Wellness Wednesday: The path to health isn’t straight, but there are road signs to help point the way

A few weeks have passed since I shared my commitment to being the best me I can be. You can read the full post here, but to summarize, I’m a recovering perfectionist, learning to recognize that I am perfect enough and love myself just the way I am. Loving myself means taking care of myself, feeding my body with love and care, and practicing healthy habits like exercise, meditation, and journaling.

What I’ve found over the last few weeks is that my journey isn’t turning out to be as linear as I’d envisioned. I pictured a straight shot to my best life: do the hard work, reap the good rewards. Boom, done.

That is, in fact, not what it’s like at all.

While I haven’t journaled every day, I’ve done it more days than not. Exercise is quickly becoming a daily habit for me, and meditation is definitely my respite from a world with more stress than I care to acknowledge some days. And while I’ve absolutely seen positive impact on my mood, my outlook, my emotional health, and my stamina, I do have days where my OCD tells me public places are dangerous and I don’t get out of the house like I need to, or that food isn’t safe and I don’t end up eating enough. I do have days where I can’t lift as much or do as many reps or go as many miles as I did the day before because I’m under-fueled, overstressed, or overtired (or any combination therein). I know I will continue to have days like that for a long time because recovery from OCD is a marathon, not a sprint. Statistically speaking, I will likely struggle with my mental health for the rest of my life. But it’s hard not to beat myself up for my perceived failures on those tough days.

Something that helps me to be gentler with myself on the hard days is reminding myself to look at the mile markers, not the end goal, to keep my eyes on the road, not the destination. As long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other (both proverbially and physically), I’m moving in the right direction.

So, today, I want to share some of the mile markers and road signs I use to remind myself that even an inch of progress is still progress.

My stamina then and now

The first day I worked out with my trainer, I legitimately almost passed out after 25 minutes, and y’all… he was going easy on me.

Now, I can make it through 15 minutes of Tai Chi, then half an hour on the stationary bike followed by a full half hour of bodyweight exercises with my trainer. That’s more than double what I could do two months ago when we started.

My one regret is that I haven’t been logging my progress in my journal. It would be nice to have that record to go back to on days when I don’t do as well and remind myself that even on my bad days, I’m still leaps ahead of where I was when I began.

Going forward, I’ll be tracking my progress. Let me know in the comments if I should start posting about my progress, if that’s something anyone would be interested in.

My sleep

Once upon a time (in my teens and early twenties), I suffered from horrible insomnia, sleeping 2–3 hours a night at best, or lying awake all night only to fall asleep at dawn and sleep most of the day away. While my sleep hasn’t been nearly that bad in at least 5 or 6 years, I do still struggle to fall asleep sometimes and often wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all. But since I’ve been focusing on my physical and mental health, my sleep has improved. Not only do I fall asleep within minutes of going to bed now and wake up actually feeling rested but I also use the Pillow app on my Apple watch to track my sleep stats, and I’ve consistently seen improvement in my sleep cycles and my time spent asleep.

Listening to my body

The first time I worked out with my trainer (for less than half an hour), I was so sore for the next several days that I couldn’t even sit down without groaning and holding my thighs. This past weekend, I worked out for an hour, then went outside with the family and did yard work (shoveling, digging, planting, laying mulch) for a few hours and wasn’t sore the next day. That means my muscles are getting used to the work.

How I feel about exercise

Before I started on this health journey, I hated exercise. I did not like sweating or being tired/worn out, or any of the not fun parts of exercise. Now, I look forward to it. I look forward to that time when I am making myself and my health a priority and focusing on me. Getting on the exercise bike or the row machine is a form of self-care. Putting on my boxing gloves and using the punching bag is a way to blow off steam, and instead of feeling worn out after, I feel energized like I can mentally and physically take on the world.

My comfort level putting myself out there

There was a time when I would run, yes actually run, from the camera whenever someone tried to take a picture, and don’t even get me started on my near debilitating stage fright/fear of public speaking. Over the years, I’ve gotten better about being “seen.” It helps that my work in publishing requires me to be in an absurd amount of zoom meetings. But even though that’s been the case since even before the pandemic, I never did get comfortable with having my picture taken, taking selfies, or posting pictures and/or video of myself online. For a long time, my social profile picture was of a squirrel. That’s how diligently I avoided showing myself. But the more I put myself out there on this journey, the easier it is each time after. There’s actual science behind why this is the case, and I talk a little about it in another post if you’d like to read that.

My weight

Just kidding! My weight hasn’t changed, and I still wear the same size clothes, but that’s not why I’m on this journey. To be fair, I certainly wouldn’t complain if weight loss were a side effect of my healthy lifestyle, but that’s not where my attention is at right now.

So, in closing, to borrow from something my spouse told me when I was struggling with some anxiety recently after having so many really great, anxiety-free days: the journey to be healthier is like the stock market. It’s not a consistent rise day after day. There will be dips, and even depressions, but ultimately, when you step back and look at the big picture, you can see the results.

If you’re reading this and you’re on a journey like mine or thinking about joining me on this health adventure, don’t forget to read your mile markers, whatever reminds you that you are making progress, and don’t let your distance from the destination discourage you!

If you’re thinking about stepping out on a health journey of your own, connect with me on social media so we can cheer each other on!

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