After you’ve taken any time off work or away from your usual way of life it can be pretty tricky to get back into the swing of things, however much we’re tempted to rush it. Even when you’re returning from a two-week holiday, the first week or so back to usual can be exhausting and soul-destroying. This feeling is amplified when you return from a period of ill health. Maybe your health still isn’t back to being 100%, or maybe you’re still suffering from tiredness. Perhaps you just feel like things have moved along without you, and it’s going to take some time getting back up to speed. Often, pushing yourself too hard could land you right back in your sickbed, so the key is starting slowly, with mindfulness about your own limitations. But to some extent, it’s about trial and error, and learning what you can or can’t get away with. Here are a few situations that people struggle to return to after illness, and how to get through it.
Back to work
When people work upwards of eight hours a day, for five days a week, it’s no surprise that returning to work after a bout of illness can be the cause of a lot of anxiety. The key thing here is to take your time, and maintain open and honest lines of communication both with your boss and the HR department, if your company has one. They are best equipped for ensuring you’re not pushed beyond your capabilities, sending you back to your sickbed. It is also worth asking your employer about an occupational health consultation. Companies like Health Assured arrange an Occupational Health Assessment for employees throughout the UK, with OH advisors and doctors located in all the major cities. This will determine whether returning to work is suitable for you, and any provisions your employer should make to ensure you’re safe and comfortable in your role. Most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to communicate any concerns you might have about returning to work, which can then be effectively communicated with your employer (if you wish) in a constructive manner.
Out with friends
When we’re ill or injured, maintaining a social life can be a struggle. Often we deal with levels of exhaustion which are completely at odds with an evening spent in the pub, and other sociable activities become difficult too. In some cases, getting out and about just isn’t possible, and many people can feel quite isolated as their friends start to visit less. Once your doctor has given you the all clear, and you start to feel up to it, it’s important to get back out there to within your personal limitations. Low-energy activities such as coffee with a close pal might be all you can muster, but it’s an amazing starting point. Reach out to friends and inform them of your progress - good people will be excited for you, and keen to meet up.
Back to exercise
Even the keenest gym bunny might struggle to get back into it after a period of illness or injury. It can be tremendously difficult to maintain exercise routines and healthy eating regimes when you’re confined to your house and struggling with energy. As with everything else, the key to returning is by doing so slowly, gently, and not getting ahead of yourself. Pushing yourself too hard at this stage could land you right back in your sickbed. A conversation with your doctor could bring up some good ideas, and a personal trainer might also have some ideas for how to get your back into it slowly. Low-intensity exercises such as swimming and walking are a great place to start to rebuild strength and stamina, without overexerting yourself.
Rekindle the love
Often when you’re unwell, your relationships can become strained. It’s not unusual that a romantic partner can begin to assume the role of carer, rather than a lover, which can leave one or both parties feeling unsatisfied. Once you start to feel up to it, it’s important to make time for your partner and try to strengthen those romantic bonds. A romantic date, even if it’s a candlelit (takeaway) dinner in your own kitchen, allows you to show your intentions and thank them for their patience, and they’ll appreciate the gesture too. The risk is that the period of illness alters the state of your relationship, but with a bit of effort, and some generosity, you can show that you’re still as in love with them today as you were before your illness.
Getting back into the swing of things after a bout of illness can be scary, exhausting, and frustrating. Take it slow and be sure to talk about things that worry you, and you’ll be back in no time.