When you think of health and wellness coaches, you probably think of fit young people with low body fat, rippling muscles, and boundless energy. Perky, happy young people who know the right thing to eat, the right way to exercise, and the right way to live in general. If you are looking for that person, then I might be a disappointment. I am middle aged, I don’t have boundless energy, and I don’t have a face you could bounce a quarter off (or any other body parts like that, for that matter).
I am not permanently disabled, but I do have trouble with moving without pain and I am recovering from a long-term illness. I have my good days and my struggles, but in all I live as healthfully as I possibly can. I believe that my lack of perfect health makes me more compassionate with other people. It helps me understand the struggles that people face with their bodies and minds. I have learned a lot on my journey towards ever-increasing wellness. Here are some things I’ve noticed along the way.
- Moving beyond the point of pain is not a good idea for most people, but even less so for people with physical conditions like Fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, and long-term injuries. Respect your body’s limits, but don’t give up on being as fit as you can be. I know, that sounds paradoxical. However, if you experiment with moving small amounts and gradually increase your range of motion, all the while being careful to notice how you feel as you move, you can make more progress than you might think possible.
- Advocating for your own well being with doctors and other health care professionals is not only smart, it’s essential. Doctors might tell you to do things that you know you can’t or should not do; listen to them and give them their due respect but also trust what you know about your own body. Don’t let people push you around just because of the initials after their names.
- Loving yourself just the way you are is hard sometimes. You might get frustrated, angry and wish you had a different body. But you have this body. I have my body, and I have learned to accept its limitations and honor its requests. The sooner you do this, the less heartache and self-loathing you will endure. It has taken me a long time but I am finally at peace with what my body can and cannot do.
- I can’t give up. People often to me, “aren’t you tired of being in a wheelchair” or “don’t you wish you could eat whatever you wanted?” And the answer is, “Hell yes, I wish that, but if I were just like everyone else I would not be who I am today.” If I spend all my time wishing I were healthier, then I miss out on small but important progress I am making. I can now stand, and walk with a bit. I can’t feel sorry for myself; I am a vital, strong, intelligent person with a lot of plans and something to give to the world. You are too; don’t forget that.
- We are very flexible and adaptable creatures who can find a way out of out hard situations. When I say to my husband, “wouldn’t it be nice to eat X?” he will adapt the recipe to our specifications and often come out with something that is much healthier and tastier than the original recipe. When I got injured many years ago and could not walk, we rented an electric wheelchair so I could do my postdoctoral hours for my psychology license. We all triumph over life’s adversities in many ways, big and small; let us appreciate those and celebrate them regularly.
- When someone else is struggling, we don’t really know how hard it is until we’ve been there ourselves. Try to extend the same love and grace you extend yourself. This will help soften our judgments of others (and ourselves) and realize that we’re all doing our best.
The list could go on, but those are the most important things I’ve learned. I am a licensed psychologist as well as being a Board-Certified Coach, and I know about being as healthy as I can be. If you’d like my help, I’d be glad to talk to you.