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Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

Lessons from the laid up

Recently, my good health was compromised which saw me transition – painfully I admit – from being helpful to helpless, a teacher to a learner and a giver to a receiver.

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Thankfully I’m better now but the experience has taught me a great deal:

Accept help from people

It’s easy to be a giver, but are you the one-handed waiter, i.e. you can dish it out, but you can’t take it back? In spite of being a generous soul, I used to turn down offers of help all the time, thinking this showed capability and competence. How wrong I was. It is, in fact, a sign of control freakery, and each ‘no’ response is a rejection of a gift. Illness prised my fist into an open palm, and now I nearly always say ‘yes, please’ and ask for help when I need it.

Stop finishing others’ sentences

It is tempting to hop in with what you think is the perfect adjective when your conversation partner is hesitant, or slower than you’d like. Particularly if you’re a literary type. I caught myself doing this with my doctor. This basic failure to listen is so rude! And repeatedly wide of the mark, as often the response is ‘not so much that’ or ‘not really’ making the practise even more futile.

"It’s easy to be a giver, but are you the one-handed waiter, i.e. you can dish it out, but you can’t take it back?"

Which segues perfectly to my next point.

Want more articles like this? Check out the health-and-wellbeing section.

Recognise limitations on knowledge

Just because you can’t solve a problem, does not make it unsolveable. Perhaps you need some tools you can’t access on your own. I learnt this during my first ever session with a counsellor. Be open to learning from others. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Respect your boundaries

Big parts of my identity were challenged when I was ill, and to claw some of that back I was keen to return to my daily exercise. Too keen. I pushed too hard and split some stitches. I wanted to prove I could still reach 100%, but all I managed to prove was that I’m an idiot who should have eased my way back in.

Our ‘go the extra mile’ culture is no friend to the invalid.

I think the biggest outcome is that I’m generally more humble, which is no bad thing.

What has a spell under the weather taught you?

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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