My wife and I recently had the opportunity to move into some newer, bigger, nicer digs. It was an event we were both quite happy about but also one that, as I’m sure many of you are all too aware, comes with more than a soupçon of hard work, hectic schedules and heavy lifting. We started our move last Thursday (9/5), and had to be done by Sunday (9/8). Most of our stuff we had already packed, it was just a matter of getting it over to the new apartment and giving our old place a thorough cleaning.
Thursday was furniture moving day. I’m not sure how many people happen to remember the weather that day. It was cloudy for a bit in the morning, then sunny, hot, and humid during the middle of the day that turned into a massive wind and rain storm. I remember this because in the morning we were moving boxes, in the middle of the day I was moving furniture and by the time it cooled down again it was back to boxes.
Friday was more boxes in the morning, seeing patients in the evening and then a two hour drive out of town that night for a family gathering. Saturday was driving back into town and the plan was to get the last random things out of the apartment—you know, the stuff from the drawer you swear you emptied already, the kitchen gadgets that never seemed to fit in any of the boxes, that stuff—and then do a good bit of cleaning.
That was the plan. However, three days of heavy lifting, stress and eating sporadically (and not super healthfully I’m sad to say) had taken their tole. As we started moving that last stuff out of the apartment I finally started listening to my body—I was achy, getting short of breath after even moderate exertion, old injuries that hadn’t bothered me for months or even years were starting to make themselves known. My thinking was foggy and my mood was terrible.
Now the point of all this is not to complain, but to point out how easy it is to get so focused on to-do lists that the body gets ignored. Had I taken better care of myself over those three days I would have been in much better shape that evening. Instead I rushed from one thing to the next, determined to get through my list in record time, and I paid for it in the end.
Fortunately, once I realized I was running myself ragged I called it a night, had a fruit smoothie for some easy-to-assimilate nutrients, a lot of water and about ten hours of sleep. The next day I felt great and my wife and I were able to complete the last of the cleaning with no trouble.
Because I listened to my body in time I was able to bounce back from a few hard days. But here’s the thing: getting things done feels great. Getting lots of things done really fast feels even better. There’s a rush that comes from completing tasks and overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to get focused on getting the next thing done and then the next and the next and the next. It used to be called “putting your nose to the grindstone.” The grindstone, however, is certainly going to win that one in the end. There’s certainly nothing wrong with accomplishments, and everyone has some times in their life when they need to push extra hard. But it’s equally important to take time for yourself and for your health, to pay back your body for all you’ve asked it to do. Before finals week one of my instructors at Bastyr University used to remind us, “Your health is more important than your grades. Your life is more important than your career.” There’s always time to do more, achieve more, accomplish more. But we each get only one body. Care for it, and it will always care for you.