Knowing that I would be undergoing rotator cuff surgery was frightening enough, but having to worry about what to do during my time off was a stress I did not expect. I was a little nervous and apprehensive, thinking of friends and colleagues of mine who complained of post-surgical blues when they had to take their own medical leave. This is in part due to normalizing a life of going at 100 mph (including holding a full-time job, attending to a family, countless other activities and obligations), and then abruptly slowing down to 0 MPH in order to heal from the surgery (not being able to drive, work, complete normal activities, etc.). It can sometimes leave you feeling bored, maybe even useless to a degree. In order to keep away boredom and/or frustration, I wanted to ensure that I was taking advantage of every single day of my hard-earned temporary disability. For me, it was checking off items that had been held on the back burner for way too long. And surprisingly you find that the act of crossing off each item on this list actually fuels some unexpected self-discovery!
1. Make a List of Everything You Want to Accomplish – What’s been sitting on your back burner, or on your bucket list? I know for me…it was, well, everything? As a medical social worker, I am emotionally and physically drained by the end of the work day. Any added stress, even simply making dinner, sometimes feels like too much. You’re probably thinking, then why are you doing this kind of work? In all honesty, this time off has forced me to look inward and take an objective look at my life and choices. I love what I do, but realize that I wasn’t supplementing it with proper self-care, nor was I asking myself whether this placement was part of my long-term goal. Ok, back to the list. This can include anything from books you want to read, classes you want to take, languages you want to learn, rooms you want to re-organize, etc. Remember, you will also need to make time to heal (something that can be pretty difficult, as I found it was for me).
2. Attend Physical Therapy and Actually Do Your Exercises! – Depending on your type of surgery, you may need to attend physical therapy appointments 1-3 times a week. You will also have at least a few follow-up appointments with your doctor. Make sure to stay on top of this, and your exercises. It will be 5pm and all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch Crazy Ex-Girflfriend, but girl (or guy), force yourself to do your exercises! It is the only way you can properly heal. P.S. Don’t hit a metal bar as you’re standing up from the toilet, like I did. Luckily just a bruised bone, but nonetheless, it took me back a few steps. After I started to feel normal again, it was hard to remember that hey, I just had surgery! It takes time, more time than we think, to heal back to 100%, so keep that in mind. And mind those pesky metal bars!
3. Hail a Cab! – If you are unable to drive, like I wasn’t for the first 4-5 weeks, then I would recommend downloading a driving app, such as Lyft or Uber. I am not a fan of asking for or waiting on others to drive me to my appointments, etc. I used Lyft to get to all of my appointments, and anywhere else I needed to visit.
4. Delivery? Yes, Please! – If you do not have the privilege of someone who is present to take care of you, let alone do the cooking or grocery shopping for you, a delivery service like DoorDash will become your new BFF. This is a great alternative, plus your first delivery is free!
5. Hire a Temporary Maid – Again, if there isn’t anyone around to help you out, then hiring a maid may be one of the best choices you make. You may be thinking, “Hey, I am not Daddy Warbucks!,” but trust me, there are a lot of inexpensive maid services through sites like Thumbtack that can really help your recovery. Nothing is worse than trying to heal while the mess piles up.
6. Get Your Hair Washed! – If you can’t jump in the shower, and/or cannot physically wash your hair due to the limitations of your surgery, then I would recommend heading to a cheap hair salon, like Supercuts, for them to wash your hair. One less thing to worry, or smell about!
7. Dry Shampoo Your Hair – If you’re feeling lazy or want a touch up in-between the cheap hair salon visits, I would use some dry shampoo, like Batiste, to cover up’m oily roots.
8. Wet Wipes FTW – I mean… If you can’t shower. Something is better than nothing, right?
9. Take Care of Your Physical AND Mental Health – This is your chance to 100% focus on your health. You are healing, and you want to do the most in taking care of yourself. Remember not having time to meditate? How about going on walks? How about all of those doctor or DMV appointments that you didn’t want to disrupt the work day for? Well, now you don’t have an excuse. Download the Breathe Meditation App, create a walking music playlist on Spotify, and make those MD appointments!
10. Read (or listen to) a Book! – How many books on your bookshelf have been collecting dust for year? Or, is that only me? Well, now’s your chance to give them more attention that they can bare. Can’t physically hold a book? Then download Audible, and listen to one! Oh, and you now have time for that book club you wanted to join. No, Oprah won’t be there, but hey, you can’t win em all!
11. Nab a Certificate – How many of us want to get certified, but never felt like we had the time? From Microsoft Office to marketing, the possibilities are endless! I got my Certified Travel Associate (CTA) certificate from the Travel Institute, and I am hoping to use it in some capacity soon (see #22).
12. Journal/Write Everyday – Write it on a nice leather bound notebook or Moleskine or start something with the Sketchbook Project. It helps to deal with pretty much anything in your life. So write. Then start a blog… I was able to finally start some serious work on my brand/travel blog, BuenQamino.
13. Find Your “Office” – I like to separate my home from work. My home is a place of relaxation, not work. I started going to this adorable coffee shop, called Communal Coffee and have made it my makeshift office for the time being. It is also a good way to meet people.
14. Hablas Espanol?– Learn a new language. I love the Duolingo app. Plus it’s free!
16. Apply for a New Job…? – Ok, now I feel like I am projecting..
17. Plan your next big Vacation– You could either plan your own vacation, or let me (remember, I’m certified now!), or use a bespoke website such as Jubel.co to plan and make it a surprise for you. Planning takes time, both in terms of getting a budget together and looking at TripAdvisor reviews. If you plan now, when the time comes, you just need to click GO!
18. Move! Like, to a new apartment and organize the heck out of it – You know, because your landlord didn’t, but kind of did evict you. Am I projecting again? But seriously, you now have time to reorganize it all!
19. Chillin’ with the Homies – Hangout with those people you barely get to see, and/or join a knitting meetup.com group.
I can confidently say that I was able to make the most use of my time without succumbing to those worrisome blues. Well, except for the first week..the pain and pain pills will ensure that not much gets done. You know, other than eating/sleeping/crying for more ice cream/etc. But by the second week, things started to improve and through my own trial and error, I began to enjoy every minute of my free time.
… Do I really have to return back to work now? :<
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