Sick? You’re Only Making Things Worse By Carrying On

(Photo credit: Tudor)

Sick days. We all need to take them. The choice is, do we take them as soon as we come down with something? Or, do we soldier on, convince ourselves we can’t miss a day, and waste the better part of a month dealing with all the ways we’ve made ourselves worse?

Just last week I recovered from what should have been an afternoon cold that turned into a three-week hindrance because I couldn’t allow it to take me down for a day.

For Type A people, the very thing that propels action and accomplishment makes proper recovery so much harder to do. When you feel under the weather, you shrug it off and continue at full capacity, you have a disrespect for the way you feel, you don’t cancel calls or meetings, and you still go out to parties and to meet friends and family.

You refuse to acknowledge or utter the words “I’m ill”, because admitting you are would be to admit your own fallibility. Somehow, by not acknowledging it, you think you’re removing the sickness of its power… But, that’s completely and utterly destructive.

After finally succumbing to how I felt, I remembered that you need to respect sickness. You need to remember your mortality and that you are human. You can’t attack an illness. This is one area where determination won’t help you. You can only embrace it, let it run its course, and see it through it cheerfully.

You will eventually surrender, so why not do it sooner?

It’s funny that when going through hectic periods, I sometimes think, “I actually wish I could get sick for a few days so I could climb in bed for a few days and do nothing.” But, when it comes, my drive doesn’t abate, and I feel guilty for any let up at all.

To get past the restlessness, it helps to remember that you aren’t actually that important (no matter how much that belief serves you when you’re on), and that your career or business won’t crumble without your presence for a few days.

No matter how seriously you take your work, you’ll get back to it quicker (and thus complete any project you’re working on sooner) by taking the time to get better first.

It’s common to feel as though you’re going the extra mile by fighting through it, or that taking a few days would be seen as weak, but by continuing to work, you’re actually being a bad employee/manager.

You’re more prone to making mistakes, you’re greatly increasing the length of time you’re not at your best, and, if you’re working in-person, you’re making everyone around you much more prone to getting sick too!

Here are a few other important reminders…

[*] You can be ill for a really long time if you don’t allow yourself to recover. How long you’ve been ill is no indication of how much longer you have till you’re better. It’s all about how you’re taking care of yourself, and, if you’re not, it could be a long while yet. (There’s no such thing as “I deserve to be better”.)

[*] Cancel all calls and meetings and push them back by at least a week. Once surrendered, don’t have a further unrealistic notion of how quickly you’ll get better to only have to postpone such meetings again the following morning.

[*] In the brilliant film The Walk (which I still went to see while being utterly run-down), Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, learns that the last three steps of a tightrope walk are the most dangerous, and where the greatest number of experienced walkers fall. The same is true of recovery: you can’t allow complacency to creep in and assume you’re over the line before you are. See your rest and relaxation right the way through to the other side, and don’t fall off (getting back to work prematurely) when you’re so close to being recovered.

[*] You usually know when you’re about to get sick (if you pay attention to your body and how you feel). It’s better to equip yourself going into stressful situations (dosing up on vitamin C and getting extra sleep) than it is to wait till it hits you.


Embracing sickness isn’t fun. Distracting yourself with work is much easier, and having to lie there and do nothing doesn’t come naturally to restless people.

To get back as quickly as you can, you must admit that you are sick, call into work to say that you’re sick, then lock yourself away with no gadgets or responsibilities. Take the time you need to get better, and sooner rather than later.

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