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“Just go breathe”, thanks Captain Obvious, do you really think some meditation will help with my stress? During 2020, I woke up every morning with a plan to focus on healthy habits, but after a couple emails or news alerts the meditation minutes became an opportunity to repeat obscenities. 

Just like many people, COVID has taken a toll on my mental health and physical health.  The past couple of months were a tipping point for my stress, and getting the advice to just meditate and breathe was like a turn on switch for my stress. I am unique, stress is subjective and what works for one person might not work for me. 

Last year I was running a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon on the 8th anniversary of MS diagnosis, and this year I was spending time in multiple doctors’ offices trying to figure out how to walk again. It has been a long slow painful road to getting my legs back this year and rediscovering a new path to a healthy lifestyle was more challenging than training for a 50 Miler.

Completing a marathon or ultra marathon is wonderful, but it’s a selfish gift to myself. Living with a chronic disease is my real greatest accomplishment, and not finding the healthiest version of me has a domino effect on everything that I love. If I can’t get out of bed, my family suffers. If a flare up is serious, I can’t work. Living with a chronic disease is basically walking around with a ticking time bomb. Honestly, everyone’s health is a ticking time bomb, but people living with chronic disease are just more aware of their delicate fuse. 

How did I fall so fast? A healthy body is not a guarantee, and finding a way to navigate is the key to staying healthy. What worked in 2013 isn’t going to work in 2020, and daily reminders that it wasn’t working were only making it worse. 

The good news is that I am feeling better, and have found a way to stay accountable to my body. My MRI is scheduled for January and I am staying on plan for the remainder of 2020.

Here’s my survival kit for the remainder of 2020 :

Acceptance

I stopped waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and just adjusted to living in the tunnel. This might sound negative, but for anyone who has had a difficult road gets this. Stressors are not going to magically disappear at a convenient timeline to manage my health. I need to manage my health first and adjust my eyes to the dark tunnel. I won’t be angry when I am reminded of a time that I was faster, fitter, and happier. I will celebrate the journey and embrace the change. I will be the best me, today.

Goals

The concept of setting goals did not change in 2020. When I made the decision to manage my health, lifestyle setting goals were key, but I had more bandwidth to be intense when I first started setting them. Now the goals look very different. I am not as restrictive with my plan. I celebrate a little more frequently, and have lowered the bar without compromising the results.

My Community

Meeting a friend for a cup of tea at a cafe and laughing until we were kicked out was one of those pre-COVID activities I miss the most. Things have changed, but this is an opportunity to learn and grow from the people in my life. One of my favorite “new experiences” was a Kundalini Yoga class I joined during this unprecedented time. I am excited to grow my remote world and try new things.

I have also embraced my old community. I have been quarantined with my husband at it’s like we’re 18 again when we first met. In the beginning of our relationship we played Tavli (Backgammon) for hours, like Greek sailors. Now, the board is out, and I am much better. I am excited to play together at home and eventually on the beaches of Greece. 

Planning for after COVID

The pandemic will end and I will be ready. I am researching trips and new experiences that will be around in 2021. Things will be different, I will be different, but that difference is nothing but exciting. I am not going to be sad for what I have lost in the past year, but I am going to be hopeful because of how much I learned. 

I am confident that the next time I get on an airplane I won’t complain about the dinner being served, the leg room, or the movie options. I will only be excited about the destination and the people in my life. Being different is a gift.

Ask for help 

My middle name should be TMI. I have no filter and am completely transparent. It was a trait that developed twofold after I embraced my MS diagnosis. I discovered that pretending my life was perfect lead to more stress. The people who run away from the rawest version of me are not the people I want in my life. I am not needy, but I will look for any guidance and growth from anyone. I am a student of life and that means my teachers are everyone and every where. 

Be ready to pivot

If the same actions are not working be ready to be different. I have learned that complacency is a cinder block tied to my waist when I am trying to swim. I will always be ready to pivot and grow during this crazy time.  That does not mean closing doors, but finding new ways to open them. Life is too short to be angry.

Letting go of anger

This one is tough and doesn’t happen overnight. I am not a master of this skill, but I consider it a work in progress. I aspire to be a little better each day, and if I focus on everything other than my anger this will naturally follow.

Everyone needs to find their own way to manage their inner ticking time bomb. Embrace today as a gift that can all be an opportunity to celebrate the simple things in life. Going for a run and having a stranger start a conversation because he likes my shirt is a small gift. Decorating a Christmas tree with my three adult daughters was a special moment. Taking a nap in a warm cozy bed on a rainy day is wonderful.

Things are different and that will best thing that comes out of 2020.