It has been a pretty massive couple of weeks, maybe months. And predictably I became ill. It started with exhaustion and ended in a viral infection. My gentle man also became quite ill and our different approaches to our work and our well-being became quite apparent. As I begin this sharing I can’t help but wonder how you view your health in the context of your work and your life. Ponder with me as I mosey through this topic.
I have had the blessing to work with people in a variety of health states and in each of those roles there was an emphasis on not attending work if you are sick- you do not want to compromise the immune system of someone you are providing a service to who may already be compromised. Your little cold could in fact be the cause of their passing from this life. That is an extreme, health service focused approach. There are other good reasons for not attending work when you are sick, such as not making your colleagues sick and crippling or reducing the capacity of the service.
Our work oriented culture, that makes work the center of our existence when it should merely be a means to a more life fulfilling end, celebrates the person who never takes a sick day. We hold up as hard working champions the folk who come in on their death bed because the world will surely cease to turn on it’s axis if this one person should stay home and heal.
Pfft. I do not applaud your heroism. I ask you to go home. Get well. Allow your body to regain it’s strength so that you can be everything you need to be at home, socially and at work once you are well. I do not need you at your desk, sniffly, watery eyed and unproductive trying to force yourself through your day, prolonging your recovery by expending what energy reserves you have to just show up.
You could be nurturing your body, allowing healing through rest, being gentle with yourself, and increasing your recovery time. At which point you return with the ability to perform your role, no dropping the ball, no ramifications for your work, the world continued on without you for a time, and you are back now as if you were never away.
I say this, but truth be told I continue to work when I am sick too, it just looks different because I can work from home. I have to try with all of my might to refrain from responding to emails, working on that article, making that phone call, organising my schedule… And I notice the difference that putting a ban on work makes to my energy and my recovery. This ban for me has to spread to all forms of work- chores included. I need to rest. Do gentle things like watch movies, read a book, nap. Actually rest and reserve my energy for my body to do what it needs to.
I have been watching my gentle man struggle with rest. It took a tantrum from me because he was so sick just to get him to call in sick and get to the doctor. Then he negotiated with the doctor to reduce the amount of time off he would take. After his appointment he came home and has been moving furniture around and organising “stuff” and pottering. It tires me out to see it. He just doesn’t know how to be still. To allow his body to rest. It puzzles me.
Clearly we have been taught very well to push ourselves to our limits for our work. We have been taught that we must be on our death beds to take time off. We feel guilty when we do and we need that all important doctors note to ease said guilt, and to claim more than a single day off.
We have not been taught how to prioritise our health and our well-being so that we can live our lives and contribute in all areas of them in a quality way. How about you take the time to get well so that you are not miserable, sick and tired at work where you have to perform. How about, if you must, you see that you are not able to do your best work while sick and by giving yourself the time to heal you get back to maximum creativity and productivity sooner. How about you take the time for you to get well because you are important, your health matters and no one would want you to suffer longer than is absolutely necessary.
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” ~Irish Proverb