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Injuries, Fatigue and The Mind

This blog is dedicated to anyone that is going through an injury at present, suffering from chronic fatigue or illness. I am going to discuss the mental aspect of what happens when you are suddenly hit with either of these and how you can help yourself move on.  Working with these kind of patients I see a very similar pattern with their mental progress that they cannot see. I hope by the end of this blog it will give anyone the tools to recognise, move on slightly easier and maybe a bit more understanding of their own situation.

Initial Problem:

People exercise for many different reasons. Something specific like a marathon, maybe just to get fitter, lose some weight, for mental health and many more. When you suffer an injury and it stops you from doing this,  it could feel like the whole world is caving in because your goal is now not achievable and your routine abruptly stops.  Chronic fatigue prevents you from doing not just things you like but also general day to day activities. Even getting out of bed can be challenging.  From being very active to not, their routine drastically changes.

What is striking from both these two situations:

• Immediately suffering routine changes which they cannot do anything about.
• Feeling out of their control and hopeless with what’s happening to them.

Its now very much a mind game. Rest and rehabilitation are needed and this is where the mind games begin.  Here are the emotions and a brief explanation of what you will experience:

Knowing that you have an injury but also thinking to yourself I can carry on, its really not that bad, I will be able to play on Saturday. When you are so tired that you are struggling to do things but you think that this is not really happening, that you must carry on working or exercising the same as before because this is not real and there isn’t anything wrong with you.

Pure anger will erupt because it is out of your control. Anger over the circumstances that took you there and anger because your body has let you down. Your whole life is changing and there is nothing you can do about it. “why is this happening to me” You worked so hard to get to that marathon and now its all down the pan.

So I can’t run my half marathon next month due to a sprained ankle but what about if I ran 6 miles this weekend just to keep up my training, I am sure that would be okay?  Chronic Fatigue: Your consultant has told you that your current exercise regime is too much. You have replied with  “what about if I just reduce it by 15 mins”? Meaning that you don’t want to stop, you have to keep going even though your body does not want to, mentally you do.

You start to feel down and low because everything you knew before you can’t do, so what’s the point. Hating that your body has let you down, everyone else is running that marathon this week or the class I used to do I can’t even get out of bed. Feelings of realisation have hit you. This part can be extremely hard for people, especially if they have been very active.

Do any of these reflect where you are at the moment? 

Why is this?

These words are 4 of 5  from the Kubler-Grief Cycle. This cycle was created in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross when she wrote a book on Death and Dying. Originally understanding this cycle was for terminal ill people but then it changed and was then used for others: addiction, divorce etc, death of a loved one. So if you are reading this and have an injury, Chronic Fatigue, or illness you are currently in this cycle. Knowing this can be a huge part of your progress to get better because you can understand yourself a bit more.   As mentioned this cycle has 5 stages they don’t always happen in this order in fact they can jump from one to the other back and forth quite a few times but it is really interesting to know that this is what happens to anyone with any form of loss. The fifth one is:

Knowing that my injury has happened, I realise that Its fine and I must do what I need to do to get it fixed. I can run the rest of my life, just not now. Or, with Chronic Fatigue I understand that things are different now and I must do what I can to make myself better rather than go backwards. If I feel tired today, that’s okay, I will make sure that I rest well and listen to my body and not over do it.  Tomorrow is another day.  This is when you have truly accepted what has happened and have accommodated the change.

The Kubler Ross Grief Cycle is one of the most important things to understand when dealing with either an injury or Chronic Fatigue. It will allow you to realise why you are feeling the way you are and that some days are better than others with accepting because things take time.  Its okay to be feeling the way you do but there are some things that you can do to help yourself get better and below these are suggestions from my own rehabilitation which allowed me to accept a lot quicker and made my journey easier.

Never look back. Only focus on what is going on today
The moment you start suffering is when you start focusing from. You have to forget about yesterday and focus on the present day. Yes you used to exercise for 1 hour before but what is the point in looking back only to realise that you are unable to do so now and how much sorrow it will give you. Wouldn’t it be easier to think “today I am going to walk to the shops and back, because I can, its not going to affect my recovery because its gentle and it will get me out and if It feels good then maybe tomorrow I will do a bit more”

Focus on what you can do not what you can’t do.
If you can’t do arms in your workout, do legs and vice versa. If you can’t do these, do abs.  If you are not able to do sport for a while work on your flexibility, do stretching and foam rolling in the areas you can. If you can’t get out of bed today, that’s okay, do some meditation to make yourself feel good, learn to visualise yourself getting better, do gentle stretches in bed.

Create a routine.
If you used to get up at 6am for training but you are not hitting the gym because you can’t do the sport you want. Still get up at 6am. Go to the gym and do what you can do. Even if you sit in the steam room, you are still physically going to the gym and therefore creating a positive mind set and not loosing your routine.

Enjoy your rehab
Enjoy your rehab. Do it to the best of your ability because in a few weeks you will have more to do because things will be better.  Make a word document with your rehab exercises on and tick the box once you have done it. There is something satisfying about ticking a box to show that you have completed something. At some point your grief cycle may take you back to anger, bargaining  because the exercises are difficult but before you know it they will become much easier. Even if your exercises are just 1% better than when you first did them, you hang onto that 1% because it’s a step in the right direction.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and that it may have helped you in some way. I wish anyone that is suffering at present a good recovery but remember you are the person that makes your recovery easier or difficult so my last bit of advice to you is to make everything as easier as it can be to make your road to recovery a successful one.



Fig 1, Can Stock Photos(2018) Grief Cycle(photograph). Available at 15th December 2018)



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