The steady process of recovery

When an athlete gets injured in the course of competing in his or her sport, I think we take it for granted that they’ll be out of action for a while. We seem to accept that recovery from physical ailments is a gradual and steady process.

Physiotherapy, rest, and things like heat treatment all play their part in putting an injured athlete back on track. For, of course, competing in a physically demanding sport of some kind is almost certain to result in all kinds of injuries.


I just checked out the Wikipedia page for the champion English long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe, for instance, and it contains no fewer than fourteen uses of the word ‘injury’, one of which came about rather bizarrely, as I’ll explain in a minute.

If we know that physical setbacks take time to right themselves, though, I wonder why you and I don’t always adopt a similar outlook when it comes to recovery from our own emotional knocks?

While I’d never dream of telling most people to ‘snap out of it’ if they were having a hard time, I’m sorry to say there’s one person to whom I don’t always extend the same compassionate kindness.


Even after seven years of diligently recording and tracking my mood, I sometimes stupidly forget that recovery from a significant ‘ding’ almost never happens overnight. And it’s only going to happen in the first place if I remember to give myself the emotional equivalent of the kinds of treatment which can fix physical ailments.

So I guess you and I will do well to accept that we’ll probably always have knock-backs and shabby times, but it will also serve us well to remember that what counts is how we recover from them.

These three maxims help me. Perhaps they’ll also be useful for you?

1. Recovery is almost always a slow and steady process, so please accept this, and don’t lose faith if you’re not suddenly as right as rain again overnight.

2. Be kind to yourself and build ‘recovery activities’ into your day – gentle exercise outdoors, rest, connections with other people and laughter, for example.

3. Remember that you’ve recovered in the past. You will do so again this time, even though it may take a while.

You will do so again. You will.

Finally, oh yes, the unusual circumstances leading up to Paula Radcliffe’s injury in 2000?

Apparently she was kneeling on the floor writing ‘thank you’ letters for wedding presents.

13 thoughts on “The steady process of recovery

  1. So helpful and reassuring Thankyou so much for such sensible advice and knowing we are not alone in this journey Jon

  2. Thanks Jon, yes as we get older – gentle exercise. -and that ” ding ” will still soon be
    ‘out of the window ‘.

  3. Yes indeed. After several years of cyclical depression I do know that I get better. But one thing I do wonder that maybe some injuries are not completely recoverable and you get left with a residual deficit. We all understand that if you lose a limb your recovery is always modified by the loss of it. It is not so clear to see if the injury is mental.
    Even I cannot see the extent of the injury, so how could anyone else?
    I have tried everything over time as most probably everyone in this forum. And the only thing I can do is to create space and be very forgiving to myself and my close family who clearly also suffer when I am depressed.
    I have done the graphs for mood, but I always cheat and never let myself have a low score. A low score would be catastrophic to me. The only true indicator is inactivity which is consistently bad.
    I am also very worried for the future for my children. I have seen just how difficult it is for them. I have outlived my usefulness in truth and they would do better with my estate.

    1. You will always have a usefulness in the world, it’s finding your passion for life and you will!! Love your way. xx

  4. Hi Jon and thank you.
    Whilst I am not in Paula Radcliffe’s league, as an injured athlete it is hugely frustrating not to be able to pursue the two sports – running and cycling – that sustain my emotional well-being. When long-term physical and emotional recovery are intrinsically linked, doubt creeps in. Your words of encouragement, however, provide hope of a sort : ‘I will’. Thanks again.

  5. An emotional injury can be more difficult than a physical injury to recover from sometimes. People can usually see a physical injury or scar but mental or psychological
    pain can’t usually be seen and often can be treated lightly.
    Thank you for the great article.

  6. Timely reminder- so note to self to remember to be patient with myself.

    Have now another complicating factor of physical problem which also impacts on me mentally so have to juggle both as the physical is not going to recover so have to adjust the mental to cope.

    Gosh that sounded complex – but I’m sure you’ll know what I mean!

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