Recently I had serious conversation with my immune system. Actually there was some yelling and accusing. I was really mad at my body for not doing its job to protect me; I was in disbelief, and denial. After years of avoiding colds and flu, this purveyor of health, promoter of wellness, and naysayer of medical remedy, got sick.
You know, like how everyone gets sick in the winter. Not just sniffles. Not a little cough. Nope. I mean real sick. How did I know? I had the hallmark of “Oh crap, I AM really sick”: FEVER.
I’d not had a fever in about 10 years. At first, I was baffled, then chilled, then sweaty, then ticked off because I was “truly” sick. Then I was resigned. Okay, Immune System, I said to my internal workings, let’s do this!
I cleared my schedule, called in substitutes, cancelled appointments, left my dog and husband to fend for themselves (right after I asked hubby to bring me some tea bedside) and I moved into full recovery mode. Which looks a lot like my typical Sunday morning: in bed, in my jammies with a hot beverage, lolling and ignoring the world. But this time, I built a little shrine to health on my beside table: kleenex, cough drops, water, humidifier, honey cough syrup and hot tea.
For several days I fought the illness the best “natural” way I knew how: sleep. I slept. I napped. And then I rested some more.
I set my intention to be well: I visualized my white blood cells as Vikings (as I had just binged-watched the History channel series), fighting this unknown invader, with swords and shields.
In spite of my attempt at allowing my system to recovery naturally, with no outside intervention other than Netflix, my throat and ears hurt. Real bad.
So I waived the white flag and went to the doc-in-a-box clinic on a Sunday morning, waiting outside their locked doors in the dark at 6:47am so I could be the first one in and out. I got my marching orders from a very nice doctor who interpreted my “I can’t be sick, I work with older clients” whining as needing a pre-emptive strike plan, so he prescribed medication and over-the-counter drugs.
I went home and focused on my recovery like it was a full-time job. I told myself, I will be well by Wednesday. I scribbled out a schedule of meds and probiotics on a notepad by my bed, took my first dose and went to sleep much before my usual bedtime.
By the next morning, the pain was subsiding; my head was cleared literally and figuratively. I began to believe that good health was returning. And I could finally think and process what had happened. I noticed a parallel in my sickness behaviors to my wellness behaviors:
1. Focus. You have to set a goal and visualize it happening. Whether it is adding 10 more pounds to a weight lifting bar and “seeing” yourself accomplish the lift in your head, or imagining your body’s internal workings fighting off an illness, staying focused and believing it will happen anchor your actions.
2. Timing. I tried my best to follow a schedule, consistently doing the right things in spite of not seeing fast outcomes. I realized that in the past, as I have followed a new nutrition or workout plan, sometimes my impatience arises and prevents me from allowing enough time for my consistency to deliver the results. Results take time. In any endeavor, there will be a period of discomfort and waiting through the unknown for change to start happening.
3. Asking for help. This is not my best skill. My internal dialogue defaults to “but I can do it myself.” But asking others for help when you are trying to do something hard, like giving up sugar or staying in bed to combat bronchitis, can make the difference between being isolated and feeling alone, and feeling supported. Leaning on others’ strength can enhance our own.
4. Call in a Pro. Again, this is has not always been my first response when I encounter a problem. Going to a doctor was humbling, and yet transformational in this instance.
My first attempt at weightlifting was six months of struggling to work through a plan I found in a book. Once I hired a personal trainer (although, yes, I myself am a personal trainer), my progress improved significantly. Plus, the accountability of following through with the advice of a pro, especially since you’ve spent the money to get this advice, seems to be a key factor in success.
5. Get a plan and work the plan. As I desperately wanted to be well, I knew that I had to find a solid plan with a measurable goal, and then follow it with serious intention. Skipping a dose of antibiotic or avoiding eating became unthinkable. These tasks were non-negotiable; I had to do them to reach my goal of health again.
As I look back over my unkept New Year’s resolutions, I see that “getting healthy” was listed often, year after year; and yet not achieved. But when I listed “hire a trainer in March, sign up for nutrition coaching in July,” actionable steps towards a greater goal of health, these were accomplished; and lastly
6. Appreciating where you are today. As I made a steady climb from my sick bed back to the real world, the littlest of things would thrill me: Look! I made my own tea! In our pursuit of health, weight loss, body transformation, or some other goal, it is easy to overlook how much better we are now than when we started as we look to the horizon of what we want to happen.
Part of what I focus on more is acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating my day-to-day accomplishments and good health. Instead of skipping the gym when I just don’t feel like it, perhaps those are the days I need to celebrate “feeling good” by following my plan, and continuing making investments in my health with exercise and eating well.
During my recovery, I watched a Netflix kids movie called “Turbo” about a snail who did not want to be slow, but wanted to be like a race car, really fast. After being given magical powers to be “turbo fast”, one of his snail friends asks him “What happens it you wake up tomorrow and your powers are gone?” What then?”
And Turbo responds, “Then I better make the most of today.”