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  • Writer's pictureKris Barling

Injuries aren't just physical

Anyone who has ever suffered a decent injury or illness will understand that the recovery process isn't just a physical game. It's a mental one as well. Even if you aren't an athletic person or regular exerciser, injuries and illnesses will affect your day to day life. The more physical you are, the more it will affect you and the more ability it has to send you into a downward spiral of depression.

We get so accustomed to everything that we do in daily life and take certain things for granted. When we can no longer do these things, it becomes mentally challenging because we feel as though we are failing. Anyone who has ever suffered a severe back injury realises that they have taken for granted the simple act of putting on their own underwear, of being able to tie up their own shoelaces......small things that we don't even think about on a day to day basis. For people who exercise regularly, even more things change and the list of things that you cannot do is much longer.

I've suffered my fair share of injuries and illnesses. This isn't the first time that I have hurt my back. I have had bulged discs numerous times where I have been unable to exercise for a couple of weeks. I have been forced to have surgery on various other occasions (I'm slightly accident prone if you couldn't tell) and have had other illnesses such as Glandular Fever and Ross River fever. Yep, I'm a bit of a shit magnet. Every time that I have suffered from these ailments, I have truly suffered. Both physically and mentally. Thankfully, most of these issues were fairly short lived and the damage to my mental state was manageable however, a couple of years ago when I had to have surgery to remove surgical cancer at the same time that I had suffered a labral tear to my hip joint I suffered greatly from depression which also led to me almost committing suicide. For those of you who have read my other blogs, you would know that this was the turning point for me when I began to really work on my mental health. It was the time when I realised how important it was for things to change. Despite this, within a few months I was back on track physically and able to do most of the things that I did before.

This time, however, the likelihood of me recovering in a few months is absolute zero. The likelihood of me recovering in six months would be nothing short of a miracle. From what I have been told by the experts, I'm looking at anywhere around twelve months. I'm hoping that it may be sooner, but I need to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that this could be the case. With my past history of mental health, I know how important it is to address this issue right from the beginning. Failure to do this could result in me falling back into a depressive state and even extend my recovery time. Your mind can greatly affect your physical health and can actually slow down the healing process.

When you suffer from an injury or illness, you need to hit the RESET button. I'm referring to injuries or illnesses that last more than eight weeks. However, some people still struggle mentally with being sick with the cold for a week. So this is still something that you can use to help your mental strength during this time. You need to accept that IT IS WHAT IT IS. You can't change the injury once it's done. It has happened and you now need to accept that you can't change it. You may have been able to change it before it happened, perhaps you are injured as a result of not stretching enough, or you've become sick due to poor nutrition and working too many hours. Whilst it is super important to work out why you have become injured or ill in the first place so that you can learn from your mistakes, it is also important that you don't mentally beat yourself up for it. This will make things even worse. Note down the things that you will do differently next time. When you write them down, write them as though they are things that you WILL do or change in the future to prevent the same scenario from happening again. Once you are better, you need to learn from this activity and change, otherwise it will be a complete waste of time and there is a very high chance that you will have a re occurrence of said ailment.

You need to straight away think of the things that you can control. If you can't physically get out of bed, then don't get out of bed and don't beat yourself up about it. If you focus on all the things that you have no control over, you will only feel useless and more depressed. Take the time to write out the things that you can control as well as all of the things that you can't control so that you know you need to let them go. For me, for two weeks I could hardly walk. There was no possibility of walking around a supermarket let alone exercising at the gym. Instead of thinking about the things that I was able to do, I began thinking about the things that I was able to control. One thing that I did have the ability to control was my nutrition. Because I was able to control it, I did so straight away and focused on consuming healing foods, whilst avoiding foods that either slow down healing or cause inflammation in the body.

Whilst it might be tempting to turn to unhealthy foods in your way of dealing with the issue, this will be of absolutely no benefit to your recovery. Poor nutrition when you are injured or ill will only extend out the recovery time. There is already inflammation in the body, if you continue to eat foods that cause inflammation, you will make things worse. Mentally, eating crap foods may help temporarily, but this will be short lived once the taste of the food has left your mouth. It is likely that you will also further beat yourself up for doing so.

When I learnt the reality of my back injury and how long it was potentially going to take to get better as well as the likelihood of surgery, I straight away began to research the types of foods which promote healing and reduce inflammation. I will talk about this further in a future blog, however, the main theme I found was that animal based foods were the biggest culprits of inflammation. So straight away, without a second thought I removed them from my diet and replaced them with all plant based foods. It is important that you know what types of foods that you should be eating before you make such massive changes to your diet because it is extremely important that you are getting the nutrition that you require. If you don't know, seek the help of someone who does and follow their guidance.

I began supplementing my diet with vitamins and other supplements that assisted healing and reduced inflammation. I also knew that because my activity levels were significantly decreasing, I needed to ensure that I didn't go overboard with the food either as gaining too much weight would affect me mentally too. At the same time, I understand that this may happen and if it does then so be it. I will deal with that when the time comes that I can increase my activity levels again and just control what I can. On the flip side, if you do it right, it should be quite easy to maintain your body weight on a plant based diet, providing you don't go overboard with the coconut oil and other raw, plant based treats.

I was also able to spend time reading and writing, so this was something that I did also. Everyone is different but most of the time we don't get the time to do things like read, write, cross stitch, crosswords, puzzles...... This is a perfect opportunity to do these things and enjoy some time out from the world so take the time to think of the things that you can still do that you enjoy and do those things.

When you hit the reset button, you don't just do it with your nutrition. If you think about it, reverting to plant based foods and avoiding processed is technically hitting the reset button...... You also have to hit the reset button when it comes to your physical capabilities. If you focus on everything that you can't do now that you were able to do before, you will just get depressed. For me, I was so used to working out in some capacity for an average of four hours a day. I went to crossfit most days of the week, taught Group Fitness classes and also trained in the gym. Thinking about not being able to do all of these things was nothing short of depressing. Short term, thinking this way isn't such a huge deal, but for longer than even a week, it would be horrible. You have to assess what you are physically capable of once you have become injured or ill and work from there, celebrating every small achievement as a win. One day I hope to be able to do most of the things that I used to do, so I use this to motivate myself to recover and rehabilitate. At the same time, I also expect that I may not be able to do everything that I used to. This is something that you need to just simply accept and move forward from rather than continue to focus on it.

Every time you increase your capability, you have to be grateful for it. Even small things. I spent two weeks on the couch barely being able to move. I celebrated when I was able to get up and walk to the front door. I celebrated when I was able to drive my car again. I celebrated when I was able to go to the pool and swim even though I was only able to do it with the use of a pool buoy to assist me. I celebrated as I increased my distances, then ass I was able to walk further to the car in less pain, then as I was able to go back to work for a few hours at a time........ As I progress through my rehab I will continue to focus on all of these small wins and be grateful for them at the time.

One thing I also do, and will always do is to try to find some positive in the situation. As horrible as this injury has been, it has meant that I have been able to spend time working on my blog, I have completely overhauled my nutrition which will more than likely become permanent, I have more time to focus on my business and most importantly, I have gained more knowledge to be able to help other people in similar situations. This is something that truly can't be purchased and can only be learnt by experience (hopefully someone else not yours).

Lastly, find out everything you can about your injury or illness so that you know as much as possible. Seek the help of experts and ask them questions so that you are active in your recovery process and you have a bit of an idea of what to expect. As helpful as some articles or reports of people's experiences are on the internet, it's not always accurate and applicable to you. Many people who have suffered from a disc extrusion as bad as mine resorted to surgery. Whilst this was an option for some people, I researched the ins and outs of my injury and decided that it was not an option for me. After speaking with the Professor and also my Osteopath I was able to gain perspective on how the body can repair this sort of injury for itself and made the choice to do everything I could to avoid surgery. Don't just rely on one persons opinion and don't be afraid to get second or third opinions. Knowledge is power so arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can regarding your situation.

At the end of the day, you do have the power to make your situation better. It's about making the decision to do so and doing the things that I suggest in this article. Don't get me wrong, being injured or ill is not fun and it is something that I would rather avoid but the reality is, these things are a part of life and we will all, at some stage be affected by it. But no one can make the decision for you and no one else can make the changes for you. The choice is completely yours. It is YOUR LIFE after all!

Til next time,

Kris xx

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