#DailyWings: “Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.” ― Bryant McGill
Originally, I wasn’t going to blog about this. I’d already talked enough about being sick and taking time off from work and blogging to focus on getting better. But until recently, I’d once again forgotten how important it is to take care of oneself – both mentally and physically.
You’d think because I have a disability and acid reflux and a much lower physical tolerance for, well, everything that I’d learned to appreciate my own body more. But nope. I like to push myself with deadlines and check boxes and lots of projects all at once (smart, right?). Somehow, having too much to do is the only way I can compel myself to get anything done. You might know what I mean if you naturally thrive in fast-paced environments with high pressure and lots of stimuli.
Though we might be more productive, we’re not doing our personal well-being any favors. It’s not until your wrists start to ache from hours of typing and your throat starts to feel scratchy and your eyes start to droop from lack of sleep that you finally realize the truth: I have limits.
Limits. It’s not a fun word. It reminds me of calculus, the kind of math that I had to take twice – once in high school, once in college – because my AP score wasn’t high enough. I’m a life-is-short-go-the-distance kind of person, but sometimes, going too far can mean falling behind later on when it becomes too much.
Lately, I’ve been putting myself under a lot of stress. It’s not even related to work. I’m the digital marketing coordinator at a recruiting firm, which essentially equates to lots of writing, researching, coordinating events and posting to social media. While I do have to multitask and be “laser focused” when I’m at work, it’s not a stressful job. What does make life more difficult is the long drive home (30 minutes if I’m lucky, up to an hour if there’s a lot of traffic) and everyday stressors like household chores and finances. When I get overwhelmed from ignoring such stressors for a few days, I lose sleep and stop eating properly – both of which are never good for anyone.
This time around when I got sick, it actually started with what I thought was a cold sore. Except it really hurt. I could barely talk on some days, and eating anything felt like a little red imp was pounding on my gum with a miniature hammer. Eventually, other parts of my gums started to swell, bleed and feel sore even when I used a soft toothbrush. I finally went to the dentist during my week off, who said I needed to take better care of my teeth – otherwise, the gingivitis would get worse. And that white bump that I thought was a cold sore?
“Stress ulcer,” my dentist said after prodding around in my mouth for a good half hour.
A few days later, I developed a sore throat. The sniffles, splitting headaches and extreme fatigue followed. My gingivitis still, well, existed. I was worried that my sickness – whatever it was – would turn into something terrible, like in the spring when I suffered a week-long high fever and lost 10 pounds (not a good thing when you’re already borderline underweight).
I still remember how I felt the sixth or seventh day when I woke up and my fever had finally broken. It felt like waking up from a vivid nightmare – you know how all the horrible things felt, and you’re relieved that it’s all over. It felt strangely “freeing” to have my body back, so to speak. And that’s about the time when I decided not to take my health for granted in the future.
Thankfully, I didn’t have a week-long fever this time. But getting sick again reminded me of what could happen if I’m not kind toward my body. If there’s anything I learned, it’s these three things:
It’s okay to say no. It’s easier to say you won’t take your health for granted than to actually follow through, especially when your body is strong. You think to yourself, just one more drink or just one more all-nighter for this exam and then I swear I’ll sleep. At work, it’s hard not to say yes when someone asks you to help out with a task, particularly when that person has seniority over you. Don’t be afraid to say no if you know you can’t handle any more. I still have trouble doing this since I’m a people-pleaser. But I’m working on it.
Don’t feel guilty for taking the time to take care of yourself. I felt bad taking almost a whole week off from work this time around, especially since I’m always in a go-go-go- mode. At the office, we’re trying to get as much done as possible before the holidays so that things aren’t too crazy when we’re back on the grind in the new year. Taking a week off not only seemed unproductive, but luxurious. In the end, I knew I’d made the right decision when I realized I recovered a lot more quickly than I might have otherwise had I gone to work. Also, your coworkers and friends and family will be happy you stayed home. (They don’t want to get sick, either.)
It’s okay to let people help you. I’m the worst when it comes to this. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been the youngest child in my family’s household, but I’m stubborn when it comes to letting other people help me – even when I’m not in a very good position to help myself. Last spring when I had that fever, I had my partner Andrew bring me Tylenol when I ran out. My parents came to visit for a few days as well, just to help around the apartment and make sure I didn’t become deathly ill (or whatever). Honestly, without them, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have done a very good job washing the dishes while I had the chills.
When you’ve got all sorts of priorities, how far do you push yourself? What limits do you give yourself, if any? What’s your “Kryptonite,” or weaknesses?