This week I’ve had a cold.
Nothing major, but enough to prevent me doing my usual work.
So I thought I’d share some strategies for dealing with being sick.
Some of you may have minor illness like me - a bit of a cold, a mild headache, a stomach ache.
Others may have more serious illnesses like heart disease, cancer, chronic pain and so on.
I hope you’ll enjoy this post and find some ease and comfort in your ill health.
Tip 1: Take Comfort - You’re in Good Company
So how do you deal with being sick?
Remember first of all, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re ill!
Everyone has been ill and everyone will get ill too. You are not alone. It’s normal.
There are so many people that feel guilty for being sick. Why? Because they think there’s something wrong with them.
As the insightful teacher Ajahn Brahm says:
‘If you’re ill, there’s something right with you. You’re sick again.’
If you visit your doctor, tell her or him, ‘Doc, they’re something right with me. I’m ill again!’
Any smiles or laughter that ensues will boost your immune system.
Tip 2: See the Positives of Being Sick
Most people only see the bad side of being ill. But there are good sides too. Don’t be biased in your thinking. Be balanced and fair. Consider the wonderful benefits of being sick!
Being Sick is great excuse to take time off work
People work sooooo hard nowadays. And if they’re not working hard, they think they’re failures for some reason. So if you’re ill, you’ve got a great excuse for not working - you’re sick.
Maybe you can watch some of your favorite comedies or TV shows in bed. Maybe you can read some books you’ve been wanting to read. No one can complain to you for doing that. You have the ultimate excuse.
About three years ago I was overcoming work fatigue. Because I was in bed for a week or two, I decided to enjoy watching some YouTube videos. That’s how I came across the concept of Kindfulness and ended up doing lots of training and retreats that took a much kinder, gentler approach to mindfulness - an approach that was originally recommended by the Buddha. If I wasn’t ill I would never have discovered that. I’m so grateful I was ill to find that out!
Being Sick gives the opportunity for others to care for you
Have you ever had that nice feeling when you’re unwell, and someone else cares for you? I hope so. They may bring you some medicine, a drink or give you some extra blankets. You feel looked after.
Caring for others can be such a joy too. As you may know, being compassionate and kind to others makes you feel great. And so if you give a chance for others to be kind to you, you’re giving them the opportunity to give. A win-win scenario.
Imagine if no one ever got ill. There would be no need for carers. And carers are such nice, kind people. They would probably feel lost with no opportunity to give to others.
So if you’re sick and someone has to care for you, well done to you! You’re giving others the chance to give.
Tip 3: Let Go of Trying to Get Better
This is an interesting story.
I once heard of a monk who was was sick for years and years. He was in bed all the time in his monastery. Other monks used to care and support him. And he did all he could to get better, but no matter what he tried, he was just too weak to even move around.
He seemed miserable and permanently unwell.
Then, one day, the head monk had an insight. He went up to the sick monk and said ‘Monk, I know you’ve been trying your hardest to get better for so many years. Well, now I give you permission to let go of trying to get better. You can die if you wish. You don’t need to keep holding on trying to get better. You can stop struggling.’
The sick monk looked up at him, at first in shock. But the monk said it with such kindness and sincerity, not out of negativity, and the monk looked at if he’d dropped a huge burden.
For the first time in years, he truly let go. Tears started to roll down his cheek. He began to sob at first, and then looked serene. A relief came over him.
Within a short amount of time, he was much better. For the first time in years! His constant efforts to try to get better was preventing him from recovering. Once he truly let go, his body and mind were somehow able to rejuvenate him.
You may often have heard of people fighting their illness. And maybe that works for them. But it’s nice to know that there’s another approach to relieving sickness - one in which you let go and allow things to be - and that approach can work too.
Tip 4: You are Not Your Sickness
This one is easy to forget, but an important point.
Let’s consider a bodily illness. Are you your body? Do you cease to exist if you lose an arm or a leg or an eye? Of course not.
You can observe your body, so you are the observer of your body rather than just your body itself. Your body is part of you, but you’re much more than your body too.
In the same way, since you are able to observe your sickness, you are not the sickness. Yes the sickness is there, but so are the clouds and the wind and rain and sun and birds and the porridge you had for breakfast. There are many things you can be aware of. Your sickness is just one of them.
Let’s consider mental sickness too. Imagine you’re suffering from depression or anxiety.
Are YOU depressed or anxious? Is the condition what you are?
Or are they just experiences you have from time to time?
They come and visit you, but they are not you.
Bonus Tip 5: Your Sickness is Your Guest, Not Your Master
See your sickness as a visitor. Someone that’s visiting, rather than being you.
In this ‘detached’ perspective, you have choice. You can treat your guest with respect, and look after their needs. You can also move your attention to other things too.
You can practice being kind to your guest. You can smile at your guest, and let they stay. You can offer your guest tea and biscuits. Chat and laugh. Ask questions and learn from them. Your guest can even be your teacher.
This is a nice place to share that beautiful poem by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. If you’re heard it before, I hope you can enjoy it as if for the first time:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
A wise approach to sickness is to see the sickness from a wider perspective.
Here’s some ways.
Note that the sickness is impermanent, like everything else. Say ‘This too will pass’. And if it’s a long-term sickness, remember that long-term is a non-reality. The only reality is this moment - all else is a guess. That makes it more manageable.
The sickness has its benefits for you - you get to finally rest, read books and watch TV...or read this blog!
The sickness has benefits for others too - they get to be kind and look after you. Service can be a delightful pleasure.
Accept your sickness - let it be and run its course rather than fighting it. The fighting uses up energy and slows down the healing process.
Step back from your sickness. Note it’s just your body or mind that’s sick. Not you. Or if you have a mental sickness, notice that one part of your mind is sick, not you. There’s also a part of your mind that’s perfectly well. What you focus on, grows.
'Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.'
What’s your approach to dealing with ill health? I’d love to read and respond to your thoughts!
Zen of Business
Do you want to join a community of new and established business owners to create a kinder, wiser and more conscious world? Want to be inspired by a business coach with over 20 years of experience coaching businesses? Don’t want to spend thousands of pounds?
Want to know more? Download the free Zen of Business ebook today to see if it’s for you.
Ready to turn ideas in action? Join us in London this March for the powerful Zen of Business Training.