Sometimes life throws you a curveball and forces you to re-evaluate and prioritize.
This is the case for me right now.
Something isn’t right with my health, and while there is no fear of a sudden emergency, I’m working with my doctor to figure out what’s going on. More information is needed.
I’m sure the the vague description and lack of details may pique your curiosity, and I don’t blame you if that’s the case. But, I’m choosing to keep the details to myself for now.
What I do want to share is the impact of this experience.
I don’t know about you, but any time my health is feeling off, it pushes me to consider my lifestyle and choices leading up to that point. This time is no different.
How has my diet been? Am I sleeping enough? How are my stress levels?
Last summer I wrote about how I had been making decisions based more on immediate gratification than on what’s best for my long term health. I knew I was making more exceptions than usual, and so I was not surprised when I started to feel off.
But this time, it’s not quite the same. I’ve been making more meals at home and keeping mostly away from foods that don’t play well with me.
I have been sleeping pretty regularly, with nothing out of the ordinary.
I had started working with a personal trainer to build strength. It uncovered some muscles that were not firing, so I started physiotherapy to address the weaknesses.
All good things.
But, upon closer investigation, something I had been failing to acknowledge was my levels of stress.
I think most of us underestimate the levels of stress we experience at any given time.
It’s easy to spot obvious ones, like external factors thrust upon us. That could mean illness or death of a loved one, job or location changes, separation, re-organizations at work, exams in school, etc.
In the fall, I had a few obvious external stressors converging around the same time. And it was easy for me to acknowledge those as they arose. I showed myself grace and knew I would come out on the other side.
As things calmed down, I was fortunate to have a month-long vacation in New Zealand that enabled me to relax and re-centre.
In the weeks since returning, I’ve been keeping busy, but it was coming from a place of excitement and enthusiasm.
So if you asked me a couple weeks ago about my stress level, I would have told you I have some stress but nothing compared to the fall.
But it’s not nothing.
As my changes in health pushed me to really think about my current stress levels, I realized how much I was downplaying my experience. Just because I’m not in the thick of external stressors doesn’t mean I don’t have a significant level of stress.
And just because the fall is “behind me” doesn’t mean it’s resolved.
My body is sending me signals that it’s out of balance. And I need to make changes.
Many things are outside me control, but there are things I can do to support my health.
The first thing I decided to do was start following an anti-inflammatory diet. I’ve chosen the Wahls Protocol since it’s designed to support chronic autoimmune conditions.
I don’t know if my symptoms are in fact autoimmune related, but as someone with an autoimmune disease, it’s a no brainer that a nutrient-dense diet, such as the Wahls Protocol, is a good place to start.
In the summer I got into a habit of meditating, even just for a few minutes a day. I fell out of the habit and haven’t kept up.
I’ve committed to finding time every day to meditate and/or deep breathing exercises to promote the parasympathetic state. This relaxed state enables the body to attend to all of its functions as compared to the sympathetic (fight or flight) state that diverts attention away from all unnecessary functions in order to deal with the “threat”.
I’m making an effort to journal every day so I can get my thoughts from my head to paper. The act of writing them down gives your brain a physical separation from the ideas.
In addition to journaling, I’ve started expressive writing again. I learned about it from Dr. Hanscom, a spinal surgeon, who describes the benefit of capturing free flowing thoughts on paper then immediately discarding/destroying the paper. No re-reading, no analysis, no judgement of what you wrote. Just destroy it.
I highly recommend it.
Simplify is actually my word for 2019, but I (obviously) wasn’t doing enough to simplify my life. My enneagram number is 7, the enthusiast, so it’s no surprise I’m usually the person jumping from one idea or project to the next.
This means I need to work against my nature and really strip back my activities and focus only on the most important things in my life.
The things that support my health.
I won’t lie, this change feels hard and I know it will be an internal struggle for me.
It means slowing down.
It also means stopping the 100 Recipe Project. This decision feels disappointing to me because I was enjoying the challenge (and the food!), but at the same time, as soon as I decided to stop, I knew it was the right decision.
I’m sure it will also mean saying no to other opportunities that may present themselves.
Social Media Break
This is part of simplifying but deserves its own section.
I’m making the conscious choice to get off social media for the next few weeks.
No Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter.
While it may seem extreme to some, I know it will be helpful when trying to simplify and focus on my health. Health is not just physical.
True health incorporates the physical, mental and social aspects. Enough research has been done that shows the negative impacts of social media on mental health, and let’s not fool ourselves into thinking connections on social media are equivalent to those we have in person.
True connections are made beyond the screen.
I don’t deny for a moment that social media has its place in helping to form connections, but ultimately, it’s a tool that should help facilitate coming together in other ways.
For me, taking a break for a while means I free up time and space to focus on what matters, reduce the amount of time spent on my phone, and limit the inevitable comparison that creeps up while scrolling on feeds or watching stories.
I have given up social media in the past for a two week span, and I know it will be difficult at first, but I also know it’s the right thing for me at this time.
I’ve decided to avoid placing expectations on myself, like regular blog updates, since that may also serve as a source of unnecessary stress. However, I do intend to capture what I learn over the next few weeks so I can share when the time is right.
In the meantime, I do want to make a suggestion…
Don’t wait until something isn’t right before you ask yourself whether you can make positive changes that serve your health. I’m sure there is one thing you can start doing today to make your life better.