Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Self preservation

This Saturday, folks all across southwest Virginia will gather in support, memory, and/or recognition of the fight against heart disease, stroke, congenital heart defects, and life-saving researc funded by the American Heart Association. Those of you who have known me for a long time know my story, and the abbreviated version is posted on my personal fundraising page for the heart walk here: I welcome you to donate $5 or more if you feel so inclined. Every year I try to attend the local walk and volunteer in whatever capacity they need me, and last year I missed the walk because I was QUALIFYING FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON :):):):):) Fast forward to one year later, I am now a qualifier and officially registered for the race, we have a beautiful and healthy baby girl, and life is busy but oh so full of joy. I am honored to have been asked to serve as the "featured survivor" for the regional Heart Walk this year, and in prep for a very short speech I will give at the beginning of the walk, I wanted to type it out here because it's a message I repeat to myself on a daily basis right now. So, let me know what you think. I only get a few minutes to talk (I actually love public speaking now that I've done it enough to feel comfortable with it), so I want to keep my message short, sweet, and memorable. 


Having fun with Rory (2 months) in the Kroger parking lot :)
Family selfie
We all experience some form of stress in our daily personal and professional lives. Some stress is good, like giving birth for the first (or second, or third...) time, or finishing a 5k that you never felt possible, or getting married! Some stress is bad, like losing a job or learning of the death of a loved one. No matter whether you experience a little or a lot of good or bad stress, it still boils down to the same hormones being produced and metabolized by your body in higher proportion than it would without the presence of stress. You could say- stress (at least some form of it) is inevitable. To complicate things further, a lot of the stresses we encounter are outside our control. Some people experience more stress and anxiety trying to control situations and circumstances for which the outcome cannot be changed. Some people experience "first world" stresses like forgetting to set their fantasy football roster or being served a lukewarm meal at a fine dining restaurant. Again, we will all experience stress, but how you deal with this stress is what ultimately harms or helps your overall health. 

If you are a woman, I feel for you. You are at greater risk from suffering a heart attack or stroke simply because you have a lot going on and you are less likely to acknowledge the symptoms or seek medical attention at their presentation. My message is this: who will be "you" if you are hospitalized or worse? As women and, in particular, as mothers, we tend to put the needs of our family before our own and sometimes at our own expense. Obviously there are responsibilities that must be met, like feeding your infant or changing a diaper, but will your kids hate you forever if you spend 30 minutes practicing yoga in your basement? Will your kids' brains turn to mush if you stash them at gym daycare for an hour while you join a cycle class with friends? Chances are you will be a better ::insert title here:: by taking time for yourself and, in return, investing in the one thing you can control- yourself. 

Granted, there is no guarantee that the investment in your health every day will protect against disease. People who don't smoke do die from lung cancer. People who eat a healthy diet and exercise daily die from heart attacks. There are always unknowns, but the only way to say for sure that you've done everything you can to prevent something from happening to you is to invest in yourself every day. Again, as a mother of two young children (one of which is very fresh as you can see), you can lose sight of yourself very quickly if you don't make the conscious choice to carve out time for your health. Notice that I didn't say "time for yourself" because that implies selfishness, and often I think moms in particular are overloaded with guilt if they don't spend every waking moment on their many hats and responsibilities. I am giving you permission to invest in self preservation every day because it is VITAL for you, your family, your spouse, and your little ecosystem of things swirling around you and involving YOU. Without you, that piece of your system is missing and cannot be replaced. Only you are you and all the things YOU do. 

You can invest time in your children, time in your marriage, your job, your home, your church, all the pieces of your ecosystem that make your life whole, but you cannot control the outcome of those investments. You certainly hope they pay the dividends you want, but there is no guarantee. The only investment you can control and, from which, reap both immediate and long-term benefits, is in yourself. I encourage you to use today as the starting point for letting go of any guilt you may espouse with making healthy choices for yourself. You never know what variable outside of your control may creep in and disrupt your zen, so be prepared by preserving your self (and your mind) every day. 
Benched 105lbs at 9 weeks postpartum thanks to daily investment in myself throughout pregnancy #2

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