I lost control of my body for nearly nine years. And I finally gained it back.
It all started when my body started rejecting food I had been eating comfortably for 20 years of my life.
Enter: mass confusion.
“This never happened before.”
“What is wrong with me?”
I lived with it thinking there was nothing I could do. It got worse.
I looked to the outside for help; three doctors, within four years, resulted in minor short-term improvements but no one knew what was wrong.
I battled with my body. I hated that this was happening to me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, alien.
Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? Why did I have to be the one making seven substitutions to meals at restaurants? Why did I have to be the one to call ahead to parties to find out what foods would be served just so I could determine if I had to eat before I arrived? Why did I have to feel broken all of the time?
I was pissed off. I had no time for anything I wanted to do and I felt like crap. Having a life outside of work, where I could have time to myself and take care of my body, seemed impossible.
At this point, I had lived with pain for about six years and wanted to give up. I was exhausted, frustrated, and hopeless.
But I wouldn’t let it go. I knew it wasn’t right. I knew that I could overcome my issues. I refused to live a second-rate existence.
This was not going to rule my life.
I started getting serious about regaining control. I did my research, I followed mind-body exercises, I paid close attention to my workouts, and I rearranged my diet—paying attention to the order in which I ate foods.
I used to refer to this period as, “the time I was curing myself.”
But the truer statement is, “the time when I became me again.”
Stress only exacerbated what was happening in my body. And, like most, stress surrounded my work. I had worked in three different media and advertising agencies for about four years after college: two in New York and one in San Diego. The unnecessary stress, anxiety, panic, and sense of urgency sent my mind and body into a frenzy. This chaos helped me realize that I not only needed a change for myself, but that I also wanted to change the way people worked. So, I went to graduate school in DC for a master’s degree in Organizational Management.
I wanted to end unnecessary 16-hour workdays. I wanted to initiate real work/life balance. I wanted employers to understand what burnout does to their employees. I wanted to prevent the physical reactions, which so many people experience, because of their misery at the one place where they spend the most time (besides their beds…but even beds now are getting less action than the office).
When I graduated 10 months later (talk about stress), I started working to teach managers and leaders how to foster a healthier and more productive environment for their employees. I became an advocate for work/life balance. I spoke about what it means to be a great manager—one that is looked up to rather than despised.
But I quickly realized that simply speaking wasn’t enough—not for me or for anyone else. While we can all learn skills and techniques to make work a better place, it goes deeper than that. In order to manage others, we have to be able to manage ourselves first. Being a great leader means knowing yourself.
I wasn’t the only one who had a mind and body that were not talking to each other. I wasn’t the only one becoming physically sick because of the way I was thinking. I wasn’t the only one pushing myself to the side when I needed to be front and center. I wasn’t the only one who needed to cleanse the mind, body, and soul of negative thoughts and self-sabotaging actions in order to achieve a healthier being.
Always an exercise junkie, I danced, played sports, and went to the gym from a young age, but I wanted to take it a step further. So, over the last five years, I started with Pilates, evolved into yoga, started running, and became certified as a personal trainer.
I created a union and gained a new awareness for the connection between my mind and body.
By becoming aware of my negative thoughts, challenging them (think: a war being fought in your brain), and taking action, I was able to define my balance, find my center, and unleash my sexy.
Awareness, perseverance, and ridding of the phrase “I can’t” from my vocabulary is what changed my life—and that is what can change yours, too.
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