Wellness debt

I caught some cold virus two days ago. It’s nothing serious at all, but still quite unpleasant. My head hurts, my throat is sore, I can’t sleep, taste food, or focus at work, and have the energy levels of an old potato.

Despite everything I just said, I’m not complaining at all. It’s much better to feel like a potato two days after my own wedding than before or during it. I really appreciate this potato phase came to me only after it was all over. Still, I’ve put off so many things until “after I’m married” that it’s a shame I have no energy left to carry out my plans.

This is not the first time I’m seeing this pattern. As long as there’s a big project that excites me, I can survive with much less sleep, exercise, and healthy food than normally. The momentum keeps me going. As soon as the excitement is over, all the health & wellness debt would suddenly come down on me at once. The older I am, the less it takes for me to get sick, and the longer it takes me to recover.

In a way this sometimes feels as if my body is dragging me down. If it wasn’t for the random cold or flu each time I get a few less hours of sleep, how much more efficient I could be… For some time I did believe that if I try hard enough, I’ll be able to live at peak emotional state and intensity all the time.

But just as if there’s no mountain peak without a valley, every high will inevitably be followed by a low, and periods of intensity always need to be balanced with recovery. On most weeks I am able to add enough rest into the mix to stay healthy and productive. However, if I’m not getting enough of it for a longer time, my body won’t be able to function properly anymore and might come down with a flu. It’s as simple as that.

A part of me wants to say I will never strain myself this way again, but I know it’s not true. There will always be emergencies to be taken care of, too much sightseeing in too little time, jetlag, challenging periods at work, or even parties worth staying up all night. Everything in life is a tradeoff, and trying to stay 100% safe and healthy 100% of the time would mean missing out on many of life’s biggest joys.

This doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening to my body. It’s totally worth it. It’s the only vehicle I get to travel through this planet. It’s in my best interest to keep it in the best possible shape. And if it suddenly breaks down, it’s a sign I haven’t been listening well enough, and that now it’s time to focus on it with twice as much care and attention.

Illustration by Deborah Koff-Chapin

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