can function in their life in the way they want. It is no small psychological effort. We aren’t given a handbook when we get ill or injured on how to go through this process.

As the supporter, you too are going through a similar process. Your life and relationship are also different after the person’s illness/injury.

When you are supporting someone, particularly if you live with them, there are two of you going through this process at the same time (more or less) in addition to dealing with the realities of the person’s illness or injury. That’s a lot.

And if you have children, they too are going through a variation of this. Everyone is evolving and adjusting, trying to figure things out. It’s no wonder there can be an upheaval in family relationships after an illness/injury/disability enters the family.

 

Support for carers 4 – Giving new meaning to the relationship

 

The person who has acquired an illness or injury may no longer be able to participate in activities that were a key feature of your relationship – taking turns on doing everyday activities like running errands, cleaning or mowing the lawn, cuddling together on the couch on a Friday night, sex, spending a leisurely weekend afternoon in a pub drinking, walking up a mountain, etc.

You may be wondering what does the relationship consist of now? What gives it meaning?

The relationship can feel like it is in a very uncertain no-man’s land. Not everyone can exist in such a place and travel though it to come to a new place regarding the relationship. It’s important that you both find ways to talk about it with each other and you both have a variety of support (keep in mind that it’s very hard to be everything to one person). Working together to adapt how you approach activities you used to do together and finding new activities can help ensure your relationship stays on a path you are both satisfied with.

Pic of support for carers 4 things to consider in the caring role

Support for carers – 4 things for carers to consider

 

And more support for carers…

 

Finally, whilst writing this series, I came across this report called ‘Good and bad help: How purpose and confidence transform lives’. It echoes ideas I have been sharing across this series on the dark side of helping.

This report focuses on providing good help at the organisational level: NHS services, social care, or help in the community. Yet the ideas contained within can be applied at the individual level. Have a read! It’s very good.

The report was published by Nesta, a UK charity which is an innovation foundation working on the big challenges of our time in partnership with governments, businesses and charities. I’m including it here on my own initiative, Nesta hasn’t asked me to. But they are aware I am mentioning it.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Do you recognise these four phenomena? What has your experience been like in dealing with them? Is there any other support for carers you found helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support for yourself, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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