Being Sane: 6 Ways to Cope With Injuries

A repost from my previous blog, written on 3/21/2017:

If you’re like me, then participation in sports was a very normal part of growing up. Like with many of us sports-loving/active kids, injuries also became a normal part my playing. For me, it started off with something small, like twisting my ankle playing soccer at age 4. But over the years, the wear and tear of being a multi-sport athlete (and a female athlete, at that) has taken its toll on my body as I sit here writing with ongoing lower back pain and my second torn ACL. Many who have torn their ACL will tell you that the biggest fear of the injury is tearing it again, and now that fear has become my reality. So while I still love my main games of basketball and ultimate frisbee, I hate the injuries I’ve ensued playing them!

In my experience, injuries often take more of a toll on you emotionally than they do physically, especially ones that require long-term recovery rehabilitation. Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve found various pathways to resilience throughout the recovery processes of these sometimes discouraging injuries. And while some of you may have experienced or are currently experiencing injuries on varying scales, I will be writing through my *torn ACL/partial meniscus tear* lens as I’m getting surgery this week! Here are some tips to help you deal with the injury period:

  1. Find the silver lining
    • I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. While challenging, remaining positive and finding new perspectives on your situation can remind you to be grateful that you still have it better than a lot of people in this world. Take this time as an opportunity to give your body a break, to heal your body with nutritious foods, and to plan for your comeback. Figure out how to fill a different role for your team, even if you can’t physically contribute on the field/court. Take on a new project you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Rather than thinking “why did this happen to me?” try to think “what opportunities has this opened up for me?”
  2. Cry it out when you need to
    • Some days, it’ll just be really hard. It can be difficult seeing the amazing people you’ve surrounded yourself with succeeding and doing incredible things, but not being fully able to achieve all of your own accomplishments when so much physical energy and mental space is put into your injury every day. Admittedly, I feel vulnerable not being able to reach my fullest potential and set goals that require the mobility of my legs. It’s frustrating to hear the doctors say recovery could be a 9-month process, and realizing all the things that I’m physically limited to because of that. Re-explaining your injury over and over again to those who didn’t know is exhausting. The reality is that some recoveries take much longer than you hope for. It sucks, and it can be overwhelming on some days more than others. Letting it out doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you “too emotional”. Feeling sad, angry, and frustrated about it only makes you human. This is normal, this is part of the process, and you’re valid for what you’re feeling on those bad days.
  3. Rely on your community
    • Let your friends and family take care of you. Let go of any pride you might have; people love and care for your success & well-being, so let them support you in your hour of need. Personally, I hate the idea of having to rely on other people, especially for day to day tasks. I love my independence and I love being a support system for others, but I’ve had to accept that I’m allowed to ask for that same care from my loved ones. Let people drive you to do errands, let people bring you meals, let people assist you to class. Those people wouldn’t offer their services of care if they didn’t want to.
  4. Work on the muscles you can
    • Although you should be careful and listen to the instructions of your doctor/PT, find other ways to exercise. It can be easy to fall into a slump and maybe feel some depression when you can’t stick to your normal workout routine, but now is your time to be creative. For example: Since my injury is knee related, I’ve starting doing more upper body and core strengthening (peep the one-legged plank). I’ve also attempted swimming, an exercise I was never particularly good at but knew was very low impact on the body. So, push yourself out of your comfort zone, within your physical limitations of course!
    • Further, take this time to exercise your mind. I cannot encourage this more. Not only by listening to some great podcasts or picking up a book, but through mindfulness. With mindfulness exercises, I’ve found more compassion, patience, and self love. The benefits and healing power of meditation can be powerful if you give yourself the persistent time, space, and effort it takes to find presence. I personally like my app headspace, and calm, those are easy places to start with step-by-step and guided meditations. “When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace”
  5. Delve into your artistic side
    • If your injury allows, pick up an instrument you’ve always wanted to learn. Find some yummy recipes to make, even if you never cook for yourself. Learn a language you’ve always wanted to become fluent in. Buy yourself some paint or pencils, go to a pottery place or pick up an art class. I’ve *personally* always wanted to go to one of those paint-while-sipping-wine classes. Challenge yourself to hone in on your creative energy, you never know what hidden talents you might unveil. You artistic side can be very therapeutic!
  6. Take your time
    • With all of this being said, don’t push yourself too hard to get back to your normal workout routine or your sports too soon. You might be anxious to make things normal again, but the last thing you want is to not heal properly and have to start over from square one (believe me, I’ve witnessed people do this first hand!), OR develop even more problems down the line. Take your PT or at-home exercises seriously, listen to your body and to your doctor. No matter how quickly or how slowly it might take for you to heal, you’ll thank yourself for gaining your strength back the right way!

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