Despite having a business with the name “Inspiring Vitality”, last summer I would have given myself a solid C- in personal vitality. All of 2021 went by in a blur for my siblings and I as we juggled eldercare responsibilities for our parents with our own jobs and children. My mom was living with Alzheimer’s with my dad as her primary care partner, about four years in from the day she called to tell me she discovered a “great new pizza place” that was, in fact, our well-loved Grotto Pizza that was walking distance from their beach house in South Bethany, Delaware.
My sibling and I were rotating daily visits to help Dad and also to give them both what they wanted most at this point in their lives – time with us, their children – a gift to us all, really. My dad had his own health issues. He was in year eight with an LVAD (left ventricular assistive device) that was supposed to keep his heart going for seven years, so 2021 also brought emergency room visits and hospital stays for my dad with some siblings at the hospital and others rotating staying overnight with mom. It was overwhelming at times but it also brought us closer, especially to Dad, who for most of our lives had left all the coordinating and communicating to Mom.
In January 2022, Dad’s heart finally gave out and after he passed, Mom moved in with my family, making 2021 look like a cakewalk. My siblings rotated in to help and we found a wonderful caregiver who came to our home part-time, but it was not sustainable. Six months into that arrangement is when my vitality score sunk to a C-. I was still exercising. I drank my water. I kept going with existing clients and speaking gigs on top of my full-time job. I did (not enough) writing and social media. I was trying to do everything I always did plus manage my mom’s care. “How do you do it all?” was the most common “compliment” I received and let’s just call it what it was - hubris, plain and simple. I had worked in senior living; I was a certified dementia care practitioner, and a fitness expert. I literally wrote a book on maintaining vitality as you age. Surely, I could find the right mix. But, I was exhausted. I had spurts of stress eating and anxiety. My brain felt jumbled. My weight crept up and I developed new aches and pains.
I absolutely still believe that healthy habits give you energy for the stresses of life, but even that has limits. In the summer of 2022, it became clear that things had to come off my list for my own wellbeing. I stopped writing. I closed my online women’s fitness club. I had speaking gigs booked but I stopped reaching out for new ones. I mostly stopped posting on social media. I stopped doing anything that felt like pressure and instead focused on things that brought curiosity or joy. I went to bed earlier. I started each day with a prayer ritual. I spent less time on the computer. We found a fantastic Memory Care community for Mom. My husband and I traveled to South Africa and visited our adult children in San Diego and Texas. I did the 75-hard Challenge, even though as a fitness professional I had poo-pooed it in the past. I became the student instead of the teacher in more advanced yoga and weight training principles that excited me. I used weekend hiking dates with a friend to put myself in nature weekly. One of my brothers and I took over the beach house. I lost over 30 pounds that most people didn’t realize I was carrying.
This summer, my vitality score is an A+. My energy is through the roof and my positive mindset is back. My joint pains are 90% better. I’m both wiser and more humble. I’ve had a year of adventure and new skills and life lessons. I’ve mastered headstands and set a goal to compete in bodybuilding in 2024. I’m writing again and recording videos. My creativity has been refreshed and I’m energized to share new observations with clients and expand new business offerings. In short, what a difference a year can make!
Have you had a time when have you needed to take a step back to move forward? A phase of life that required humility and a new navigation strategy? Or perhaps something you were an expert in professionally but discovered that dealing with it personally was a whole different thing? My recommendation? Hit pause. Reassess and not just on the surface. Let curiosity and joy be your guide for a while, making your world smaller as an investment in getting bigger again later. If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear your story!
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