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Outside of skinned knees and minor cuts and bruises I collected as a child, my first “real” injury I can recall happened in high school.
The front lawn of my childhood home was a “sledding hill,” meaning people from all around the neighborhood would come to our house to sled down our front lawn because it was the perfect length and steepness for ultimate winter fun.
But this injury took place in the summertime, when the grass was green and fluffy, the sunshine was warm, and I still had that childlike energy in me that convinced me it was a good idea to race my younger brother up that steep hill—barefoot, no less.
For a smaller framed person, I’m a heavy-footed walker. And back then, a heavy-footed runner as well. So with every heavy foot step that landed hard upon the ground as I moved my way up that steep hill, the arches in my feet would (almost literally) invert. I wasn’t more than 25 percent up the hill when I suddenly collapsed to the ground in pain.
“Plantar fasciitis” is what the doctor called it as he fitted me for a boot to walk in for the next week or so. He also recommended a set of orthotics to wear and…R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Being the little obedient girl that I was, I followed his instructions, wore my boot for the next week, inserted my new orthotics into my shoes, and remembered to rest, ice up my heel, wrap my foot with an Ace bandage, and keep it elevated when I wasn’t using it until the inflammation and pain went down.
As I got older, I continued to use that mnemonic device for the rest of the injuries that I incurred. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. And it would work. And I would feel better, physically.
But over time, as I became less active and my lifestyle grew more sedentary, I found myself less prone to physical injury; instead of mending sprained ankles and broken bones, I found myself more often tending to a strained mind and a broken heart and spirit.
There is a lot of literature out there and conversations happening that acknowledge that we humans are not doing enough to treat our mental and spiritual health in the same way we do our physical health. And, in the same vein, I personally know that my mind and spirit can be hurt in the same way that I experience hurt in my physical body.
So, it made sense to me that maybe I could figuratively apply R.I.C.E. to my mental and spiritual wounds as well. But it took some time before I ultimately reached that conclusion.
A few weeks ago, my therapist (an expert in asking me profound and thought-provoking questions), asked me a profound and thought-provoking question.
It was prompted by my desire to “stop myself from moping around on the couch excessively whenever I was feeling depressed or overwhelmed or stressed out, and not contributing to society or adding value to anyone or anything, and subjecting myself to hours and hours of mindless social media scrolling.”
After describing my disdain for my excessive “woe-is-me” behavior, he acknowledged that it sounds like I often find myself in this particular scenario when I’ve been “giving” too much of myself and followed up with a “maybe you need to open yourself up to be able to receive as well?”
And at first, that made no sense to me. At all. Like I literally could not conceptualize what I might need to receive, other than “divine intervention,” whenever I found myself splayed out on the couch, mulling over my latest existential crisis, or crawled up in a ball on my bed because I was overwhelmed by a conversation I had with my mother over a new piece of furniture that I bought.
Of course, with time, I came to recognize that my perfectionism had prevented me from recognizing my mental and spiritual needs, and instead, convinced me to judge, fear, and hate myself whenever I found myself being “useless.”
After years of telling myself you’re only valuable when you give and create and help the world around you, there was no amount of “treat yo self” mentality that could ever convince me that taking that long of a break was “okay” and “well-deserved.”
Mind you, these breaks I’m talking about were not just consuming time. They were consuming me. I would run so hard in the opposite direction of being productive that my hips would hurt from laying on the couch for so long and my thumbs would ache from the hours and hours and iPad games and scrolling through social media that I subjected myself to in order to numb my brain from the real problems I had to face.
There was obviously a balance I needed to find, and Alexa timers and 15-minute power naps were not going to solve this problem.
“What do you need to receive right now?” I asked myself.
Rest. My eyes hurt from staring at the screen too long. I need to go find a quiet place and recover from this difficult task. My thoughts and heart are racing right now; I need to get out of my home office and sit on the couch in the living room.
“What else do you need to receive?”
Inspiration. I’m stuck on this problem I don’t know how to solve. Let’s listen to music to get my mind on another track. Insight. I need some sign from God that I’m headed in the right direction. Information. I need to see the bigger picture. I’m focusing on the wrong thing right now and I know there’s another side to this situation.
“And what else do you need to receive?”
Comfort. I’m cold. It’s winter. This blanket around me feels nice. Compassion. I need a hug from my husband. He always makes me feel loved.
“And what else do you need to receive right now?”
Energy. You know what, a 15-minute power nap is actually all I really need right now. Or actually, no. I’m going to treat myself to another cup of coffee. I know it’s the second one of the day, but I can’t stop this good idea momentum I’ve got going. I might be tired, but I’m going to feel really good if I power through this, so a warm cup of coffee will help this process become a bit more enjoyable.
And there you have it. R.I.C.E. (R)est, (I)nspiration, Insight, or Information, (C)omfort or Compassion, and (E)nergy.
For so long, I rewarded my “Go! Go! Go! Project Management” mentality with long periods of laziness and procrastination because I was always able to convince myself that I had already contributed so much to the world that “I deserve a break.” But just as an athlete physically trains, it’s important to allow ourselves some recovery time to give our heart (and mind and spirit) a break and an opportunity to strengthen as well.
And the most important thing about this recovery time is that it’s active and productive, yet gentle and healing. I am giving my mind and spirit a chance to catch up and receive something it was lacking. And if I find myself indulging in this recovery time for a little too long, I simply ask myself, “Have I received what I needed from this moment?” If the answer is no, I continue to allow myself to enjoy the recovery time. If the answer is yes, I get up and keep running.
I’m happy to report that for the past several weeks of prescribing myself this treatment, I have officially found a way to enjoy a break, in moderation, free of judgement and self-hatred, and full of soul-soothing, heart-healing energy. And I know when I’ve reached my capacity because I actually feel good within an acceptable amount of time.
We are meant to move and be moved. But with movement comes risk of injury. And that risk increases when we don’t have the right gear, or don’t allow ourselves time to recover, or conversely, when we overindulge in our recovery and forgo training all together for unnecessarily long periods of time.
You develop plantar fasciitis from running in terrible running shoes and lack of proper training. Complex layers of anxiety build up from years and years of negative and judgmental racing thoughts without meditation. You continue to build up a wall around your heart when your spirit rises to finally tell its truth, but the person listening wasn’t ready to hear it, and you are unable to communicate that pain you feel to them.
So if it helps you like it helped me, and you find yourself with an injured heart or a defeated spirit from all that moving around you do throughout the day, allow yourself a reasonable amount time to recover, be still and gentle to your heart, and ask yourself, “What do you need to receive right from R.I.C.E.?”