Disease is our body’s way of telling us that something is out of alignment—that we might need to slow down, take a step back, and evaluate the things that have thrown us out of balance.
This was my experience when I woke up one morning in 2013, blind in one eye. Initially, I thought I had something stuck in my eye, or maybe I had scratched my retina. What I didn’t expect when I went to the doctor to get it checked was that I would spend the next two years in and out of the hospital being tested for various auto-immune diseases, where I was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2015.
After receiving my diagnosis, I remember talking to my grandma who asked me a simple question, “What’s out of balance in your life, and do you think this has anything to do with what’s going on in your body?”
I remember being somewhat taken aback by the question, but after stopping to think about it for a second, I realized there was a lot out of balance in my life.
At the time, I was working at a job that was extremely high stress and long hours, and at the end of the day, I’d come home completely exhausted. I barely had the energy to eat. I also hated what I was doing. I dreaded getting up in the morning, and would watch the clock by the hour until 4:30 p.m. rolled around.
I was also struggling with the connection to my body. I had been extremely active my entire life. I exercised every day and ran several marathons a year, but I was spending all my extra time training and exercising in between a very uneven work schedule which was even more exhausting (especially when I was already exhausted).
Eventually, all the issues my body was going through had thrown my usual routine out of balance. After the blindness in my eye, I started getting tingling sensations in my hands and feet. I found it hard to run as fast, far, and for as long as I was used to, and as a result, I was forced to dial back the amount of exercise I was doing. I felt sidelined and defeated, which had a direct effect on my esteem and confidence.
I started struggling with anxiety and depression; I felt like I had lost sight of who I was. I had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror.
I quickly realized it was likely that all these things were contributing to my declining health, and my diagnosis was the universe sending me a sign that my body had finally had enough.
I quickly decided to get into action to bring balance back into my life (thanks grandma, you’re always right), and each step I’ve taken since in doing so has been important in building myself and my body back to health and happiness.
There are three simple things I do every day in particular that keep me in check. Everyone can apply them to their daily lives—even if you’re the happiest, healthiest person there is.
1. Do what lights you up.
My previous job and career choice made me realize I wasn’t living a life I loved. I craved doing something every day that would light me up: fill my tank, ignite my creative juices, and make me want to roll out of bed every day. To have that, I realized I needed to make a change. So, I quit my job and decided to follow a completely different career path. This was terrifying, but a huge step in the right direction. This also made me realize that in doing something that made me happy every day, balance was so much easier to grasp and maintain.
However, this made me realize that doing the things that light me up shouldn’t be applied just to the choices I make in my job and career, but the choices I make every single day. What I’ve realized is that making the conscious choice to do the things I love every day make me a happier, healthier, more balanced person.
2. Check-in with yourself.
My health issues made me realize I should be treating my body like a temple, and how important it is to listen to my body and give it the care and attention it deserves.
I’ve started doing daily “check-ins” with myself by doing a mental body scan every morning. When I get out of bed in the morning, I stand in my bathroom, close my eyes, and tune into how my body is feeling, from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes. This has helped me become more aware of my body and how I respond to how it feels, which can be very different on a day-to-day basis.
On the days my body is feeling good, I go for a run. On the days I’m sore or need a break, I do restorative yoga. On the days I don’t feel like doing anything at all, I eat popcorn on chocolate on the couch (#balance). The key is to listen to my body to really understand what it needs—and be kind to myself for making whatever choices I make to do so.
3. Practice self-love.
Accepting and loving myself has been a long process, and it’s taken a lot of work (hello, yoga and self-reflection). This has been liberating and has had a huge impact on mental psyche. I’ve learned how to combat my struggles with depression and anxiety, and finally started to see my true self when I look in the mirror every day. And I like what I see!
This all happened because I started a daily self-love practice. This practice varies: some days, I look at myself in the mirror and say something positive and loving out loud to myself. Other days, I buy myself a latte, treat, and curl up with a good book for an uninterrupted hour alone with myself.
Regardless of what this looks like on a day to day basis, this has made me realize that in taking the time to love and celebrate myself, I can create the space for positivity, love, and balance in all other aspects of my life.
Author: Kailey Buchanan
Image: With a permission of Court Abram photography
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Callie Rushton
Social editor: Waylon Lewis