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Caring For Your Mental Health Following Illness


Have you ever been ill and struggled with recovery for an extended period of time following the end of your symptoms? Have you experienced fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms of mental illness from forcing yourself to return to work or other activities too quickly?


We know from history and literature that a period of convalescence often followed injury or strong illness. People would take weeks or even months for their recovery, because while they were no longer actively ill and medicine couldn’t aid them, it was still acknowledged that they needed time to finish their recovery before returning to regular activity.


So, why do we now expect people to immediately return to the daily activity levels they’d had pre-illness?


Have Patience With Yourself

When you’ve been ill, it’s important to grant yourself a little grace. Even after your active symptoms subside, lingering symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, muscle weakness, and respiratory distress can be prolonged.


You may find that you tire faster, or struggle to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. It is absolutely okay to feel those feelings of sadness and frustration, but it’s important to remember that your body is still recovering, and that can manifest in ways you don’t expect and last for longer than anyone could anticipate.


Self-Care Is Critical

So, you can’t control how long your recovery will last, and if you try to rush it, you risk relapse. What you can do is support your body and mind through the healing process.


Listen to the cues from your body and mind. When you need rest, it is important you take it. If you feel that you’re over-exerting yourself, you need to take a break and re-evaluate how much you are expecting of yourself. Physical and mental self-care are critical during recovery.


Ease yourself back into regular activities, a little bit at a time. Get fresh air, nourish your body, and consult with your medical team to support your health holistically; after all, mental distress from ongoing illness can also manifest into physical symptoms. The fastest way to get back to life as you knew it before is to take care of your needs at this moment.


Manage External Expectations

It’s not unusual to feel external pressures after you’ve been ill. Often we are expected to just return to normal…but that isn’t always possible or advisable. The best approach you can take is to remind people that you have been ill and will need time to catch up on missed responsibilities and to ease yourself back into your regular workload.


Have conversations where they’re needed. It’s important not to stretch yourself thin for the gain of others. If you need to set aside certain social or professional expectations at this time, then that is what you need. Express your needs clearly, and remember that you don’t need to feel guilty for these needs. Again, you cannot control your recovery time. Now is the time to put yourself first.


Get Organized

While managing external expectations, it’s a good idea to take the time to get organized! Make a list of responsibilities you need to catch up on and sort them by priority and time/energy commitment. As new things pop up, add them to your list. It may seem overwhelming to see it all in one place, but this will make sure that you don’t forget anything while working through your fatigue and brain fog.


Once you have your list, it will give you a better idea of how much time each responsibility will take, and you can chip away at it as your recovery allows. It will also make it easier to see what you could postpone or delegate…which leads us to…


Look to Your Support System!

Even if it feels like it sometimes, you’re not in this alone! You have a network of people around you to provide support where you need it. From coworkers helping to bear the load you’re lifting at work to friends and family providing emotional and physical support where you need it, it’s okay to ask for help!


Punk Rock Saves Lives (PRSL) cares about your mental and physical health. It’s why we work so hard to advocate for you! If you need peer mental health support, please remember that we have virtual support groups available! From sobriety and addiction to chronic illness, mood disorders and so much more, you’re sure to find a group of welcoming people who can empathize and provide emotional support.


If you’re in need of emergency mental health intervention, please call your local authorities (911), contact a mental health professional, or call and talk to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


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