How a broken leg improved my ongoing lifestyle

My Lifestyle Changes After a Broken Leg

In the evening of Easter Monday, I stepped into the bathroom and slipped. It was in the blink of an eye. My left leg was broken.

The following weeks would involve with tests, bed rest, surgery, pain killers and physiotherapy. My body was in a situation that forced me to prioritise wellness. This would be proper overall wellbeing. I wouldn’t just sip a green juice and feel fine. Everyday changes would have to be made.

This injury resulted in lifestyle changes at the most basic everyday level. There were more behavioural changes than just medical treatment.

Shocking life events can be a blessing in disguise. Disasters can teach us valuable lessons on self-care. Here are some ways in which my lifestyle improved after an unfortunate injury.

Consuming Less Alcohol

I now consume the right drinks more than before. Alcohol is out of my diet during recovery from the broken leg, as it could clash with medication. Before the accident, I enjoyed alcoholic drinks as part of my typical meal. It was mostly about the experience – taste, feeling, creativity. I would typically end the day with a cocktail and a wine. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional sip. But it became the everyday option, a normalised routine.  It got to the point where I couldn’t imagine living without these beautiful beverages. The time after my injury forced me to stop the alcoholic drinks entirely. When I do go back to them later, a single drink will be a treat.

I learned to appreciate non-alcoholic drinks during the stay in hospital. My desperate desire for recovery means I want healthier drinks. These reasonable choices were not hipster blended concoctions. And of course I chose things that were allowed during my recovery. Hospital beverages were quite simple – orange/apple juice, lemonade, tea bags, instant coffee and bottles of water. Drinks can be kept quite simple, even if we enjoy some variation for fun.

Teabags

Teabags
Creative commons

 

 

Tea was one of the items I returned to during the stay in hospital. My kitchen cupboard is stocked with hundreds of teabags. But I was just not interested in these watery hot drinks until now. The reason is probably just that the weather had been very warm. I live in a southern coastal suburb of Sydney, where autumn temperatures barely got down to thirteen degrees celsius during Easter. We still experience 10-20 degrees celsius on a normal day. And the weather is meant to be cold by now. I wanted everything to cool down. There was little incentive for tea.

However, tea became my drink of choice during the hospitalisation. They did offer small serves of soda. But I don’t like too much fizziness. Tea became a nice light tasty option with every meal or snack. It will definitely be continuing this habit now that I am at home.

Sure, I might pour a small glass of white wine after I later go off the medication. It would be a single celebratory cheers. Maybe I am striving towards healthiness out of a protective survival instinct. It feels right.

Balanced Meals in a Balanced Life

Let’s be honest. My eating habits were all about convenience foods before the accident. I normally chose the healthiest quick option, but it was not enough. There was no time. I was always on the go. And I was physically feeling the impact of not preparing my own food.

Things changed a bit after I quit a job for greater life balance. But until that point, and to some extent afterwards, my life was overloaded. I grew my online store over the summer break, something which needed some attention by working from home. My wedding and honeymoon were in the month before my postgraduate degree returned for the autumn session. Social commitments required me to travel down the south coast, with my husband, for a massive six weekends in a row. This unbalanced busy life prevented me from enjoying the foods I craved.

Every celebration or work project involved ‘fun food.’ Eating is very intertwined as a social activity in our culture. We ate whatever we wanted at the start of the honeymoon. Although I did, in time, start preferring better options. I would grab convenience foods when attending the university for my postgraduate degree. Leaving at 5pm, I would normally chow down a pie or sandwich in the hour before attending a three hour session. Our road trips down the coast would start with drive-through fast food. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional pizza, stir fry or cheesy share plate. But we didn’t have the down time to stop and have something light.

Plate of chips or fries

Plate of chips or fries. Unhealthy fried fast food.
Image: Pixabay creative commons.

 

We were eating fried foods too often. It was easily three evenings in a week. That’s when I wasn’t nibbling bread on the go. And precious moments at home were focused on edibles. Most of my meals were handheld processed items. Food was bringing people together. But it was in a schedule that was breaking me down.

Hospital meals taught me how to reconsider portions, choices and slower eating. A menu was offered with diverse varieties of small servings. Main meals appeared on smaller plates compared to the dishes at home. When the plate is little, then less food is put on the plate and we do not overeat.

Desserts and sugary snacks were finally not a ‘guilty’ food. Our diet-conscious culture treats sugar like a sin. But small amounts of sweets are fine in moderation. My lunches and dinners at hospital actually included small cup-sized desserts such as mini cakes and ice cream. Drinks between meals were typically brought over with small snacks – a single doughnut, two biscuits or a small piece of cake. Desserts and sweet snacks were not ‘naughty’ in hospital. So then why do we guilt ourselves over these foods in everyday life?

Oreo biscuit cookies

Oreo biscuit cookies
Creative commons

 

Sugary foods were too taboo in multiple social circles. It’s all about moderation. I have seen people who will not eat a birthday cake. Chocolate was seen as the ultimate guilty pleasure, even though dark chocolate is meant to be good for us. Family even felt nervous around chocolate. I was at home with the broken leg, waiting to soon go into hospital. A block of dark chocolate was by my bed. Some family members refused to take a bite. One individual kept having ‘just one more’ square from this high-cocoa block. Every extra piece left this person in a deep guilt like it was a sin, feeling remorse and repenting to avoid eating it again. These were small bits of foods that will not harm us.

I now am treating myself just like in hospital. My scoop of ice cream is a source of joy, not guilt. A single cookie is a not a source of shame. We get caught up in the new hipster wellness foods. But small amounts of so-called ‘junk’ will not be the end of the world. It’s all about moderation.

Slowing Down and Relaxing

The whole broken leg injury has instantly forced me to take breaks and sit still. I still do a lot at my laptop – the online store, journalistic writing, blogging and so on. But I am no longer trying to be everywhere and do everything. An injury requires rest to revive.

I have previously written about the importance of sleep and meditation. That had been put into practice over the summer break. Then I let my life get hectic again. In the month before the accident, my serene alone time would be from 11pm to 12am or even 1am. That is very late in the day for a break.

Melanie at the computer after surgery for her broken leg

Melanie at the computer after surgery for her broken leg.

Great plans were made for my marriage this year. I talked with my husband about new opportunities for ‘settling down’ in the second half of the year. Our logic was that I would work like crazy from May to July, then turn completely housewife after that. Get burned out for four months and then make a dramatic switch? Why did I think my body was built for that? How did I expect to control my circumstances and emotions enough to achieve this?

Hospital was a time to stop. The whole phase as an injured person was a wakeup call. I am still continuing postgraduate study and my online store. But there is now a reason to allow time for mindfulness and meditation. Stress-reduction is no longer an ideal – it is a survival strategy.

The most simple act of breathing was prioritised after my surgery. I learned to walk with crutches, not putting the slightest weight on my injured leg. That’s a fancy way saying I hop on one leg. My body balances with that one leg and the two crutches. Then my girly arms need to discover enough muscle power to move myself forward on the crutches. All this physical activity requires slow deep breathing.

Panic or stay calm

Panic or stay calm.
Image: iStock, edited

 

I never expected to have a broken leg that forces me to breathe in a more serene way. But it is a blessing in disguise. Mindfulness can involve being conscious of present surroundings and feelings. I have became mindful of breathing from my abdomen, through my nose and mouth and slowly feeling the air going through me. Anyone can have a similar focus on deep breaths for relaxation.

 The broken leg also motivates me to live in the present moment. I have to be very aware of my surroundings when moving around. The pathway has to be clear enough to shuffle my crutches along the floor. I now carefully plan the direction where I would walk. Every step is deliberate. My mind should not wander as my attention stays on the physical task. Distractions are not an option, especially in the early days of learning to steadily walk.

A broke leg has became a reason to be mindful, slowly breathing and staying in the moment. I now believe these methods are needed in any stage of life, with any level of health.

….