It’s Tuesday morning. The alarm clock rings. Admittedly, already the third time. Now before I roll over again, I roll sideways out of bed and finally get up. My head feels like it is packed in absorbent cotton. I certainly could have slept a few hours longer, despite eight hours of sleep. On the way to the bathroom, a slight, unpleasant headache sets in. Phew. What is this?
I blame my malaise on the weekend – I was at a wonderful event and had two travel days as a result, so maybe I’m just still a bit knackered. Untypical for me, but good. When creaming, I notice that my skin is sensitive to touch and almost hurts. Will I get a fever now? This can’t be…
I ignore my symptoms and instead wonder if I’m going crazy. After an abbreviated morning ritual, I drag myself to my desk with extra coffee and can already feel myself getting increasingly cold. I get through the first meeting with chills, thick socks and a blanket over my lap before I fall onto the couch, feverish and completely exhausted.
The next day, my test shows quite clearly: Corona – now? End of June?! Great. Since I can’t do anything anyway, it’s not hard for me to just lie there and forget the rest. Quickly save an out-of-office note in the mail program, radio the most important people and then off to bed. That’s where I lay for a week.
My recovery has taken almost three weeks so far and there is no end in sight. After almost two weeks, I dared to step outside the door again for the first time and slowly began to resume my work. However, the symptoms continue to this day: I have a window of only about 3-4 hours per day in which I can be productive. After that, the concentration is gone. Otherwise, headaches, fatigue and a tending apathy accompany me through the day. My everyday life, which is so full of exciting projects, costs me an incredible amount of energy.
Why do I share this experience? Because this is a shared experience that very many people have to go through at the moment. Because for the past few weeks, I’ve been experiencing firsthand how hard it is to prioritize recovery without feeling bad about it and not constantly questioning your own experience.
My findings on this:
1. the world does not end when we can not.
I am clearly one of those people who has to discipline myself to actually drop the pen at the scheduled time. In addition, I always have work due to my wide-ranging projects. After the first week of Corona in bed, the pressure of having to work crept back in pretty quickly. The feeling of losing my momentum in business, research, and studies if I am out any longer. The fear that I will lose recently made business contacts. This is a well-known phenomenon in our meritocracy, where we constantly have the feeling that it is already five to twelve and that we should have been much further along yesterday than we are today. In which presenteeism is unfortunately still valued far too much.
What happened in the end? Nothing at all. I have consistently and promptly canceled my appointments, or postponed them to far away places. The reactions were friendly and understanding: As always, the tone makes the music.
Here is my template, which I use regularly in a modified form:
Dear xyz, unfortunately I am ill with Corona and therefore have to cancel our meeting on xx.xx.xxxx – even though I find it a total pity. I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m feeling better so we can reschedule. If you have any urgent questions, please feel free to contact this person / find more information about our meeting topic here. I look forward to speaking with you very soon. Many love greetings, Marlene
Ultimately, the only loss from my illness was at the level of my health and well-being. Business has all taken a back seat now, but I benefit from being friendly and honest in my dealings with my contacts: It pays off. As a result, I have meanwhile developed something like a relaxed composure, because I can’t change the situation anyway – my body is on strike. If I have learned one thing, it is that my result is much less time dependent than I suspected. In the future, it will certainly be easier for me to keep to my working hours.
2. it’s not just me: Corona demands time.
Over the last few days, I’ve kept feeling like it’s just impossible that I’m still not fit. It can’t be that I wake up with a headache, even though I felt much better yesterday. My concentration problems and headaches are especially annoying. I regularly catch myself thinking that the fault lies with me. That I “act”, that I “exaggerate”, that I simply “have to pull through”. By late afternoon at the latest, the symptoms regularly catch up with me. I have since surrendered to the situation.
Even with mild coronas, the recovery process simply takes a long time. Even if we don’t get a Long Covid. Incidentally, this is quite common even in the mild courses and includes, among other things, the symptoms described here, such as listlessness, concentration problems, fatigue, persistent cough, lack of energy. The only thing that really helps is rest. It should also be noted that symptoms like to fluctuate: It goes up and down instead of getting steadily better. This can be incredibly frustrating.
It’s hard to take the time to rest. Since I realized that no one would pull the wool over my eyes if I did, it’s been a little easier. What also helps me is the open exchange with confidants who have gone through Corona themselves. Here, openness has also proven its worth. Just recently, I had briefly mentioned in a phone call that I was currently not accepting appointments after 3pm due to Corona aftershocks. Completely surprisingly, my interlocutor expressed his understanding to me, because he also had to struggle with the consequences for a long time after his infection.
3. I may rely on myself.
Especially when I doubt myself and my inner driver already wants to crack the whip, I ask myself: What would I advise my best friend? This thought allows me to look at the situation from the meta-level for a moment. If you’re tired and have a headache, you don’t belong at your desk or in an appointment, you belong in bed. If I were my best friend right now, what would I tell myself to do? What would I suggest?
It is so important that we are good friends to ourselves. This helps to be more gracious and generous with ourselves. And it makes us automatically take better care of ourselves. My feeling of not being fit does not stem from being whiny, weak, or lazy. It’s real. I may believe that in the moment when I feel it and then draw appropriate consequences.
If the doubts take me over, I call friends who have also had Corona and ask if they have felt the same way. Since so many seem to share my experience, I have now extended these conversations to trusted business partners and colleagues. It never ceases to amaze me how many people felt the same way without ever talking openly about it. Also one of the reasons why I am writing this article.
4. I do not do justice to anyone when I work sick.
If I go into meetings, to my desk, or to events with only 50% or even 80% of my normal energy, I can never perform at my best and have to stretch myself much further for an acceptable performance. What will happen? My interlocutors will not be presented with a convincing Marlene. Would I want my counterpart to go into important conversations with me slightly stricken, or attend my event? Rather not. I would also like that person to be fit and rested to talk to me, especially when important decisions need to be made.
Moreover, I am certainly not living up to my own standards either. This will ensure that I try to work even harder to narrow the gap. According to the Pareto principle, this will ultimately only ensure that I burn a lot of energy with little effect. This will further increase my need for recovery after such a day, as I will overdraw my energy reserves and slip into a sort of energy dispo. This is guaranteed to take its revenge over the next few days and will only delay my recovery.
5. it is unsovereign to make spongy decisions.
I am a great friend of clarity. And so do my business partners. Clear, friendly statements are effective, make me appear competent, and demonstrate my self-efficacy. Especially as a mental health coach in the workplace, clear boundaries around my health have become part of my brand. True to the motto, “Practice what you preach.”
Of course, as an aspiring doctor, it often helps me to have a quick assessment of my situation. As a rule of thumb, if I’m sick today, I’ll cancel everything for tomorrow. Now in the recovery process with slowly increasing health I also let my workload slowly increase again. In doing so, I note exactly how long I was productive and what I accomplished. So I’m kind of planning backwards. This helps me to be more realistic about my likely performance over the next few days and weeks. Then I make quick, clear decisions again and communicate clearly.
At the end of the day, one thing is absolutely clear: without health, simply nothing works in life. That’s why it’s so disconcerting that we still regularly declare our well-being as a secondary matter and perceive people who honor their needs as less engaged or don’t take them seriously. In the end, it will always pay off if we put our health on the back burner. Our professional goals and private projects usually have more time than we think.
So take the time to recover well when you are sick. Trust your gut when you’re not doing so well. Communicate your decisions clearly and in a friendly manner. Then you can start again with full energy in your projects all the faster!
About the author
Marlene glaubt fest daran, dass eine menschliche, inklusive Wirtschaft produktiver und profitabler ist. Wer heute seine Branche revolutionieren will, wird sich um seine größte Ressource bemühen müssen: Die Mitarbeitenden!
Dieses Thema geht sie aus verschiedenen Perspektiven an: Marlene ist zertifizierte systemische Beraterin und Business Coach mit zusätzlichem Schwerpunkt auf systemischer Organisationsberatung und Organisationsentwicklung. Sie hat an renommierten Universitäten Wirtschaft und Medizin studiert, unter anderem an der Universität Groningen und in Cambridge. Zudem ist sie Teil der Geschäftsführung im Familienunternehmen Koamed, einem Dienstleister für Arbeitsmedizin und Arbeitssicherheit. Neben ihrer unternehmerischen Tätigkeit forscht Marlene zu Arbeit und psychischer Gesundheit bei jungen Erwachsenen an der Universität Groningen und ist angehende Ärztin.
Marlene will die Wirtschaft menschlicher machen und ihre Klient*innen für die Arbeitswelt der Zukunft wappnen!
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