Three Ways to Stay Positive, Productive, and Physically Fit During an Injury

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Jogging full-force at dusk on uneven pavement while listening to awesome music holds a few hidden, unpleasant trappings. For me, it was a recipe for disaster that ended in one black-and-blue, severely sprained ankle.

Since then, the past month has been an exercise in patience — which is, admittedly, not one of my strongest virtues. I’m usually a really active person: I thrive on the high that comes from being consistently physically active. Running and dancing are my go-to pick-me-ups; if I’m near a pool, I’ll soon be in it, swimming laps.

My best memories involve some kind of movement: dancing expressively with all of my friends during  class, letting everything go with each jump, arm flail (dance meditation is not always pretty!), and toe-touch; jogging no matter where I am (cities in India are not conducive to a peaceful run); gliding through the water, alternating between freestyle and breaststroke, feeling the release of tension melt away there in the pool.

So, I knew I was in for a personally challenging recovery period: staying still; needing to take taxis everywhere (technically tuk-tuks, since I live in Thailand); getting blisters from using crutches; pain; wooziness from anti-inflammatory drugs; and, most significantly, no exercise!

Don’t worry, that is the end of my griping — because what I’ve learned from the experience has actually been invaluable. I’ve learned a lot about myself, particularly that daily exercise is my main strategy for productivity and overall happiness.

After awkwardly fumbling in the beginning to find alternative ways to maintain a positive attitude, be productive, and stay somewhat physically fit, I feel like I’ve reached a healthy place. These are the three ways I’m making sure I remain as close to my authentic self as possible, during my recovery from injury.

1. Adjust your outlook: attitude, as usual, is everything

Use this as an opportunity to practice trusting the universe. I choose to believe that everything happens for a reason, and this outlook really helps during times like these. Remembering that there’s a reason for my injury allows me to relax, lay back, and trust that everything is happening as it’s meant to. This is especially useful for turning around unproductive feelings of self-pity into positive affirmations.

Meditation can easily become our best friend during times of illness, or injury. Since I now have unlimited time to sit still, practicing meditation more frequently is both easier — and necessary for my own peace of mind. Centering our spirits is essential when we don’t have a physical way to release pent-up energy. At the same time, let it be okay to feel frustrated, or even angry: all of our emotions are natural, and integral, parts of the healing process. They deserve to be treated respectfully.

Accepting the unavoidable consequences of the injury, and subsequent recovery, will assist in managing our expectations. Missing out on social events; being a bit more irritable than usual; and dealing with unexpected financial expenses like hospital visits, medicine, and first-aid supplies can be annoying. If we accept that this period of time is going to more challenging than usual, it becomes easier to deal with these issues positively.

Practicing gratitude for all that we do have is equally beneficial for our general state of mind. There’s always endless things for which to be incredibly thankful, despite whatever physical pain we’re experiencing.

2. Expand your horizons: find new techniques for work and staying productivity

Being relegated to staying still has required me to reach beyond my old tools for focusing. Instead of physical activity, I’ve turned to music for both motivation and release: listening to a song can immediately put me in a heightened mental state, whether it’s energized, contemplative, or relaxed. Instead of letting my creativity loose during jogs, I pop in my headphones to release my inner guiding voice.

If pain is getting the better of you during work, make sure to give yourself some time off. Rather than force yourself to work through the agony (which can be near impossible sometimes), do whatever you need to do to make yourself more physically comfortable. When you’ve had a break, tackling a task will not only be easier, but you’ll be able to do it more effectively.

Be crafty: use this imposed downtime as a chance to accomplish everything you’ve been putting off. Want to write a book? Build a website? Learn a language? Anything related to reading, writing, listening or watching is generally in the domain of the semi-functional invalid. Signing up for a course on iversity, or crossing off some items on our perennial to-do list is a really great way to turn an injury into an opportunity for moving forward.

3. Think long-term: stay physically fit by making the short-term count

This is a tricky one, but also my favorite. This period of pain is only temporary, and at some point we’ll be back in full-force, better than ever. Until then? It’s our job to stay as on top of ourselves as we can — within reason. After a few weeks, I felt good enough to start doing abdominal work, along with a few creative yoga postures, and light weights with my arms. While it’s not my normal routine, staying in touch with my body through these small exercises has gone a long way to nurturing my mind-body connection.

Eating healthy foods and staying hydrated with fresh, filtered water — using eco-friendly products like Soma —¬† is also essential for keeping ourselves as fit as we can — especially if we’re taking drugs of any kind. I started to drink more water to help me feel fresh and energized, and it made a huge difference in my overall well-being. I’ve also gotten into drinking more nourishing drinks, like coconut water kefir; eating less greasy food; and eating more vegan meals. The effects of staying sedentary for long periods of time can be significantly offset by making mindful choices about what we’re putting into our bodies.

Massage has been my luxury expenditure during my recovery, and well-worth every penny. Initially, I was quite emotionally disconnected from my body because of the pain, but massage was an easy solution. Having massage not only increases circulation and helps to stretch out any stiffness, but reconnects us with our physical selves, injured parts and all.

Using these techniques to maintain a positive sense of self throughout our recovery will give us mental, and practical tools to take with us even after our injuries have healed. Moving forward from life’s lessons can be enjoyable, even when they’re painful — it’s all part of the journey.

Written on 12/7/2013 by Kimberly Bryant. Kimberly Bryant is a photographer and writer who can be found sharing insights on Soma’s blog. Based in Thailand, she holds a degree in Visual Arts. With interests in travel, film, and visual anthropology, her passion for creative expression shapes who she is and how she interacts with the world.

Photo Credit: durrah03

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