It had been a long day that started early with getting four kids up and out the door to school, then getting ready myself and literally running out the door to the office. The day continued with client appointments, phone calls, returned e-mails, progress notes, wrapping up at the office then back home to get kids off the bus, run kids around to their prospective activities, overseeing homework was complete, dinner and then time to get all the kids to bed at a decent time. I know I’m not alone with this type of schedule. All of my girlfriends are in the same cycle it seems.
By the time I sat down that night after I had cleaned up, I decided I really wanted something sweet. Now I have a daughter that has a milk sensitivity, so there was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s PB & Cookies non-dairy dessert in the freezer. My body was still running on adrenaline, so I sprinted over to the freezer, found the PB & Cookies, scooped out about a third (ok maybe a half) and sat down with my laptop. Because it tasted SO GOOD, I ate it about as fast as I did everything that day. In time-lapse mode. And then, it happened. I hit a wall. A very hard concrete wall. Head on. Going 90mph. I remember thinking that I felt like I was sinking into a coma. I felt sick to my stomach and I just wanted to lie down. Which I did. I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I woke up a couple of hours later, dragged myself up the stairs to bed and somehow remembered to set my alarm. When my alarm went off at 6:30am the next morning, I felt like I had a hangover. My brain was fuzzy and my temples pounding, my stomach hurt, my body was slow to get out of bed. I had no motivation to get four kids out of bed, and on top of that, I was cranky.
The next night, the other two-third’s (or was it half?) of the Ben & Jerry’s was still in the freezer. But when I thought about it, I immediately recoiled, remembering my coma-like state, the stomach ache and the awful carb hangover. The thought of Ben & Jerry’s was making me ill before I had even put another spoonful in my mouth. I realized how easily food can be a drug to us. Whether we need to slow our brains and bodies down at the end of an adrenaline-filled day, or whether we use food to calm our anxieties. In my case, I had used food as a depressant. To slow and calm my brain and body. On the other hand, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, including sugar, can act as short-term stimulants when we need energy pick-me ups or when we are feeling tired, sad or depressed. I have yet to find someone who has broccoli or spinach cravings when they are upset about something.
As I continued to process my Ben & Jerry’s “coma”, I thought how I needed to really re-evaluate my adrenaline-filled days. I have four children between the ages of nine and fourteen, so no doubt adrenaline will fill my daily life here and there. But on a continual basis, twenty-four/seven, I must take personal responsibility for that. And make some healthy changes.
So I came up with a plan. I’m a terrible planner on a day-to-day basis. But I am a great planner in terms of self-improvement. If there is a problem, I will come up with a plan to fix it. Being stagnant is not an option. So here is what I came up with for my plan:
PROBLEM: Running around like a crazy woman. I was in a chronic state of heightened adrenaline. I needed to reset on a physiological level. I had been skipping my workouts to try to fit in more patients. Running and classes at the gym had always been a part of my routine, and now they were getting pushed out of my schedule. Both my brain and my body were unregulated and suffering. I know that in this continued state, not only is my body being flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones, but that this also leads to inflammation. Not only will I eventually burn out my adrenal system and hit a more permanent coma state, but I am also increasing my risk for turning on genes within my body that could change my life forever. This could mean a new diagnosis or condition that I will have to manage the rest of my life. NOT worth it!
SOLUTION: Schedule runs and group exercise classes. I took my calendar and blocked out times for my exercise, just like I would block out a time for a doctor’s appointment, for a patient or for one of my children’s games. It was time to re-prioritize my health.
PROBLEM: Energy levels (and likely blood glucose levels) all over the place. I know what it takes to balance energy, blood glucose and subsequent insulin levels, yet I wasn’t practicing what I preach. I wouldn’t schedule a lunch for myself, or I would get caught up in writing a progress note or calling back a patient and forget to eat. Before I knew it, my next patient was ready to be seen and I hadn’t eaten anything in five, six or seven hours. I know on the deepest level that is a no-no. Sigh.
SOLUTION: Nourish my body with the macronutrients and micronutrients that I need, when I need them. I started doing (again) exactly what I tell my patients. I reset my eating habits. I purchased and had readily available healthy snacks at my office that I needed and scheduled time for lunch again. I have also been better about keeping healthy leftovers for lunch the next day, so I can eat lunch at my desk while I write my progress notes or return emails.
PROBLEM: Being Un-Full-Filled. I wrote it that way for a reason, Un-Full-Filled. Often I see that we (myself included) are using food to fill us up. And it can be at the root of beating the battle of obesity and weight-related diseases. It can be on the other end of the spectrum as well. Denying ourselves food and nourishment, to obtain control as with eating disorders or with extreme diets where we are starving or depriving ourselves in order to achieve “success”. I believe there is an epidemic of food addiction/obsession in our country. I will give our failing food industry most of the credit here. However, I will also make sure to credit the devastating food addiction epidemic. We are using food to fill us up. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
SOLUTION: Reprioritize my spiritual and emotional health. I am happiest in my life when things are in balance. I am a Libra. The woman holding the scales. I’m not sure how much credibility I give to astrological signs, but in this case it’s true for me. I need to have space for myself (time and brain space). This means my day can be busy with work and kids, but I can handle those things well if I have my priorities in check. For me, that means my mind, body, and spirit are all being filled with good, healthy things. In my experience, this comes in the form of prayer, listening to music, being silent in nature, or connecting with a stranger or a friend or family member on a spiritual level. My days are often full of challenges and sometimes even painful ones, but if I am connected spiritually, then it is always a good day. I do believe we are spiritual beings having a physical, human experience. When I am able to keep this perspective, I am spiritually filled. I am Full-Filled.
How are you FULL-filled? What is it that makes you feel centered and balanced? Do you find that you are using food or other substances to “fill” up a part of you that needs to be filled up in other ways? If so, write down what the problems are. And then start thinking about the solutions. Then, comes action. It’s worth it. Things will start to fall into place when we prioritize our spiritual health. This is an important piece is self-care that often gets neglected. I believe it is at the foundation of our entire well-being. Make becoming FULL-filled a priority in your life. Aaaaaaaaaannnnd GO!