Health, Happiness & Healing (Part 1)

Your health is your wealth, they say. Well, if that’s the case, I’ve been pretty broke for a while.

As a fitness instructor, and someone who has always been very active, you take it for granted that that will always be the case. The possibility of not being able to do the things you love, and take for granted, never crosses your mind.

Until it slaps you in the face.

The last few years have been a real struggle. And I mean a REAL struggle. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I have had an array of things thrown at me, including major life events and illness.

I was generally a positive person. Always looking at the flip side to any situation. Encouraging others to do the same. Changing my mind set to avoid negative feelings or situations. Ploughing on through any ‘bad times’ with a positive mental attitude, and just ‘getting on with it’.

Until I couldn’t any more.

I hate to admit it, but I found out that there was only so much positive mental attitude I could have. When life keeps becoming more and more of a challenge, holding on to so much positivity becomes harder and harder, until one day I realised I had none left at all.

I had crashed.

I had to give in.

I had to let my body be in the driving seat, and my positivity and upbeat hopes had to take a back seat for a while. A very back seat. To be honest, they were in the boot of the car. Covered in coats, and dirty old trainers. That’s how little of an appearance positivity came in to my life then.

I have always been the person who ‘helps people too much’. I’m the person who apparently ‘trusts people too much’. I’m the person who ‘gives too much of myself to others’. I’m the person who ‘lets people walk all over them’. I’m the person that never stops.

So I felt bad. I felt terrible that not only did I crash to the point I couldn’t fulfil my own needs, but I HAD to become insular, and I COULDN’T help other people. I couldn’t give my energy and enthusiasm to them. I couldn’t support and motivate them. I couldn’t listen and give advice. I couldn’t be me.

So what led to this devastation?

A mixture of things. But there are 3 main ingredients in the recipe of my burn out.

Illness
Unfortunately my physical health has taken a battering over the last few years. Ranging from a constant stream of mild ailments and injuries, to the discovery of a heart defect, to chronic illnesses, to ongoing investigations for a potentially serious and life-changing diagnosis, and finally to, without wanting to sound too dramatic, emergency life or death situations. It hasn’t been easy.

Of course illness of any kind sets us all back, but I’m a fitness instructor. I run a fitness company. I have to keep going. I have to remain fit. I have a reputation to uphold. I have to show my clients that nothing is wrong, and everything that we are faced with can be overcome. I can’t let people down. And I can’t let myself down. I have an image to uphold and that is so important for others to see. Without it I will have no credibility. I will fail if I don’t keep up the façade.

This is what I honestly thought. Until burn out truly happened, and I had no choice. I would turn up for work, cringing at what others would think of me.

‘She’s quiet today and not chatty at all’.
‘She looks shattered and the class is all a bit sluggish today’.
‘She’s putting on a lot of weight, some fitness instructor she is!’.
‘She’s so grumpy looking all the time’.

I stopped enjoying work. Because not only of how tired and in pain I was, but because of these thoughts in my head. It was my own perception reflecting back on to myself. Of course none of the lovely ladies in the Tribe actually said any of those negative things to me, but it influenced my mental and emotional health. And that’s the power of self-talk!

So, apparently it’s good to talk! Who knew! I had a few people I could talk to, or I would mention the odd comment in classes to try and somehow justify things, but now, I’ve gradually become happier to talk to anyone about my illnesses. I’m happy to completely open up about it all and discuss how it has, and still is, affecting me. I’m not hiding it any more that I’m a little bit broken. I am human. It happens.

Toxic Stress
Surprisingly, Toxic Stress is one of my favourite topics! (Not so good to suffer from it though). Toxic stress is rife in our communities now, and I discuss this more in depth at the Health and Happiness event that I run. It’s fascinating. I won’t spend too much time going in to details here, but basically, it’s your body being under heightened stress, constantly. Think about how you feel when you go in to that ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. Well, now imagine that’s how you are 24/7. Exhausting even thinking about it right? Well, now imagine what that is doing to your body, with the level of toxins and hormones etc flying around your body, all out of balance. The effects on the body and your health are enormous. I was in a state of Toxic Stress for a VERY long time.

Relentlessness
We all have struggles in life. We are all faced with deaths, and illness, and life events, and busyness etc. But, what tipped me over the edge was the relentlessness of it all. I not only had MAJOR, seriously important things to deal with, I had ZERO break from one major thing to the next to cope with. They just kept coming, and coming, and coming, and coming, and coming. No period in between for rest and recovery. There’s only so much the body can take. There’s a limit. And I went WELL BEYOND it for so long, trying to hold on. I visually think of it like in the Action Movies, having fallen over the edge on the rooftop of a building, and I’m holding on by my fingertips, and they’re slipping slowly, slowly, slowly, trying desperately to hang on, thinking that it’ll be OK, there’ll be a ‘rescue’ from the situation soon, and I’ll get back on the rooftop to safety, even for a short while, just a short rest is all that’s needed. But instead, due to life throwing more blows my direction, my fingers slipped off, and the result is inevitable.

I understand better now what caused my burn out. And then I found myself asking, ‘OK, so how do I fix this? How do I become me again? In fact, how do I become a stronger, better version of me? How do I come through this period of adversity and take goodness from it, and use it to help it better me going forward?’

And that’s when I stripped it all back and realised, through the chronically stressful and upsetting time, it had taken away all my happiness.

And happiness is KEY.

So going forward, for the next chapters in my life, I knew I had to focus on Happiness and Healing.

Join me for Part 2 of my blog soon.