Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reflecting on 2016

reflecting on 2016
Photo from Reese and Renee

This year has been a whirlwind. Reflecting over the past twelve months is almost a little exhausting. To start 2016, Matt and I got engaged. The first quarter of this year included wedding planning, a lot of working, finding out that Matt got a job offer in Atlanta, making the decision to move across the country and getting all of my crap to Chicago. I was incredibly stressed and not eating as healthy as I could be. 
Emotionally, I was incredibly up and down. I was so excited and joyful about getting married, upset about leaving the place I loved and all my friends and overcome with the stress of moving. There were a few weeks before my lease started in Atlanta so I headed to my parents house in Chicago. 

While I stayed with my parents, I was finally able to catch up on sleep. But the problem was no matter how much I slept, I was still tired and groggy. I tried to keep up my workout schedule of 4-5x a week, but I was having trouble pushing myself. I remember at one point, I found myself trying to get through a hard workout and breaking down in tears. I was putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself — to look a certain way for the wedding, to get through the move without relying on anyone else and to keep everything looking like it was running smoothly. In April, Matt and I moved to Atlanta. He started a new job and I started working from home. It was a crazy month of adjustments for both us - with work and with each other. I was still exhausted and beating myself up for feeling that way. By the end of April, Matt left town for a work training for a month and I knew something needed to change.

The way I had always taken care of myself was no longer working. While I was in school, I had a pretty familiar rhythm. Something of a hustle and pause. I would work progressively harder throughout a semester and end finals week sick and running on empty. Then I'd have a month or so off where I slept, ate well and started a workout routine again so that by the time I arrived back at school, I was full again. In the real world, this is totally unsustainable. Burnout is real and I was feeling its effects. Hustling as hard as I could was sacrificing my health. I started looking for answers.
 I talked to a friend and nutritionist Jackie Mulligan who gave me some recommendations for improving my diet. Then I started talking to health coach Erin Dubich, who helped me understand that my health was more than just my workouts and my diet — so much of it had to do with mental wellbeing. I was beating myself down — for not being able to get maintain the pace I was trying to keep, for not looking the way I thought I should, for not living up to the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. I was also dealing with major back pain which made everything from working out to sleeping a painful experience. 

With the encouragement of Erin, I overhauled my health. Not only did I get back to eating lots of fresh, whole foods, but I quit working out. Like actually stopped. It was not longer giving me positive benefits and with my back pain, it was too much to bear. I started seeing a chiropractor and sleeping for 9-10 hours every night. I cut out caffeine and started meditating. During the summer, Matt was still traveling a lot. In July, I visited my parents for two weeks while Matt was out of town. Partway through that trip, I remember waking up and feeling refreshed. And then it happened again the next day. And the next. Finally, my fatigue was lifting. After several months of feeling lost and underground, I started coming into the light. 

My time with Erin was invaluable — I knew that mentality is important, but I didn't realize how fully my negative mentality was holding me. She helped me sort through the negative self-talk to find peace, acceptance and love for myself. What I thought was a selfish act, was actually the fulcrum in my health journey. Without loving myself, I realized that I could not love and serve others as fully as they deserved. This improved my relationship with Matt, played a pivotal role in finding friends in Atlanta and helped me strengthen my relationship with God. By this point, my back pain was improving so I took up yoga which further helped me to de-stress. We got a lot of wedding planning done this fall and really prioritized time with our families. Matt finally finished his work training and crazy travel schedule. With him back in town, I stopped feeling so much of the weight of everything. I have a partner in this and don't have to do it all by myself. 

Here's the kicker — this story isn't over. I'm still living it. My health changes day to day, but I'm much more attune to what's happening and I'm empowered with the knowledge that I've gained over the past year. I work for a health company and I can finally say that I feel like I'm in good health: mentally, physically and emotionally. A few months ago I was asked to come up with a health challenge for the new year. I was still in the middle of my own health journey and thought "Great, I have to come up with something I probably won't even be able to do because it will be too hard or intense or restrictive." And then I realized that no one needs another 30 Day Plank Challenge — they need to understand that your health is more than just the food you eat and how many HIIT workouts you can do in a week. It has so much more to do with taking care of yourself, observing what is working and adjusting what isn't. So January 1st, PurePharma is hosting The Good Life Challenge — a change for good that asks you to look at every aspect of your health: movement, eating, recovery and balance. We're giving away a ton of things for free: Everything from workouts to recipes to awesome resources like ROMWOD and Headspace so that you can make changes and learn even more about yourself. If you're tired of the health rut your on, I encourage you to check it out. Joining is totally free.

When I started this year, I chose a word to focus on and set some goals. My word was love and I couldn't have expected the journey that this word took me on. I'm excited to start 2017 in a healthy, and with the health challenge that I poured lots of love and inspiration into it. 

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