A whole year on, post injury, and there have been many ‘second firsts’ – walking again; jogging on a treadmill; starting to run outside. All of which I’ve celebrated as achievements. That, however, had not been my stance for long periods of the rehab process. Impatience coupled with expectation of what I believed I ‘should’ be doing; and how far I ‘should’ be able to push my body and my injury, made the year that has passed challenging in many ways. Part 4, and the final part of this injury blog will intertwine anecdotal experience and psychological insight – recognising the importance of maintaining rational language throughout challenging times.
Did I do everything I ‘should’ have?
One of the toughest realisations looking back across the year, was that I didn’t do absolutely everything I could have done, to return to fitness in the best or most timely way. However, this statement is far less self-scathing than telling myself I should have done more; should have done better.
When we tell ourselves we ‘should’ have done better or we ‘should’ have done more, this can all too often come from a place where we are demanding on ourselves heavily, and unhelpfully. This level of ‘demandingness’ can link to perfectionism, and the tendency to demand 100% from ourselves, with little room for the human error that inevitably comes from being fallible beings.
At the time of injury and surgery, there’s little you can do, but loads you want to do! Reflecting on my experiences, I channelled that into nailing that early stage as best I could. Even when unable to move really at all, I hydrated well, I elevated for the recommended times, I ate well, I looked into foods and supplements with anti-inflammatory properties, as keeping swelling down was the main focus at this stage. When I was cleared for basic exercises with the Theraband, or when part of my boot was unlocked to allow a further 5-10 degrees of movement, I was like a teacher’s pet! I did everything, the right amount of times, every single day. It gave me confidence and I was trusting the process. However, this didn’t last. I felt unable to apply myself in this ‘faultless’ way for long periods, especially when exercises started changing and ramping up in terms of physical and time demands. Life, work, setbacks, illness, and everything in-between can get in the way of our good intentions – and when these things happen, we often serve ourselves far better if we are able to be self-compassionate and rational. Instead of labelling a ‘should’ onto our lack of adherence, we can benefit from acknowledging that we could have maybe done more, however perhaps there were other factors to consider and prioritise.
Did I ALWAYS do all the exercises I was given, at the right times, the right amount? No. I didn’t. I didn’t always feel comfortable in the gym, especially when I still had crutches. And even without I avoided it. I did things at home, where I felt comfortable, and where is wasn’t as much effort to navigate obstacles or human judgement! Did I do what I could in terms of general fitness, upper body, core? No. When I was allowed to start spinning did I go regularly, no. Although yes, I could have done more, I’m now able to have a rational outlook on this. Firstly, I am not an elite athlete who can dedicate each and every day to excellent rehab practice. Secondly, unpredictable events occur which take our time, attention or ability to apply effort away from the tasks we may have planned. When looking back at events, as I am doing here, it is important to acknowledge the achievements over that time i.e. what I DID do, rather than focussing solely on missed opportunities or failings – what I didn’t do.
If you catch yourself using demanding language with yourself (such as should, must, have to), spend a few moments considering how you might reframe these into preferences (could, want to). Your desires and wants can be strong – but in preventing them becoming a necessity we clear the way for rational thinking and healthier cognitions. In turn, we are far more likely to perform and feel far more fulfilled.