WORK-LIFE BALANCE / NOV. 08, 2014
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How to Gain Strength to Get Back to Work after Illness

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Having to miss work because you’re sick can be pretty stressful. You may worry that you’ll lose your job, or maybe you just fret about all of the work piling up. But if you jump back into your work routine without bothering to build your strength back up, you could feel poorly for weeks – or even get sick again. Here are some tips for a quick, full recovery from illness.

Follow your doctor’s orders.

It’s pretty common for people to forget everything their doctor said as soon as they start feeling a little better. But that’s a really bad idea, especially if you stop taking your medication. Finish any prescriptions you have (unless your doctor told you otherwise), and follow your doctor’s instructions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

Eat healthy food, not comfort food.

Recovering from a nasty illness can make you want to curl up in your jammies with a bowl of ice cream (especially if your throat still hurts!). But as much as you may crave comfort food emotionally, it’s not what your body needs. Instead, aim for high-fiber foods to get your digestive system back on track; fruits and veggies to provide the vitamins and nutrients you need for healing; and plenty of protein for strength. 

Get dressed.

It’s hard not to feel sick when you’ve been wearing pajamas or sweats for a week. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. If you take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed, your mind will think things are back to normal and your body may just follow along. Frame of mind is important, and getting cleaned up is an important step.

Get off the couch.

While it’s probably not a good idea to go for a run or ride your bike when you’re still recovering, light exercise can help you regain your strength by circulating oxygen throughout your body and releasing the endorphins that will help you feel better. Don’t overexert yourself, but try something like a short walk or some yoga.

Get enough rest.

If you’ve been going at full steam for months, an illness can seem like the perfect opportunity to stay up late and catch up on two seasons of The Walking Dead. But just because you’re lying down all day doesn’t mean you need less sleep. “Rest” means quality rest, not staring at the TV at 3 a.m. with a bowl of chips in front of you.

Avoid stress.

One of the biggest obstacles to your recovery could be all that worrying you’re doing about the work you’re missing. Try to keep the stress at bay by doing what you can at home, even if it’s just answering emails and listening to your phone messages. If you can get an extension on any pressing deadlines or ask for help on essential projects, that would also help reduce your stress and hasten your recovery.

Get out of the house.

Staying home on the couch can get to be a habit, to the point where leaving home seems like an insurmountable task. As soon as you’re able, try to get out for a minute, even if it’s just walking to the mailbox. The longer you put it off, the harder it will be.

Whether you’re anxious to get back to work or just tired of feeling bad, recovering from an illness is enough to try anyone’s patience. But making an effort to regain your strength before heading back to the office can make the difference between a full recovery and finding yourself sick again in a week or two.

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