12 Jul 2012

Whispers, Taps and 2x4s

Sometimes, it starts as a whisper from the little voice in your head…”psst…psst…ya know, with your family history, you’re gonna need to pay attention to the choices you make.”

Or, it could be a not-so-gentle tap on your shoulder….”Mrs. Jones, you have diabetes.”

Or, the 2 x 4 might smack you squarely on the head (from the back of an ambulance) as you find yourself on the way to the ED for chest pain.

At last, you pay attention…or you don’t.

We’ve all had at least one of these moments.  They may happen in the context of our health, our finances or our relationships.  If we are truly paying attention, we will often notice the subtle whispers that let us know something is up.

The problem is that many of us sleepwalk through our days. We’re often NOT paying attention!

Our jobs are stressful, and taking care of kids, spouses or parents compounds this stress.  Chronic stress leads to chronic health problems, strained relationships and opportunities for 2×4 moments.

There are any number of lies we tell ourselves as we set the cruise control on our lives. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

 

  1. “I’m not worth the investment”“We spend a lot of time worrying about our investments and are quick to gauge how things are going by looking at quarterly statements. It’s all dollar signs — bank accounts, 401(k)s, the value of our home. We can easily determine whether or not one of these things is a good investment. Our goal is to invest in assets that are healthy and will make us money over the long haul.But here’s the thing. YOU are an asset.Think about that for a minute. If you work for someone else, you are an asset to that company. If you’re married, you are an asset to your spouse. And it goes without saying, but if you have children you are an incredible asset to them. You’re an asset to the community you live in, to your neighbors, and to those you interact with on a daily basis.  So why would you NOT invest in yourself.Think about all the things that you spend money on that are not really meaningful.  The daily latte, the 46th pair of shoes, the extended cable package.  What if you took all that money and invested it in Y.O.U.?  How would this enrich your life? You could learn a new language, take an art course or hire a coach.  All of these things could bring you pleasure and create growth opportunities.  And a growing you is a happier you!And on top of this, think about the message you are sending into the world if you are saying you’re not worth investing in.  Putting time, energy and money into yourself says “I VALUE ME.”

     

  2. “I have to take care of everyone else first”
    My friend Sandy is a preacher’s wife…and a nurse. I met her at a retreat where she described herself to the group of attendees as “fat, 53 and diabetic”. Ministry is a 24/7 job and the spouse is along for a big part of that 24/7 ride.  Add in the caregiving aspects of being a nurse and it’s easy to see why Sandy is last on her list.  But it is literally killing her.
    There are many women who aren’t living—they just exist.This is a form of self-abuse. Exhaustion becomes their badge of honor. The more they you do for their loved ones, the more acceptable it becomes to “let themselves go.”
  3.  “I don’t know where to start”
    Sandy wants to lose about 100 lbs and get her diabetes under control.  That’s a tall order for even the most motivated folks. It’s easy to see how planning to reach this goal could lead to paralysis before she even gets started.  But the truth is she only needs to take one step in the direction she wants to go. Weight loss can only happen one pound at a time no matter how she tackles it…so why try to take 10 steps at a time instead of just ONE? Maybe it’s a small change in food choices or leaving work earlier 2 days a week to create some time to walk.  It doesn’t really matter what she chooses to do as long as there is action!  These baby steps will create momentum and set her up to succeed.
  4. “I don’t have time”
    It’s a challenge to fit everything in, and too often, despite our good intentions, self-care-the stuff that fuels us, -ends up at the bottom of our priority list.  Here’s the thing. We all have the same number of hours in a day. And we choose how to spend it. Try a new mantra. “Me first, busy second.”
    Consider how you could create some ongoing structure around your self-care.Schedule walking dates or program your daily gratitude journal time into your phone (so you’re reminded). Create a system that reminds you that you’ve committed to taking better care of yourself.
  5. “It won’t happen to me”We all want to believe we’re invincible.  But ignoring chronic medical problems and preventive care needs is not a good long-term plan for a healthy future.  My friend Sandy didn’t think for a second she’d end up in the ED having a workup for a heart attack despite all the evidence that shows that people with uncontrolled diabetes have a huge risk for this. 

So, Where Are You Going?

Where will you be in 5,10,and 20 years if you continue living your life as it is now? Are you on the path you need to be on….and if not, what can you do today to start achieving the things you want for yourself?


Dr. Anna Garrett

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