Healing Our Bodies
I recently had some oral surgery done – pretty extensive oral surgery at that, and was under light sedation via IV while it was getting done. It was definitely an anxiety-producing situation! On top of that, my body sometimes doesn’t handle pain or sleep medicines well, and it often takes me a little longer to process those things in my body. And have I mentioned that this surgery meant a new diet for me? I’m now on a liquid/soft/pureed diet, and will be for the next 3-4 months. Looking in the mirror, I look like I was in a fight! My face is swollen, and bruised. This is a lot of change in a short period of time!
I had gotten the news that my surgery was scheduled in with less than a week to prepare. Typically, I schedule clients, events, and other work up to three weeks ahead in my calendar. This meant that some things needed to be rescheduled. In the process of doing this, I didn’t cancel my clients which I had scheduled for two days after the surgery. I thought for sure that I’d be okay.
Needless to say, I was wrong.
I woke up the day after surgery, and was too exhausted to do much of anything. I took pain medication, sipped on lots of liquids, and rested.
The day after, I woke up, planning to get ready for work, and quickly discovered that I was both unable to get ready, and unable to talk. I canceled my entire day, and went back to bed. On Thursday, I was able to work, but needed to rest, and apply ice to my swollen face in between clients. On Friday, I was surprised and upset to discover I wasn’t even able to roll over in bed, much less get up. My husband took care of me – helping me to check my blood sugar, getting me a protein drink to prevent my sugar from dropping too low. I slept another three hours after calling off work, and spent the rest of the day sleeping off and on, in between watching Star Trek episodes.
Today, Saturday, is the best I’ve felt since I had my surgery on Monday. The lesson I’ve had to remind myself of this week is the importance of rest. I really struggle with this one. When I’m feeling well, I want to go, go, go! I’ve been known to go to the grocery store, clean my house, do the laundry, and run all the errands on a day I’m feeling really good. And then...I pay for it, in both exhaustion and pain.
I’ve been slowly working on learning to give myself a little grace, and to try to be patient with my body. It’s challenging. I’ve spent most of my life healthy, and the chronic illnesses I’m dealing with now have only been part of my life for a few years. As I’m learning to deal with them, I’ve had many days when I’d get frustrated and upset at my inability to do the things I wanted, or sometimes needed to do. When my body is tired, or in pain, the only thing I can do is rest.
And that’s what I think we need to talk about. Our society puts a great value on work, and on working ourselves until we can’t anymore. And really, our bodies need an opportunity to rest, and to heal. Ideally, we need 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Some people need more! We are downright exhausted! And our exhaustion is putting us at risk. Being overly tired puts us at risk for motor vehicle accidents, work accidents, and household injuries. It strains our relationships with our loved ones. It causes brain fog, which makes it difficult to do all the things we want to do.
There have been several studies done on sleep in America. A recent study by StudyFinds discovered that most Americans were getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night. Studies sponsored by the CDC and other companies show that the amount of sleep that Americans get has dropped by 30-40 minutes each year. And CDC studies show that not getting enough sleep leads to increases in chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD and diabetes as well as increased mental health problems.
It’s not just about sleep. Prior to the pandemic, Americans were not taking time off from work. Studies by Bankrate, Glass Door, and Project: Time Off showed the average American only took about 54% of their time off in 2017. That leaves 212 million days on the table that were wasted. Even when people take time off, many are not leaving work at work. Because we’re connected to technology 24/7, we often never really get a break. Ask yourself this question, how many times have you spoken with your boss, or your coworkers, when you were off work, either for sick or vacation days? Studies show that overwork leads to sleep deprivation, which leads to multiple chronic health conditions, which are listed above.
Unfortunately, many people are working multiple jobs, and many don’t get time off for vacation, sick days, or other emergencies. For many Americans, any time off is time unpaid, which is problematic for the thousands of people getting paid well below what they need to survive. (This is a whole other topic!)
All of this considered, I want you to ask the question, when you are able to take some time for yourself, when are you able to rest? What do you need to do to be able to get some rest? Does it mean leaving the workplace there when you walk out the door? Getting family members to share in household responsibilities? Going to bed earlier?
What do you do to rest and recuperate? For some, rest is sleeping in on a Saturday morning. For others, it’s cold cereal and cartoons with the kids. Rest may be a hot bath, a conversation with a friend, or snuggling with a pet.
For me, learning to rest is an everyday lesson. I know that the only way I’m going to help my body work better (even after I’ve recovered from my surgery) is through getting enough rest. To do that, I need to work on my bedtime routine, create some boundaries, and maybe even adjust my work hours a little bit.
I offer you this challenge this week: Get some rest!