How Long Will Recovery Take?

by Apr 15, 2022Blog, Madness and Mayhem, Mindset

This guest post is by writer and stress management coach Justine Sones.

When people came to me for a massage, I heard people ask me how long recovery would take a LOT. I attracted driven, high-achieving, busy people — I called them my “everyday athletes” because they managed demanding careers and families, and also did intense activities like running marathons.

But when they got hurt, they didn’t want to stop to take care of it. They hoped the injury would go away on its own, and kept pushing through. After months living in denial, they finally found themselves in my office. After our intake and assessment, I always asked: “Do you have any questions for me?”

Without fail, they’d ask, “How long until I’m better?”

Nobody liked the honest answer, which is that I don’t know. Healing isn’t linear, and that is unbelievable frustrating. I get it. But I didn’t want to start things off on that foot — so I often answered their question with one of my own:

How long have you been putting off getting treatment?

I’d get a nervous laugh or guilty look — but the reality is that if an injury has been kicking around for 6 months, your body usually needs at least that much time to recover.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do any activity, or that you have to baby the injury for a full six months — what I wanted people to wrap their heads around is that recovery isn’t a quick fix. It’s not just about the mechanism of injury, and it’s not going to magically happen because of a couple great massages or a couple days of rest.

Recovery is about the way you take care of yourself while you heal, no matter how long it takes.

The pressure to “get better” creates its own stress response in the body, one that pulls resources that are needed for healing, and uses them to fuel the anxiety about the injury.

Remember: You cannot pour from empty, and you cannot give to others what you don’t have for yourself. That includes self-compassion, permission to rest, and the space to honour your needs.

That’s why I want to pass on the tips for rest and recovery that I gave to Sarah — and I hope that you can put them to use the next time sh*t hits the fan in your world:

Cancel all your meetings. Bonus points if you don’t try to explain our justify the reason — because around here, you never have to defend your need for rest.

Put an away message up right away. You don’t have to announce what’s going on, just write “I’m away from my desk this week, and will get back to you on a delayed schedule.” This will help relieve the crushing weight of replying to everyone quickly.

Go the fork to bed. Go to bed early, and stay there as long as humanly possible. You can even put on some soothing Sammy J to help you get there. (We love ourselves a good motivational talk, you know?)

Listen to your feelings. They are not facts, but they contain incredibly important information. If you feel guilt about not working while you recover, that doesn’t mean you need to work… it’s an invitation to figure out where that guilt is coming from.

Are you actually acting out of alignment with your values, or are you reacting to toxic conditioning that values your output more than your well-being? It’s hard. We all are swimming in a sea of hustle culture.

In the healing process, it is so important to give ourselves compassion and grace.

As leaders, we’re modeling this type of care to our teams, the people we work with, and the children we’re raising. The most empathetic leaders — especially women — still feel like they have to push through when they’re the ones that need care. Why is it so much easier to take care of other people, but so hard to take care of ourselves?

We fall for the lies that say, “it’s important that YOU take care of yourself when you need to, but I can keep pushing through. I don’t need to rest, I can lay in bed and kind of rest while I call into a Zoom meeting without the video on.”

When we make ourselves the exception and try to push through, we model a double standard that rewards performance at the cost of care — and that doesn’t help anybody. It sends a message that says it’s not okay to take time for recovery.

We need more recovery than we think we do

When SKP and her crew came down with COVID, we had a team tête-à-tête to make a plan so that we could keep things humming along without disruption. I told Sarah: “Write a post-it that you can stick somewhere that you’ll see, and I want that post-it to say ‘I need more rest + recovery than I think I need.’”

I said that because when I need to heal, my brain always tells me that I’m ready to do more than I actually am. The moment I feel an iota better, it wants to jump into high gear and get back at it… whatever “it” is.

But I’ve learned that my brain is not always a great judge of recovery time. This brain has marinated in hustle culture, and tries to run programming that keeps me hustling as soon as I “think” I can… regardless of whether or not I actually have capacity.

(Spoiler: I am always grateful that I took more time.)

After acknowledging my infinite wisdom 💅 Sarah said something that I loved:

“What if we don’t pretend that things are business as usual, own the way that our plans changed, and share how we’re navigating that — no pretending that everything is fine when it’s not.”

So. Much. Yes.

That’s why you’re hearing from me today instead of our beloved SKP. She’s walking the talk as a leader, taking more time than she thinks she needs to recover… and trusting that her team has her back. She’s got me writing for her today, we’re going to do a re-run next week, and we may even just take a full week off after that.

That’s the kind of leadership I’m happy to get behind.

We’re here to rethink this work + parenting thing, which means rethinking the way you take care of yourself and your people. Be the leader the world needs right now… a well-rested one.

Thanks for hanging out with me this week, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other here at Startup Parent.

Until next time,

— Justine Sones

I’m Justine, doing a takeover for Sarah this week. I’m a mom to two boys (until they tell me otherwise) who are 4 and 6, as well as a writer and stress management coach. I spent nearly a decade working as a Registered Massage Therapist. These days I work with high-achieving humans to help them learn how to set healthy boundaries and practice sustainable Self-care.

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