With one month until I turn 30, I realize my 20s have been a series of wake up calls to pay closer attention to my health:
At 26, I had a miscarriage.
At 27, I broke my ankle bone in half without any real explanation or cause.
A month later, I found a blood clot in my leg.
Also at 27, as a first-time manager, a team member broke her hand and needed surgery.
At 28, I suffered a concussion.
At 29, I tore my meniscus.
All of these episodes had lasting impacts on how I perceive my health overall but they’ve had little effect on how I approach my day-to-day life.
Yes, I learned to stop and take things slow. I’ve also learned to listen to my body and practice fitness regimes that make my body feel good—not just focused on feeling like I worked hard. I also learned that my health and the health of those around me needs to be put above efficiency at work. That was a lesson I learned the hard way.
But my day-to-day health has still suffered. I’ve still spent many days stressing myself to the point of nonsense and exhaustion. I’ve written about overcoming burnout and comparing yourself with others, but still fail often to practice what I preach.
A low point during quarantine led me to an epiphany.
In November, I found an amazing therapist who put me on a path of consistency through journaling. I’d never been able to stick to journaling but now I was excited to do it at least twice a week. And I was great at it and enjoyed it.
Some weeks I journaled every day and found spaces of my brain that hadn’t been present for decades. I dusted off old memories that are core to who I am and uncovering my life’s purpose.
But then, in March 2020, my state announced a stay at home order.
Originally, I tried to see the bright side, like so many other people, that this was an opportunity to spend time that I would’ve been commuting to do more work on myself. But even with all of the “additional free time” in quarantine, I wasn’t making time for myself—actually, quite the opposite…
For the first time, since I had started journaling and seeing this therapist, I didn’t have a single journal entry for two weeks.
While I know that in comparison to deep vein thrombosis, failing to journal for 14 days straight is nowhere near as dire, I felt like a total failure. It wasn’t that I had failed to complete an assignment—that’d be different—it was that, for a full two weeks, I had failed to set aside any effective time for myself.
This was the slap in the face that I needed. My inner voice finally said that the way I’ve been working or operating through life simply isn’t working anymore. Being “always-on” for work because I felt guilty or unaccomplished that day or week was not a reason to put my mental health on the back burner.
Since that day, I’ve implemented a microstep that helps me be consistent while not being quite as regimented as a daily routine: Whenever there’s a sunny day, I set aside one full hour to get outside just to sit down and journal on my porch. It’s that simple.
Coming out of quarantine with a health-first outlook
If there’s one message we can extrapolate from a virus sweeping the planet, it’s that we are nothing without our health. If we don’t put that first all other aspects suffer. It needs to be a job that we each take seriously and work on every day.
Being lucky enough to not suffer the impact of the virus (so far), this pandemic has been the loudest wake up call for many people, like myself, to finally feel the weight of the responsibilities of self care. Being quarantined has given me time to reassess what “I know” about the world. It wasn’t until now that I’ve really given myself time to heal and be vulnerable.