Please Stop (and a Personal Story)…
Today I want to share with you my “secret weapon” of health advice. It’s the one health practice that never fails, is always available, and is shockingly inexpensive (though what you gain by doing it is priceless).
What is this magical advice?
Just for today, just for an hour, I want you to stop.
No, I don’t mean quit your job, or stop doing the dishes, or quit getting the oil changed in your car. I also don’t mean for you to ditch your supplements, consume only M&Ms and coffee, or skimp on sleep.
I mean this: If you won’t get in trouble, sneak out of work early and spend that time hanging out with your kids or your better half or your pets. Or yourself. When was the last time you just sat on the floor and played with your children (or furry children) with no phone in hand, no TV blaring, no work email dinging?
Or let those dishes sit until a little later. They’ll be there, but you know what will never exist again? Tonight. The evening of Thursday, March 16, 2017, when you have 12 extra minutes — minutes that would have been spent on the dishes — to sit across from your better half and talk about your dreams for the future. How is that hobby farm you talked about buying when you first started dating?!
Don’t ditch your healthy practices, but give yourself permission to take breaks from doing them perfectly. Sometimes the rigidity of trying so hard — and the effort, worry, social isolation, and monster preparation it takes to always do it right — is worse for your health than taking a break. All that effort can wear you out as much as a 60-hour-work week.
Why is this my signature advice? And why is it on my mind today?
Two days ago I had a CAT scan to see if my lungs are behaving like they should. They are and I’m grateful.
This is my 5th CAT scan in 4 years. And, as many of you may know all too well, when it’s a random Tuesday morning and you’re waiting to hear if you’re okay (for now) or if things have turned serious, scrubbing the kitchen floor (which was your priority when you woke up) doesn’t cross your mind. What crosses your mind is grabbing your kids and taking the day to go hiking in a nearby state park. Or taking your dogs on a walk on the first beautiful spring day. Or getting serious about that hobby farm.
Two weeks before my scan, my neighbor (in his late 20s) was hit by a semi. He had to be airlifted to Mayo Clinic. (He’s going to be okay, thank goodness.)
Yesterday, I was reading a headline about a woman and her two young sons who were murder-suicide victims when I realized that I went to college with her husband.
Life is short. Those emails that need to be answered will be there tomorrow.
Take an hour — or half an hour, if a full hour makes you sweat — right now and just stop. Turn toward those things you love. Forget about all the supplements in your pantry and the workout you “should” be doing.
As the inimitable financial educator Ruth Hayden says, “People often say that they just don’t have time for this dream or that goal or this hobby, but if you got sick, really sick, you would suddenly have the time.”
Don’t wait until then. Do it now.
And here’s the thing. You will be healthier for it. Taking a break from all the health-boosting “should” — I should take zinc, I should work out more, I should eat more avocados, etc. — is its own should. It’s just as healthy as fitting one more avocado into your weekly routine.
You’re doing enough, right now.
When the hour is up, go back to your healthy practices and, yes, finish those dishes. Just don’t forget to repeat this “take a break” process a couple times a week.
As for my health, I’ll be writing about it more in upcoming posts.
I haven’t written about it in the past, but I realized something else as I walked out of that CAT scan…the stories I relate to the most are the ones in which the writer has been in my shoes. Even when our specific challenges are different, I empathize with their struggle and their healing journey. I get obsessed with knowing what worked for them and what didn’t.
So I’ll be sharing more about my story as time goes by — not that you’re out there waiting to hear more about Yours Truly (I know you’re far too busy for that!), but so you know that when I write a blog post about giving up sugar, or saying no to stressful work, or switching from being a vegan to an omnivore, you know that I’ve really been there — and that the stakes were really high. You’ll know that I’m not just telling you what I read on PubMed.
I’ve lived it, too.
As I do share, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment. Tell me about your journey. I need the solidarity. We all do!