August 7, 2012

Is Your Life Driving You into the Ground?

I woke up at 3:15 a.m. yesterday to catch a 6 a.m. flight from Denver to Albany, with a lay-over in Baltimore.

Upon arriving in Albany, I rented a car and drove to Lenox, Massachusetts, home of the world-renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

Traveling sucks, especially at that hour on no sleep, but I’m here. And it’s taken me two days to even begin to drop in. After the few days I had before I left, you’ll understand why.

My daughter, Madeline (almost three-years-old), had a school closure all week, which posed an interesting situation for me. Yes, I am a full-time working mom. My first thought when I heard about the school staff in-service days was, “I can totally do this. She is such a fun age right now and has no problem occupying herself.” Right…

All day, as I’m teaching private yoga and Pilates sessions, sitting in scheduled meetings, conference calls, returning the 100 emails I field daily in my inbox and trying to write and blog, she needs to be attached to me like a barnacle. As adorable as she is, when I leave her alone for even a few moments, trying to get a little quiet on the phone or in a session, I find her on top of the kitchen countertop eating her entire jar of vitamins, or smearing toothpaste all over her crib, trying to clean up the imaginary “poopy” her Minnie Mouse made.

The entire week, I rarely had a minute during the day to myself. She was constantly in my ear, demanding her “wadah,” “cwackahs,” “ceweal and gogurt,” and other treats that didn’t always exist. If she didn’t get them instantaneously, she had a fit. And when she was in a good mood (ah, the mood swings of a three-year-old), she had a dire need show me her Sesame Street stuffed animals and dolls. I was always a constant necessity for her. The space I needed between her and my work was crashing into nothingness and I felt myself beginning to crack.

Still, as a good American and non-stop mother, I pressed on, not listening to what my body was saying to me. But by 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, my stomach started knotting, my stress levels roared out of control, and I felt myself beginning to break down. A call came in that I had scheduled and I had to calmly let the person on the other end know that it was not going to happen until my husband came home from work and peeled Madeline off of me. When my husband finally walked in the door at 6 p.m., I was relieved to finally get some space. I just needed to sit, breathe some air that wasn’t from my daughter’s requests or complaints, and inhale the me. Warm bath, relaxing book, good night sleep. I figured I’d be fine in the morning.

I woke up at 5:45 a.m to get together with my running team at the track. I was moving so slow just getting my shoes on which made me weary about the proceeding hours of exercise. I did a simple loop around the high school to warm up. My normal expected warm up pace is at the most eight minutes. This first loop was predicting at least a 12-minute mile. I just couldn’t get my body going faster, I knew the stress was eating at my insides.

Finally, after years of failed learning, I perked up my body-ears, and got back in the car. There was no way I was going to be able to do the session. I fell into bed and slept for two hours. I couldn’t eat solid food for the next 48 hours. What was wrong with me? “Stress!” a tiny voice in my body shouted. I continued a cycle of relaxation, hydration, and peace, resulting in my body releasing its tension and getting back to normal.

Moral of the story: Listen to your body.

It took me years of ignoring my body’s cries for help to force me to finally realize that the never-give-up attitude isn’t always the best. It’s hard to lay it down when you’re ambitious and highly driven like me, but if you keep going at that pace, you’ll be sure to drive yourself into the ground at some point. However, sometimes the unexpected will happen and you need to have the tools to prepare for such an event. Being well-nourished and having a healthy mind are the best battle tactics against a stress-filled world. Having a high-tuned ear to your body is a way to prevent against stress, injuries, even diseases! Preventative action is what’s important here—not action when it is too late.

Is it really worth it to do that extra run if it costs you days of being flat on your back in bed? Did it really make sense for me to think I could work full-time all week when little Madeline was home all day? Next time, I know to cancel a few clients and meetings and take some personal time. I’ll lay some of the work I’m used to doing to balance the time better with my daughter. Nobody should try to be Superman—if we act smart and well-balanced, we won’t fall into the trap of being over-stressed to an unhealthy point. I’ll never get that time with Madeline back later so I know it’s worth it. And at least I’ll know she isn’t digesting three packs of chewing gum when I’m in the other room on the phone.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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