Over the last year I’ve become much more aware of how I spend my time. It used to be that I was always going from one place to the next, doing everything I could to help someone else, worrying about other people before I worried about myself. I never had “down time”. I always put off things I wanted to do when someone else needed something. I thought I was doing good because I was helping others!

Then I started noticing my energy levels were becoming less and less. I figured I was just tired because I knew I was spread thin and I wasn’t getting enough sleep (6 hours was a good night for me). But when I could barely get through a workout using five pound dumbbells, I knew something was wrong. It used to be 15-20 pound dumbbells was my comfortable weight, and now I was dying with 5’s. I also wasn’t recovering from my workouts like I used to, my skin was breaking out, I was moody (more than usual for those that know me), I had no patience, I was irritable, I was depressed, I knew I was stressed, I was groggy in the morning and wide awake at night, and I was putting on weight when I shouldn’t have been.

I hate going to the doctor. It seems they just want to stop the symptoms without finding out the underlying problem. So when I finally bit the bullet and accepted the fact I needed help, I searched for anyone who wasn’t an M.D. I wanted someone who I felt was going to get to the underlying cause of my problems, not just cover them up. I made an appointment with a nearby naturopathic doctor and it was the best decision I think I have ever made. She listened, addressed my concerns, mentioned a few things that might be going on (turns out they were pretty serious things), and ordered a ton of bloodwork done. And she’s Sicilan (like me!) so I thought she was pretty awesome. I was surprised she didn’t start me on any supplements on that first visit, but I guess why put someone on anything if you don’t know what’s wrong?

So I waited. Several weeks. I wasn’t feeling any better, and I think I was getting worse. Finally, they got all of my bloodwork back. Turns out I was in severe adrenal fatigue (stage 3 out of 4; 4 is when you get hospitalized), my hormones were all out of whack, my cortisol was all backwards, and I wasn’t properly digesting my food. Great! (Not so great. I’m being sarcastic here.) So now what?

After over an hour consult, I walked out with more supplements than I have ever been on. Probably in my entire life combined. She had asked if I wanted her to give me prescriptions or try the natural way. Well I was there because she was a naturopathic doctor, so I told her absolutely no prescriptions unless the supplements didn’t work. I think she loved me for saying that. And I think she saved my life.

So I went home with a copy of all of my records, instructions for the dozen or so supplements she gave me, and I studied up on all of my problems. More than anything, the stage of adrenal fatigue I was in was serious. VERY serious. And one of her instructions was NO WORKOUTS. What?! I’m a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I workout almost every day, how did she expect me to do that?! Well, I didn’t have a choice. And I think deep down I was thankful she told me not to workout. I needed someone to tell me to stop. My system was shutting down and if I wanted to get better, the workouts had to stop.

It was hard for me to not workout. Workouts had been part of my life for so long that it felt wrong for me to not be participating. But I didn’t. For almost 3 months. 12 weeks of no workouts. Nothing. No walking. No weights. No yoga (which I didn’t do anyway, but couldn’t if I wanted to). It was hard. She also told me some foods I needed to eat more of (specifically carbs and specifically at night), I needed to do meditation or some type of reflection daily, I needed to learn to say “no” when I was feeling overwhelmed, I needed to take time to myself (put everything on hold and disconnect), I needed to get at least 8 hours of sleep, and I needed to do breathing exercises. I did it. All of it. Can I tell you how good it feels to say “no” when your plate is full?! Do it! You’ll feel AMAZING. And after a few times you’ll realize that whatever you’re saying no to will still get done, and whoever you said no to will be okay. It won’t be the end of the world. And 8 hours of sleep!?!? Oh. My. Gosh. Incredible. To this day I still get at least that 95% of the time (more on the weekends). Do it! Your world will change.

It’s been almost a year since I was diagnosed, and I finally feel mostly back to myself. I’m still on almost all of the supplements, but she’s slowly weaning me off of them. I workout 4-5 times a week and am back to using the heavier weights. I know when to push myself and when to step back. I’ve learned when to say no. I read at least 15 minutes before bed because I enjoy it (instead of watching TV every night, although sometimes I do that, too). And I’ve learned that I love painting! My mom and I started going together last March and we’ve gone at least once a month ever since. It gives me time to not think about anything else (I don’t answer calls or texts when I’m painting) and my mom and I get to spend time together. It’s ME time, which I had severely been lacking.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know that you NEED time to yourself. You HAVE to take care of yourself. Someone else’s emergency is not your emergency. You don’t have to be the “yes man” (or woman) all of the time. You don’t have to take on every possible project because you think someone else can’t do it as good as you (I’m still working on this, but I’m getting better). You have to learn to let go. If you spend all of your time taking care of everyone and everything else, eventually that will catch up to you and you won’t be able to do anything.

Find time to recharge. Find something you enjoy doing and do it. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. It’s a start. Allow yourself to “control-alt-delete” – reboot your systems. Find balance. Daily. You will approach your day in a whole new way if you refocus your energy on YOU more often. Make it a great day! Be BOLD.