So I have a confession. I’ve been guilty of misaligning my priorities and was recently called out when I saw my gifted gastroenterologist last week. I had it coming. A soft stern look is all I received. My block has nothing to do with my relationship with the doctor. Making the appointment was my first step, as I had to cancel patients to attend. I truly believe he is the best doctor I’ve ever met. He listens and is kind, compassionate, and brilliant. He has a way of making you feel like you are the only patient in the office. Unfortunately, seeing him reminds me that I have mild Crohn’s Disease. After 17 years, it is a diagnosis that necessitates a colonoscopy exam every year. This makes a pap smear appointment feel like a gift. It is the colonoscopy preparation that I dread. And because of the prep, his name has been on my to do list since I wrote a blog article about Procrastination months back.
Years ago I mindfully decided to own the diagnosis and not be surprised when it occasionally showed up. However, I made no plans that the diagnosis would own me. I had an internal dialogue and agreed to think of my crohn’s as a knock at the door to tell me I need to take a step back, and slow down. Any symptom would remind me to sleep more, cancel plans, disconnect a little, modify my meals, and eliminate stress. It’s funny how the things and circumstances that initially appear to be the biggest nuisances can often be your most influential teachers.
When he asked me what I had been up to, and I shared my aspirations to inspire a health mindfulness movement, he looked over my website and my vows. I think he had one eyebrow raised, or so I imagined, as there I was, two years late for my screening colonoscopy. As he perused my website we agreed I needed to vow to prioritize proper screening and medication to prevent inflammation despite the fact that I have felt clinically well for the greater part of the past 11 years. I should know better after all, I am a doctor. But first I am a woman, just like all of the women I care for, with all the gifts, blessings, and challenges packaged up in prioritizing self.
I’ve been allowing my career, everything Mom, and some of my recent personal studies and classes on various topics of spirituality and mindfulness to live at the top of my priority list. Centering myself around my goals to empower women, has forced me to take a hard look at myself daily. Now that May and half of June have passed; Now that I’ve attended every dance recital, play, scheduled summer camps and am free from week-night and weekend activities; I decided it is a perfect time to re-commit to aligning myself with my health care needs and goals.
Here are the steps I’ve taken over the past six months to prioritize my health and myself:
1. I Bought a Weekly and Monthly Planner
This may seem like I’m taking a leap back in time. But the calendar feature in my smartphone just wasn’t working well for me. It was difficult to see my entire week and month at a glance, increasing my stress level and making it challenging to stay organized.
I bought a paper planner at Target, and changed my life! I can clearly see how I am prioritizing my time and making adjustments. When how you spend your time is written out in front of you, it is difficult to ignore. Utilizing the planner also encourages me to schedule in time for self care, massage, hair appointments, and Doctor’s visits. I also decided against having a shared family calendar. Just seeing my husband’s calendar and schedule gave me more stress, so I keep mine separate.
2. I Realistically Plan for Quiet Time and Reflection
My 6 am meditation schedule is a must. It cannot be compromised. If I don’t mediate for 30 minutes every morning, I find my day is less peaceful. Starting my day in silence and gratitude is essential. I prioritize going to sleep earlier and I set my alarm to awake before my children. I have a dedicated meditation room as well. I find when I am diligent about meditating my entire day is more relaxed and I am more creative.
3. I Schedule Time for Physical Activity
I realized I have challenges finding time to exercise on certain days of the week due to my work schedule and family obligations. I decided not to have a pity party focusing on those days. I’ve chosen the end of the week and weekends to prioritize spin classes, walking and my yoga practice. I also reinstated my gym membership in the same building where my children take dance. While they are dancing I am spinning!
4. I Recorded Dates of My Medical Exams and Screening Tests
I made a list of every screening exam I have had in the past three years so that I know where I need to focus my attention. By dedicating a place in my planner to put a date next to my latest physical exam, Pap smear, mammogram, blood tests, and colonoscopy I found it hard to ignore. I didn’t realize I was so late for my colonoscopy until I did this exercise. It is human to put off and ignore what we do not find pleasant. Seeing the date written in my own penmanship was a wake up call to pick up the phone and get to scheduling.
5. I Scheduled a Dental Exam and Cleaning
I admit it, I hate going to the dentist. And hate is a strong word. Growing up in Indiana with plenty of fun-dip, kool-aid, and bottled soda didn’t help. After relocating to Boston in 2014, finding a new dentist was deliberately at the bottom of my list. However, every time I brush I cannot ignore that the teeth I have will hopefully be with me until I transition to the fourth dimension. We can’t trade them in for anything better so a good dentist and regular cleanings is a must.
6. I Called and Made the Necessary Appointments
This may seem obvious. But once you make the to do list, you must take action on the listed items. Despite the long phone trees and challenges making time during a busy workday, once I identified which appointments I needed I scheduled them.
7. I Embrace Authenticity About Doing More of What I Love
It is ok to say No. I’ve been watching so many interviews lately and recently attended a leadership seminar where we discussed the importance of saying, “Yes.” But I’ve found over the years it’s also important to know when to say “No.” With such an abundant schedule I’ve really had to take a hard look at my calendar and ask myself, “What do you love and what would you like to be doing more of?” “Where are you spending too much time?” When the answer is revealed, I find myself doing more of what I love. After all this is my life. I'm saying "Yes" to travel, celebrations, and activities that promote personal growth and building intimate relationships.
Honor Health Vow #6
I Vow to Advocate for Myself and Pledge to Prioritize my Healthcare Needs
To Join the Health Mindfulness Movement and to explore more informed topics written by Dr. Liza M. Colimon visit healthvows.org