By Emma Shipley
When you've been fortunate to live a life that has been active, fit and healthy, you only really appreciate how good that feels when you suddenly find yourself feeling like crap.
I've had my fair share of mental health issues which fortunately I can say I'm in total control of now. Or rather, I've been on a path these past few years, of getting to truly know myself, and use the tools available to me to facilitate this.
But I'm talking about physical health here.
From a very young age I was active to the max. Football team, athletics team, cricket, tennis... anything that involved burning some energy and I was raring to go. I'm very fortunate to have never broken a bone, needed surgery, or stayed overnight in hospital. In truth, I've perhaps taken this physical health for granted, viewing my body as almost unbreakable. That's not to say I haven't had small physical niggles here and there, but I have always jumped out of bed with a literal spring in my step.
But hitting your late 30's is a whole different kind of game. Whilst you're by no means old, you're on the periphery of hitting middle age, and for women at least, we may not be far off hitting the peri-menopause too. All of a sudden you realise that the late nights and 'just one more glass of wine' are actually starting to have an effect on the way you look and feel. "Jeez, is that one more wrinkle around my eyes?" and "Why do my knees feel so sore today?" are at odds with "I'm still young enough to go clubbing, right?"
In my case, changing careers 2 years ago from a 45 hour week working behind a desk in IT, to running my own Eco Cleaning business (around 30 hours cleaning and 20 hours travel and desk work), resulted in a realisation about my physical health that I wasn't really prepared for.
When you set up your own business, and specifically when it involves doing something with your body, nothing prepares you for the onslaught of niggles, muscle aches, RSI and feeling of utter exhaustion at the end of some days. You're caught in the midst of a perpetual physical and mental 'switched on' mode. You switch from one to the other seamlessly, feeling rather good about yourself for being so productive and capable of being an all rounder in your quest for business success. All the while - in my case - putting up with carpel tunnel, tennis elbow, tendonitis, and constant back, hip and knee pain and stiffness.
You have all the best intentions of making sure you engage in your own self care routines, but sometimes days can pass when you don't do this. And then you realise you're not 21 any more and your body takes longer to repair, and feels the pitfalls of physical rigour much more than it used to.
Some mornings I get out of bed and don't feel 38. I imagine this is what it feels like to be a pre-hip replacement 78 year old.
Despite needing my body as a 'tool' to continue for the sake of my business, I have realised very recently that nothing is worth sacrificing your health. Just a year or two of overdoing it can have repercussions for the rest of your life. And as someone in my 30's, I know I have to 'set the tone' now for my mid life health.
I have a number of good self care habits, including meditating at least once a day, dog walking/hiking, reading and learning, taking long baths, and engaging in hobbies that make me feel good. So the mental side of things is pretty much taken care of. But one thing that has dipped for me this year is my yoga practice, which I can categorically say has always been the best thing for my all round health. When I've not been to a class for a while and then go, I literally leave the class feeling like I've 'arrived home' in my mind and body, and it seems to magically reverse all the little niggles I have. And then I think 'why the bloody hell did I leave it so long between classes!?'
For you, it may be something completely different that gives you your inner peace and a feeling of contentment on both a physical, mental and spiritual level.
My point is, look after your body, and do it daily. Because all of sudden the unhealthy feeling can creep up on you out of nowhere. Much like that 15 lbs I put on when I first started dating my (now) husband. "Yes Dan, the 8 x enchilada kit is an appropriately sized meal for just the two of us."
I'm now making a vow to take a step back from work (recruit more staff) and take some time every day to honestly assess whether I have been kind to my body. If I haven't, I will be rolling out the yoga mat, and getting in just 30 minutes if that's all I have time for. And I know my body will thank me for it afterwards.
Absolutely nothing else is worth the sacrifice of your health, and nothing looks or feels anywhere near as good as being healthy feels 🙏😊
I'd love to hear your comments about your own physical, mental and spiritual journeys and health. What one thing really helps you to 'come home' to yourself? Do you recognise when you're perhaps not devoting adequate time to your own self care?