All posts tagged: mental health

New Year New Decade

The first time I heard that phrase I froze. OMG, it is. The acknowledgement kind of makes 2020 a bigger year. And you think about the significance more when you’re adulting up a storm, trying to live life to the fullest while also doing a hundred things a day.

AarikaNew Year New Decade
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Coughing in the New Year

I’m fairly miserable at the moment. I have combination sinus and respiratory infections. I have all the symptoms of the flu, except the added facial pressure and wheezing. It is not the flu though, the nurse practitioner said, because my fever hasn’t been high enough. Go figure.

I’ve been taking every care to recover – visiting the doctor, resting, taking doses of pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, cough suppressant, breathing treatment, vitamins and more. I’ve had high-nutrient items – homemade bone broth, fruit and vegetable smoothies, lean protein, herbal tea with ginger, tons of water and more.

My first priority is to get well and not be a lump. My second priority is to return to work. They desperately need me. I’m at the turn of a revolution in the Wellness Department, and I am M.I.A. for the moment, and I feel terribly guilty.

I start to think about progress and plans for a New Year. Even if it is an arbitrary new beginning, I do like to make a resolution. As I sit sickly reflecting on my last 12 months, what I hope to focus on in 2017 comes easily.

I have pondered often the irony of me “being the most unwell I’ve been in a very long time since taking the job as a Wellness Director.” I have been in the position for nearly five months. The role is demanding. Yet I cop to a good deal of fault for the way in which I have done the job – to my own personal sacrifice.

Technically, this was the first full-time year of my health and fitness career. The larger irony is that I believe I have discovered that all H+F professionals are forced to self-sacrifice. Namely, I find pros running themselves ragged to serve others and make enough money.

They most likely…

  • Work random hours – supremely early mornings and late nights
  • Go through physical toll – repeated instruction and demonstration
  • Juggle employment at multiple places – for financial stability

For me, this has led to…

  • Unpredictability of schedule – little rest and non-routine sleep
  • Chronic cervical spine issue – with neural tension and back, shoulder and arm residuals
  • Lack of time and energy for my own exercise

Which leads to…

  • Discomfort
  • Sour mood
  • Frustration

But all of that is overshadowed for them and for me by one resounding truth… Loving what you do, or more so, why you are doing it

Herein lies my resolution. Not changing the what or the why. Changing the how. For 2017, I will change how I operate. I will keep some health and fitness for me.

I must. Because without being healthy and happy, I cannot expect to spread “healthy and happy.”

This means…

  1. Identifying boundaries and upholding them
  2. Engaging in new physical challenges to keep my own activity fresh and interesting.
  3. Meditating, being quiet and seeking serenity.
AarikaCoughing in the New Year
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Still Alice

I recently finished a book about a woman who’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and her struggle to hang on to whatever she can of herself throughout the process, hence the title Still Alice. The novel by Lisa Genova portrays Alice Howland, a 50 year-old renowned psychology professor at Harvard University who begins to notice strange occurrences in her daily routine – not recalling words mid-thought, forgetting class times and what that day’s lecture topic should be in a series and becoming disoriented a few blocks from home and not knowing how to get back home.

Alice has always been a superior mentalist, making scientific breakthroughs and setting admirable precedents in her field. She knows this behavior is anything but normal, and after wading through a lot of denial, she final seeks help. Many tests and sleepless nights later, she discovers that she has Alzheimer’s and that her whole world is about to change drastically.

She worries about her family. How will they cope with this illness? Will her husband have to sacrifice his life-long work and passion to support her? Will she eventually not recognize her daughters and son? Was this gene abnormality passed on to her children? Will anyone have the patience?

She worries about her career. How can she possibly teach cognitive psychology and linguistics without being able to tap into those well-earned mental resources anymore? How long until her students and superiors notice? What will she be if not Alice The Brilliant Professor?

She worries about societal stigma. Why is this prognosis so difficult to bring herself to explain? Will she be able to keep up in everyday conversations and activities? Will people shy away from her with a polite nod and grin as to not offend? Will she simply be ignored because that’s easier?

Alice finds that all her worst fears are true. She grapples to preserve her memories – her mother’s Christmas bread pudding recipe, her youngest daughter’s first name – and her reasoning skills – what day is it, what is that thing called. But dementia cannot be reversed and can hardly be halted.  When her brain ceases to function naturally, when her mental synapses stop firing, the cells die, and it’s like fumbling in a maze to find ideas, knowing that the information is there yet not being able to reach it. That is the mild condition, until she loses control of motor abilities like walking or chewing.

You know this story is about a woman with a severely degenerative disease. You know you’re going to be saddened and confused as it progresses, as you see her desperate in an attempt to preserve even the little things that make Alice Alice.

I couldn’t have gotten a full breadth of Alzheimer’s from a fiction novel, but it made me thoughtfully consider the minutia that I take for granted and understand possibly the most about the mind and how it affects a soul that I ever discerned.

In a lecture to an Alzheimer’s related audience, Alice says, “There’s no peace in being unsure of everything all the time.” I dog-eared this page and took a moment. Of course, her’s has to be one of the worst fates to overcome an individual, and this puts a lot in perspective for the reader. The most triumphant ending is that Alice does find a way to accept her new reality and steer with love, letting raw emotions prevail in times of trial. And that’s a powerful message.

AarikaStill Alice
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