Updated on October 18th, 2018
When I was 28, I went through a time of coming down with one virus, infection, or illness after another. For a year, I couldn’t shift this, nor make it go away. And I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that I needed to look after myself better. So I went and had some stern words with my GP…
This is the story of what happened then. Read on to discover how my GP’s tough-love advice made a difference to my life!
After a year of illness, I was thoroughly fed up.
I was working in a high-powered job with heavy responsibilities, travelling extensively to work with clients on site. I was driven, and constantly being ill made my busy life more difficult than it needed to be – or so I thought at the time.
So I went to see my GP again.
And I demanded (!) that he sort this out properly, as, clearly, what he’d been prescribing so far wasn’t working. I insisted that there must be something else going on, which he would find out if he just cared to look in the right place.
And you know what he replied?
“Darling, you are over-worked, over-weight, and over-tired – that’s what’s going on with you. If you don’t start looking after yourself better, your health will not improve, and you’ll face more serious consequences. I prescribe regular unwinding, a balanced diet of no more than 1,500 calories a day, 30-60mins exercise at least 3 times a week, and 8 hours’ sleep each night. And that’s what’s going to make you better.”
(OK – gracefully, he didn’t actually say ‘darling’. Although, given the tone in which I had addressed him, he would have had all the right to do so!)
I went away furious.
This man clearly didn’t understand the complexities and demands of my life and work.
How was I supposed to exercise when I was falling into a hotel bed late each night, exhausted after a fourteen-hour work day, to get up early next morning for another day of equal intensity?
How was I supposed to relax when millions of things I needed to do were going ’round and round in my head?
How was I supposed to eat healthily when there was no time to eat in my pressured work day, and I regularly arrived at a late-night restaurant table famished, to eat a huge dinner?
But then the message started sinking in.
I was 28 – a young woman still. And already my body was packing up.
And what was worse: Who or what was doing this to me was not my work, not the ethos of my company, nor my clients – I was, through my choice of being in this high-powered world at all, and through the choices I made for myself, my health and my well-being as I was in it.
Shocking as it was to realise this, it was also the beginning of a shift inside me.
I accepted that I had a problem, and that it was up to me to make the choices that would make it better. I started observing colleagues who were good at looking after themselves. And I thought about what I wanted, what different choices I could make for myself, and how I could follow through with them.
And I began to make some changes.
Now, I’ve never been one to get up at 5am and go for a massive exercise routine in the cold and dark of a winter’s early morning.
But I loved Flamenco dancing, and so I upped my time doing that. When there were no week-end courses to do in my home town, I hired a hall and practiced by myself. I went on dance holidays more frequently. And I took my Flamenco shoes with me on my business travels, and practiced in the evenings on the tiles of my hotel bathrooms. (None of the occupants in the neighbouring rooms ever complained.)
I took up horseback riding on my week ends, too: The exercise in the fresh air was invigorating, and being with these wonderful animals was good for my soul.
Finally, I started eating a good breakfast, stopped working for lunch at least for a short while, and tried to make healthier choices for my dinner.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
As my health gradually got better, I got happier again. Then my career took off, bringing more responsibility, but also more freedom to organise my work in a way that made it more possible to look after myself.
Although I loved many aspects of my career, I also started thinking of what else I wanted to do in my life. And I noticed a longing to find work that would be gentler on my body and more nourishing for my soul.
Yet it took five more years for me to be ready to move on from that driven world, slow down, and unearth and express other important aspects of myself that had been dormant.
And what have I learnt from this?
Today, I look back at how I was then – so young, so inexperienced, so determined to learn and prove myself, so completely taken up and taken over by my work… It makes me smile!
It’s a compassionate smile: I understand better what drove me then, and some of it has healed. I see how I was then as an important part of my journey: It has helped shape who I am today, and, as such, it is precious.
What I’ve learnt from this:
Immersing ourselves fully and passionately in life, with whatever experience we have, shapes us.
Learning, change and progression often come the hard way. The hardest bit may be to acknowledge that we have a problem. And real change becomes possible when we realise that at least some of the choices to make things better are in our hands.
We might not like hear a harsh truth delivered in a direct manner. However, some people who give it to us straight actually say something we really need to hear. Getting over our resistance and take on board what they’re saying, might just help us progress.
Over to you now…
So, what thoughts has this story sparked in you?
What’s been the most challenging, yet best tough-love advice you’ve ever been given, and how has it changed your life?
I’d love to read your comments, if you care to share!
And if you want to work with me to create your change, check out my coaching programmes, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free, no-obligation call with me, to discuss what you need, and how my coaching can best help you.