As is customary upon returning to work after the holidays, my colleagues and friends kept asking me, “How was your break?” It’s the polite thing to ask, but truth be told, I felt physically horrible the entire time I was visiting family in Vancouver and Whistler—places that should be great to visit, right? I would feel good one day, do too much, and end up feeling worse the next day. I drank herbal tea, sucked on herbal lozenges and took my vitamins. I tried to sleep more, cursed that I had forgotten to bring my asthma inhaler (as I always do) and was too cheap to pay the $125 clinic fee to have a doctor tell me I had a bad cold.
“You have pneumonia,” my doctor told me upon my return home. It was obvious to my friends and colleagues, even my husband, that I had been pushing my limits for too long. But I thought that’s just what working moms do. We work, and then we go home and start working again. We take what sleep we can get. Exercise is in the early hours of the morning and any time alone is in the late hours of the night. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children and love every minute I have with them, but laundry, dishes, lunch making, etc., I could do without.
I wish I could say I was able to lie in bed and sleep until I felt better, and I was able to fight the pneumonia off naturally. Not so. Instead, armed with a Z-pack and a new asthma inhaler, I sheepishly asked the doctor if I could get on a plane the next day. He reluctantly conceded on the assumption that I was no longer contagious.
Although the antibiotics put me on the road to wellness, I am well aware that they will not keep me here. I have always considered myself to be a healthy person, eating well and exercising regularly, but I am beginning to think that I am ultimately not. Something has to change. Here’s what I think does:
I get 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night (sometimes less) instead of the recommended 8 hours. I rarely feel rested, but will still pull myself out of bed for a 6 a.m. yoga class. Although the yoga is good, the lack of sleep is not.
Less sugar and caffeine.
When I’m tired, I more readily turn to coffee and sugar. The duo ultimately makes me more tired, and as my intake increases, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll end up getting sick. Green tea is fine. But coffee is not. Sugar and caffeine can be toxic.
I don’t drink enough water. That’s a fact. Some days, I will drink a little bit in the morning and some at dinner, but otherwise stick to an Americano, green tea and herbal teas.
Exercise more regularly.
I do yoga early in the morning, and I run. When I do, I feel great, and my day is always better. But as sleep wanes, it becomes more difficult for me to stick to a regular exercise routine. More exercise means less stress, healthier body and mind. Not to mention, a new study shows that exercise can reduce the detrimental effects of aging.
I take pride in the fact that I make dinner almost every night. But as I get tired, it becomes more of a chore, and meals become less creative. I also don’t plan well and end up cooking meals that take away from time with my kids, or an early bedtime. So, meal planning is the next step.
When fatigue sets in, I slack on my supplement routine just when my body most needs it. I need to be more consistent in taking my supplements in order to reap their benefits.
Sitting still is not something I do well. I’ve taken meditation classes, I’ve read about meditating, I’ve talked about it, I understand the benefits of meditating, but I rarely do it. But according to new study to appear in an upcoming issue of Psychiatry Research and reported in the New York Times, "Neuroimaging reveals that those who meditate regularly show measurable positive change in the “parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress."
Turn off the technology.
I don’t watch TV, but I’m a technology junkie. So this means weaning myself off of my iPhone, iPad, Kindle and computer.
Laugh more, worry less, relax.
I never do nothing, I’d like to figure out a way to let the dishes and laundry sit for a bit, and do a better job of sitting with my kids, or by myself and not doing something I feel I have to do or should be doing. And I'm a firm believer that laughter is a helpful remedy in fighting our daily stresses.
Listen to my body.
I know when I’m tired. I see the pattern—the increase in coffee and sugar, the lack of focus and patience, the increase in worrying and the decrease in exercise. But like a dieter who cheats on a diet once and suddenly loses all of her willpower, I am somehow unable to muster up the awareness to intervene in my bad habits, until I end up, well, with pneumonia. So I need to listen to my body and do all of the above so that I am not here at the same time next year.
I know all of these things seem obvious. You were probably expecting a list of supplements and miracle superfoods to prevent pneumonia. Those are all part of the equation and there are plenty of articles on newhope360.com on these topics. But in our hurried lives, I think sometimes we forget the most basic tenets of health: sleep, hydrate, eat well, exercise and, quite simply, look after ourselves.
So that’s what my body needs. What’s your secret to staying healthy?