Slow Days for Healing

GLS, 2004

GLS, 2004

I’m sitting at home on my couch nursing a cold with a mug of tea and I have had to concede that today is just going to be a slow day. I am grateful that it can be; I have woken up with a similar fevery-cold on days when I had to be very much ‘on’ –in front of a large group of people for three days in a row, and so I am especially grateful that I don’t have to rally today. I can take it easy, stay in jammies, and let myself get better.

Physical ailments make it obvious when you need to slow down. Yes, there are times that you have to push through, but we mostly feel okay acknowledging when we are physically ill and need to take a break: even if it is only for the sake of others—so we don’t make them sick. And I know that when I am able to slow down, I get better faster—and the cold doesn’t turn into a sinus infection.

Healing from trauma or any psychological wound is much trickier. It is so much harder to see when you need to take a slow day. You are so used to struggling with it because the emotional ‘fever’ can feel so chronic that its hard to know what constitutes enough ‘need’ to stop, take a break, slow down.

There’s no manual for this. No emotional thermometer that can read your ‘temperature’ from the outside. You can create a 1-10 scale—where 1 is miserable, need to stay in bed and 10 is outstanding I feel great! Let’s go! But you need to understand, actually everybody needs to understand, that that scale only applies to you. Only you know when you start sinking below 5, or approaching it. Only you know what is too much. No one else can know that for you and it doesn’t matter whether your 5 is the same as anyone else’s. This is the big trap everyone gets in to with healing: I shouldn’t need the help, I can make it through, No one else needs this…

I confess that there were days that I told people I was sick when I needed a slow day, a healing from trauma day.  If we lived in a culture where people understood the need for such days, I might have been more forthcoming, but we don’t. So I told them my need for a slow day in a language they would understand—I have the flu, I have a fever, I threw up. These are understandable problems for which you are allowed space. And that is the most important part. A slow day gives you the space to heal. It gives you rest in any way that you need it: sleep, rest, old movies, walks in the woods, books, whatever. Rest. Mend. Repair.

I am talking days here. A day here. A day there. Maybe a few strung together. Truthfully, as a society, we are still lousy at slow days for physical illness and there is still a Rambo culture of never calling in sick. But there is an even more desperate need for slow days for psychological healing. They serve such an important purpose, they allow the healing to happen faster and allow you to replenish your resources. Slow days give you a break from having to perform when you are really not up for it—they respect other’s ability to carry on without us. We all need to pay attention to when we need slow days, and we can all do a better job of supporting others to take them. Remember…healing is brave, healing is badass. So, slow days are badass. So there. 

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2014