We experience a life-changing injury, a diagnosis of a serious illness or an emotional upset, and, just like that, our life becomes unrecognizable.
The response to these situations often mirrors the stages of grief — shock, denial, anger, resignation. Depending on our individual psychological and physiological makeup, we may get stuck in one stage or another at varying speeds and depths or cycle through them all at random.
My background as a lifestyle and business coach, as well as a personal trainer, means I often meet new clients in one of these phases. One of the most interesting aspects of my job is for both of us to discover where they are, together. What a gift to be in a position to help clients reframe their perspective so that they can recalibrate and rebuild their lives anew.
Body work is so crucial in rehabilitation because it’s often the first thing that goes out the window when we experience a significant change. However, it is also the thing we need the most to restore ourselves to our highest quality of life, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So instead of retreating to a break from your usual routine, I suggest we find ways to maintain and even reinvent your previous daily habits, particularly around exercise.
The reason why this is important is twofold.
First, your body will heal more quickly if you keep it moving. In order to heal, tissue needs blood flow and nutrients to circle through it. Nothing will help healing more than good-quality nutrition and exercise.
Second, when we experience a setback, our body stores these emotional traumas in the body as stress, muscle soreness, tightness and discomfort. In fact, the longer you are immobile, the quicker your body will shut down. This will make it much harder to restore yourself to the quality of life you not only desire, but deserve.
Maintaining fluidity of movement is essential to expediting healing and preventing the body from locking down on emotional stress in the body, which will slow your healing to a crawl.
I understand that this is not easy. I have experienced a whole range of injuries from colorectal surgery to a broken wrist, but I refused to let these incidents take me out of the game.
Sure, I was disappointed when I broke my wrist, dashing my dream of being on “American Ninja Warrior.” I wallowed in that for about half a day before saying to myself, “I cannot use my hands to climb ... but I can certainly use my legs to run.” I proceeded to learn how to be a sprinter and competed in three meets. I may have not been the fastest one on the track, but I certainly was the most enthusiastic, running across the finish line with my bright blue cast!
I have also seen my clients experience injuries and illnesses, big and small. What I have noticed is that the best moments in life are in the encouragement of others, letting others lean on us as we lean on them. It gives us the opportunity to become our best, hobbled selves, together.
What steps can you take to write your own prescription for vitality and health?
Glad you asked! Here are some steps you can take to get you or your loved ones get back on track following a change or setback:
Visualize: Picture yourself moving with freedom in the activities you love to do. Will you be able to perform these things at the same level as before? Perhaps not, but you can still do your best to reclaim the joy you once experienced when doing your favorite activities. Process, not perfection, is the name of the game.
Mindset: Celebrate what you can do instead of focusing on what you can’t. Positivity is a choice — go ahead and claim it.
Stay committed: Stay emotionally in the game even when you are not physically able to participate. Have meditation, visualization and prayer be a part of your healing process. Go through the process in your mind to keep the neural passageways stimulated. This will expedite your recovery.
Sleep: Sleep is a crucial part of the healing process. Drinking alcohol, taking excessive pain medications, restricted body movements and poor diet wreak havoc on the body. All these behaviors limit its ability to restore with deep sleep. Without deep sleep, our brain never cycles through the restorative slow brain wave cycles, which is when the brain flushes out toxins, according to a study led by neuroscientist Laura Lewis of Boston University.
Exercise: Make your hospital bed, your wheelchair, your cast or your crutches part of your new playground. However you are restricted, you can still perform movements that will help you with both physical and emotional healing. Exercise, particularly weight training, has shown to decrease depression, even for those who have a higher genetic predisposition.
It is due time that we as a society start taking the readily available “exercise” pill, instead of reaching for a prescription from the doctor.
Today is your day to celebrate the movement your body craves. Sure, it is not as easy as popping a pill to make the pain go away, but the long-term ramifications of embracing your gift of movement is your golden ticket to a greater sense of resiliency and joy in your life.
This is your call to action. Will you take it?
Kate McKay, an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, motivational speaker, author and business consultant, resides in Newburyport. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.