I don’t know about you, but where I am it seems to be the season for cold and flu viruses doing their rounds. This year, it seems to be hitting people a bit harder than usual, including myself. There are few places at the moment where you won’t encounter someone with a sore throat, cough, cold or who is generally looking and feeling ‘under the weather’.
I am recovering (hence being able to sit up and write my blog) after being sick for over a week. I often find myself pondering, as my mind wanders, the analogies that exist between day to day happenings and life on a deeper level. So this time, friends, the life lessons come from the humble, common cold virus.
I had set myself a goal of having zero sick days this year. I also was quite adamant that I wouldn’t get sick when I realised that there was something in the air, as it were. However, those ‘promises’ were short lived when my body decided to grind to a halt against all my good intentions to stay well. I haven’t had a cold like this for quite a while, and certainly not one that caused me to be ill for over a week and unable to leave the house. Life has a funny way of teaching us. Here are some of the lessons that this cold taught me:
1. Sometimes life just happens, and we have to ‘roll with it’.
As I mentioned, I had no intentions of getting sick, and with my regular routines of exercise and quite healthy eating, I was doing alright to maintain a good level of health. But as we know now, I did get sick, and there really wasn’t much I could do to stop that from happening.
Sometimes life just happens, and we have to ‘roll with it’. Against all our plans, and despite our determination, sometimes life’s happenings get the better of us, and we find our self ‘on the bench’ or in the sick room, watching from the sidelines as everything continues without us .
Have you ever been there? Whether you have or haven’t, there’s no sure way to know whether or not you will be in the future. While we can’t necessarily prevent certain things happening, we may be able to lessen the likelihood of them happening. And where we can’t do that, we can build our daily resilience by building our character, working on our attitude and mindset, and taking care of what has been put in our care…being ‘good stewards’ of our giftings, belongings, responsibilities and relationships. And if you haven’t been doing that, and you do find that ‘the rug has been pulled out from under you’, you can still be intentional about how you think about and respond to the situation you find yourself in.
2. Busy isn’t always best…listen to your body and mind when they urge you to rest.
Now, when I did accept that I wasn’t going anywhere fast, I came up with a plan to get better as soon as possible and get back to work within a day or two. While some people are able to do that, my body had other ideas, and I was devoid of much energy and unable to move or to do the simplest things. Most of us live in societies and cultures where we are constantly compelled to be busy. We equate busy with useful even though being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive. When we stop walking by rivers, or cloud gazing or listening to the rustle of leaves in the park, in other words when we don’t ‘stop to smell the roses’, we allow ourselves to tune out of creation’s natural rhythms, and tune into the chaotic frequency of noise, bustle, busyness, and the frantic hurry of modern day life. If you have ever experienced ‘burnout’, times of stress, anxiety, panic attacks or other similar symptoms, you know that there is only so much your body, mind and heart can take before it simply takes a break, with or without your permission.
Believe me, busy isn’t always best…and I have a feeling that you know it yourself. Even when I was unwell, I wanted to clean, to tidy up the mess of the household work that I wasn’t able to do because I had no energy, and I just had to focus on getting better and obey my body which refused to do much at all other than rest, sleep, fight off the virus and ‘check out’ of ‘normal’ everyday life.
Don’t let it get to the point in life where you burnout, and where you are forced to grind to a halt. Take care of yourself daily. Yes, we all have to deal with life in a rapidly changing, moving world (well, at least most of us do), but that doesn’t mean that you have to add that extra thing to your ‘to do list’. Stop and rest a while. If you work in an office, do you really have to sit at your desk to eat lunch? Can you just ‘get away’ from it all for 20 minutes, and find a few moments to yourself to rest and eat and think without interruption? Do you need to be ‘plugged in’ to the world and all its happenings 24/7? Can you switch off earlier or more often and limit the time you allow your mind to be bombarded and overloaded by messages, stories, images and the constant stream of information that we face in an online world? Can you take a walk in nature more often? Can you choose to read a book rather than scroll through news feeds? Can you find the time to take a nap? Do you really need to ‘do it all’, and if so, is that ‘one more thing’ you have to do worth sacrificing your mental and physical health and wellbeing for?
3. We need each other
Robert Putnam in his well known article, ‘Bowling Alone’ wrote about the importance of ‘social capital’ in a world where people are increasingly ‘bowling alone’. We all gain from positive interactions, connections and relationships. It is necessary for a healthy society and healthy individuals.
I live alone, and when I was sick I really struggled to simply look after myself. How nice it would have been to have someone help out with simple things like doing the dishes, preparing food, or getting medicine. If you have such a someone in your life, please let them know you appreciate them 🙂 I had to do it all myself, but thankfully I was able to order groceries and cough and cold medicine to be delivered to my flat and that certainly helped when I was unable to go outside. While I didn’t have physical help, I did have contact over the phone with my family, and even that helped ‘keep me going’. Most of us don’t like to be dependent on others, but we are interdependent – that’s part of what it means to be human. Foster those good healthy connections and relationships. Reach out and ask for help when you need to, but also try to strengthen yourself to be able to be as resilient as possible if you do find that you have to go it alone in seasons or circumstances of life. And perhaps most importantly, be reminded that there are people, young, old and middle aged alike, who against all their wishes and determination, do find that they are dependent for help – perhaps their bodies or minds have ‘given up’ in some way, perhaps they no longer function as they once did, perhaps they are in a situation and state in life that they really didn’t wish for, and they simply cannot get by without the help or care of others. Maybe this is a temporary situation…maybe they have to endure this for a long time. We don’t like to feel dependent, but sometimes we are….and sometimes someone really could benefit from that offer of help, or from the unasked kindness of a hot meal made for them, a little help here or there…the risk of having the offer rejected is not so important as the potential impact of helping and encouraging someone who really does need it. Be brave…take that chance.
It’s an obvious one, but something so many of us struggle with….getting enough sleep. Yet it is essential for maintaining our health and wellbeing. We may be busy, but we cannot afford to trade off getting things done with compromising our health. It is amazing how sleep restores – there are so many functions going on within our bodies that we are barely aware of….don’t they deserve to get the rest and sleep they need? 🙂
5. What are you taking for granted?
So now we come to the final life lesson that the common cold has for us today: Gratitude.
How funny it is that we humans often take something for granted until we no longer are able to do or have it. We may moan about our jobs, but when we are unable to attend our work we find we miss it, or at least appreciate the ability we normally have to carry out our work. When we are confined indoors, we find a new appreciation for the outside world – for blue skies overhead, the sound of birdsong, the whisper of a breeze on our skin. When we are immobile, we think upon how wonderful it is to be able to move, to function, to have health and to do simple things on our own. When we are unwell, we appreciate health. When we are alone, we appreciate company. When we are tired, we appreciate strength.
Do you have any of these today? Do you have strength enough to do your housework? Be grateful and don’t grumble. Do you have a job to go to? Try to appreciate it, along with your ability to do it. Do you have someone to help you with the day to day things of life? Hold off from any judgements you may have of them for *how* they are helping, and show your appreciation that you have them in your life in the first place. Do you have health? Enjoy it, be thankful, use it to bring something good into the world today. Do you have money in your pocket, a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and a mind that is still functioning? Be grateful. Look after yourself, and those around you, and don’t wait until you no longer have it to appreciate what you have right now. xx