2020 was a difficult and challenging year for almost everyone. Even those with the strongest of mindsets faced challenges they never expected, I know I certainly did.
When reflecting back on the year, one thing I am truly grateful for, is the learning opportunity 2020 provided. The recognition that if we give ourselves a chance, we can usually always find opportunity in the face of adversity.
This blog shares my reflections on 2020, and the opportunity it gave around tackling a personal health issue, in the hope that it may inspire you to think differently about your own health journey this year.
An earlier blog, Health is a Journey not a Destination shared a bit about my personal health journey 10 years ago. In essence, how pushing on through a stressful job, I stressed myself further with hard physical exercise, in the belief it was a release. That ultimately resulted in chronic back pain and worsening IBS, (physical symptoms of overload), followed by mental overwhelm and then onto chronic fatigue. My body stopped me, because I ignored the warning signs. If this build up of symptoms (and yours might be different) sounds familiar, please do read on.
The physiological impact of ‘distress’ (stress which has tipped into be a negative rather than a positive), for most people will affect their health somehow, sometime. Usually out of the blue, and commonly as a shock.
The best thing is to make changes when the first symptoms show – these are warning signs.
Accepting that my fatigue might never go away completely, (I’d tipped the balance almost too far), didn’t stop me doing all I could do try and reverse the situation. This is what ultimately led me to train as a Holistic health, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach. Learning, that so long as I prioritised a few key health habits, I could still still work to help others, travel, spend quality time with my family and friends, and follow my passion of being in the outdoors was exciting.
Learning more about how the mind works, the benefit of gratitude, and setting each day up with positive intention was enlightening.
But most importantly, to realise we can choose our reactions to things outside of our control, thus staying away from needless negativity was a revelation. Negativity feeds negativity and seemed to be a big influencer on my overall health.
For many years, I seemed to have it nailed!
But in 2019, the balance started to tip again. The stressors were building up again. I won’t bore you with the details – but needless to say I was juggling too much and the more I juggled, the more challenges arose. I had fallen back into the trap of thinking I was superwoman lol! I blindly carried on pushing through, telling myself it would be ok. It was supposed to be an adventurous and exciting year, but it was all beginning to feel like a pressure. As a result, my mindset deteriorated and the belief that I didn’t have the time or energy to choose another path crept back in.
Christmas came and went, January 2020 arrived. There was light at the end of the tunnel. 4 months of travel ahead and with that a reduced workload, and lots of adventure. This was going to be the rest and repair so desperately needed, the opportunity to get myself back on track – what could possibly go wrong?
Covid! As the world watched the developments of Covid In China, we watched 4 months of adventure and travel plans fall apart. Plans we had been working towards for 5 years, and what had partly caused the increased juggling in 2019, as we prepared for this time. The rest as they say is history. Life on hold, along with everyone else around the world. Everyone has their own stories of the life they lost in 2020.
At the beginning of lockdown 1, I crashed. Literally, my body just seemed to stop. The impact of Covid was obviously the last straw. For 4 weeks, I felt helpless. Watching the devastating effect of the first wave on lives and livelihoods, admiring other business owners offering their services free to help people, I desperately wanted to help too – but I couldn’t. I was no use at home or to my family. I simply slept, and despite getting so much sleep, I seemed to have absolutely no physical or mental resilience.
It dawned upon me that 2020 had actually given me an opportunity.
After I came out of the fog of those 4 weeks, and it appeared that we were going to be in ongoing lockdown for a while longer, it dawned upon me that 2020 had actually given me an opportunity. An opportunity to step back, take a breath, actually walk away from life, and focus on my own health and well-being. I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I may never get the chance again. I didn’t ever want this to happen again. And once I was better, I could make up for lost time.
Asking for help takes courage
So 2020 was yet another journey of transformation. Asking for help takes courage but it was the right thing to do. My fatigue was more that just bad lifestyle choices, as most of those I had corrected. I thought I was healthy. But my body was telling me a different story. After a series of functional investigations we identified a few problem areas – all associated with the physiological impact of stress – sympathetic dominance. My body behaved as if it was in constant ‘flight or fight’ mode. My gut was not absorbing vital nutrients and my body was not detoxing properly. No wonder I had no energy. Inflamed and overloaded, some rebalancing was urgently needed.
So embracing the journey, I prioritised my health again. I still had to work of course – running a business is not something you can walk away from. But I had to prioritise plenty of rest and repair time.
It helped that we couldn’t go out socially. It helped that I just worked from home, only going out to shop and deliver products to my customers. I worked with clients over Zoom, but from a business perspective, did the bare minimum.
Improvements came very quickly after taking time to heal, because I had a good foundation of health to work from. Life didn’t have to stop, just change.
Then before Christmas, I contracted COVID. And that was an interesting experience in itself. 10 very rough days, but followed by full recovery quite quickly. We’ve put this down to the extra support my immune system been getting through the year, along with the steps to move away from living in ‘fight or flight’ mode. So many lifestyle factors affect our immune systems. The reality is, COVID could have affected me very differently, especially if it had been last April when it found its way to me. So, let’s not go there, and instead focus on being grateful for following my intuition back in April rather than ignoring the warning signs.
A common theme of clients, so I’m guessing for you too, is the struggle to ‘let go’ of the ‘busyness’ of life – even when you know it is affecting your health. Having experienced the detrimental effect such overwhelm can have, my passion to help people not go there, has literally gone up ten fold. The long term impact is not worth it.
My experiences enable me to empathise and truly understand how hard it can be to make the right decisions and how important it is to take a gentle ‘step by step’ approach so as not to create further problems.
I’m grateful to have got back on track, so have written this very honest and open account of the last 18 months in my life to help others.
If you having read my story, any of it resonates with you, I’m here to help. You may not be as far down the line as I was, and I hope you aren’t, but I urge you not to wait until then!
It’s time to put yourself first, without losing who you are, without you having to give up what you do, but to develop some healthy habits that will help you begin to THRIVE again, not just SURVIVE.
Don’t put off today, doing something your future self will thank you for.
Without health, we have nothing.