For the past week, I have been fighting off a common cold. Yes, a stupid, annoying, nose-reddening, cough-inducing virus. I cannot remember the last time I was sick, and the fact that this misery came the day of my promotion speech and immediately prior to two summer trips was, to say the least, cause for great frustration.
Thinking back, it’s no wonder I got sick: I was in charge of a million things, running around non-stop for the end-of-school madness, and still trying to maintain some semblance of progress towards my personal goals.
In other words, I ran myself into the ground, and I’m still trying to snort out the clumps of dirt that were shoved up my nose in the process.
It has made me wonder: how on earth do people who are chronically ill or always affected by various ailments do it? I have had a mild cold for a week, and I feel like my abilities to perform at my peak have been SEVERELY diminished-and it drives me nuts.
Regardless of my state of suffering right now, it has reinforced several key lessons that I will keep firmly planted in the forefront of my mind (that are quite obvious, but good to review every once in a while).
If you don’t have health, your quality of life sucks. I don’t care if you have ten million dollars in the bank; if you don’t have the ability to do what you want, when you want because of hangups with your health, you don’t have anything. For some people, money is the barrier to their desires, but that can always be earned. Once you lose your health (in a manner far more serious than a cold), you cannot buy it back.
Something as simple as not being able to breath through your nose can sharply decrease your enjoyment and productivity of everything you do. How much more would this be amplified by not being able to walk five steps without resting, or feeling weak because of chemo, or simply feeling slightly ‘ugh’ every day because you have a shitty diet and are overweight?
You must, must, must make prevention a part of your life. In my case, I should have slowed down a little bit and tried to take some more time for myself just to rest and relax to ease the stress that my body and mind were under. I remember thinking that the only thing getting me through the two week whirlwind was the thought of summer vacation just around the corner.
But what if you don’t have a break shining in the horizon? It would be even more imperative in that situation to put self-imposed boundaries and routines in place that allow you to be productive yet still take care of what makes you productive: you! So many people make the excuse that they saving time by eating out, or getting more done by skipping their workouts, but in reality, they are simply burning through their potential at a faster rate. Eventually, it will all catch up to them, and they will end up fat, sick, and unable to be useful to others or themselves.
Being healthy feels damn good. With everything that I was dealing with for the last month of the school year (both personally and professionally), I started to slide on my diet, skip workouts, drink more on the weekends, and overall ended up gaining a couple of lbs (and, obviously, getting sick). Nothing to panic about, and nothing that anyone else would really notice, but there was a huge difference in the way that I felt both physically and mentally. I no longer felt like I could do anything I wanted to do, I was unmotivated to work towards several goals I had set for myself, and I didn’t feel physically attractive.
All of those feelings boiled down to the fact that I wasn’t being healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I was still way more health-conscious than 99% of the American population, but I had slipped below the level of awareness that my body and mind had become accustomed to. Once you get used to the feeling of everything operating at an optimal level, it is incredibly hard to give that up.
Overall, being healthy is something that is taken for granted when we have it, and sorely missed when we don’t. Sometimes, we are in the state of ailment long enough where we forget what it feels like to be strong and capable and trust our bodies implicitly. If there is one thing that will dramatically increase the quality of your life no matter where you live, how much money you have, or who you are surrounded by, it is your health.
Everything stems from our physical body: it is where our mind has to reside, and if it doesn’t have a welcoming environment, it won’t operate at its peak.
Therefore, make sure that you are taking care of your physical being and that it is your number one priority at all times. Eat the damn vegetables (and make sure they are organic, if possible). Drag yourself to the gym (and make yourself do 12 reps instead of 10). Get outside in nature (and deeply breath air that has been recycled by plants and not by air filters). No matter how much you feel like these things are cutting into other important obligations, I promise you that they ARE the important things.
This is your only life. Do you want to spend it with aching joints, increasingly larger pants sizes, and lungs that don’t quite expand to the proportion they need to? Or do you want to have the mental and physical benefits of feeling strong, knowing you’re capable of anything, loving that you’re able to bounce out of bed sans coffee, and embracing the body that you were born into. You can have the latter. All it takes is dedication and desire. No matter what level you are on, progress is possible.
Don’t wait until crisis mode to get your act together. Get off your ass and make it happen! Don’t worry….you got this.