As National Go Red for Women Month (a zippier name for Heart Disease Awareness Month) comes to a close, I thought I would pump out a few words on the subject.
I’ve noticed that the conversation has slowed considerably since the first enthusiastic posts hit my newsfeed earlier this month. The importance of raising awareness around women’s heart health and the prevalence of heart disease among women cannot be overstated.
Here’s what we know:
I even got into the game early on, posting my first official Selfie for the #goredselfie cause. I was wearing a bright red vest after a heart-pumping walk with a good friend. Okay, so the picture was from the neck down. Does that still count?
It wasn’t long after, that we all went back to life as usual; same old, same old, no longer phased by the magnitude of this issue. No more perky pictures of ourselves all decked out in red getting in our 10,000 steps a day, or sitting quietly on saffron colored meditation cushions breathing our way toward wellness.
I’m not judging. These things come and go. They’re fun, even inspiring. They make wonderful news for short periods of time. They go viral, and then just like a good antibiotic, the busyness of real life swoops in and snuffs them out in a day or two.
But like I said, this conversation is too important to simply move on to National Caffeine Awareness Month without another mention. And since we already know the facts, I want to talk about the part that no one really talks about—the elephant in the room–not just the one on our chests.
My dad had a heart attack in 2008. He woke up one morning feeling unwell. Within minutes he alerted my mom. He said, “I don’t feel well. I need help.” Luckily she’s a nurse. She took his pulse, assessed his complexion, which was pale and gray, and then immediately loaded him into the car for a lifesaving trip to the emergency room. Okay, next time she should call 911, but I’m not going to make her feel bad at this point. The patient lived.
Contrast that to Rosie O’Donnell’s story. She became the celebrity face of heart disease for women after suffering a heart attack in 2012. She walked around for HOURS–almost a FULL DAY–with strange and serious symptoms before finally calling a doctor. When she felt unwell, she didn’t say, “I need help,” like my father did. She took an aspirin and went to bed like any exhausted, overworked mom would. She even minimized her discomfort and attributed her symptoms to indigestion and being miserably out of shape.
It’s true that the symptoms of a heart attack are different and more confusing for women than they are for men. But we can easily memorize them or carry a list around in our Prada for quick reference if needed.
When we make this the headliner for the Go Red for Women discussion, we fail to address the deeper underlying issue behind this serious epidemic. The one that holds the most promise for prevention.
At the very heart of the matter is that women struggle to make themselves a priority in their lives. We habitually put the needs of others ahead of our own until the s*** hits the fan in the form of a health crisis. I often say in my workshops that some of the healthiest women I know have life threatening illnesses. Sad, but true. We need to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken into awareness by chest pain, clammy skin, and vomiting–like Rosie was–before we will admit, “I don’t feel well. I need help.” And only then, in the aftermath, do we give ourselves permission to devote time, energy, and financial resources to the journey back to wellness.
This makes the prevention piece problematic.
Taking care of ourselves with heart-healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and skillful stress management techniques–even being able to recognize that we are experiencing the symptoms of a coronary event–won’t happen until we step forward and claim our wellness as our birthright.
My health matters.
Come to think of it . . . my pursuit of happiness and fulfillment in my life matters.
A bold step for sure. Some might argue, selfish. But think about it. If we do that, the rest falls into perfect place like the final piece of a complicated puzzle. Snap!
Suddenly, we give ourselves bits of permission to carve out more time for ourselves.
Maybe we take a walk one day and feel our pulse quicken. Oh, that’s what my body feels like.
Maybe we find a mediation class one evening a week, and gift it to ourselves. Ahh! That’s what it feels like to breath in and out and stay . . . just stay with what comes up.
Maybe we even play with saying “No” to the things that don’t serve us anymore, and learn, with practice . . . Yes, I can do this! That’s the sound of my heart speaking to me. I think I’ll listen.
Over time, our confidence grows and we begin to feel just better enough that we want more. Little by little we take bolder more purposeful steps in the direction of wellness until we don’t just feel okay when we wake up in the morning, we feel GOOD!
Now that’s what I call a healthy heart.
Rosie said it herself, “There are no accidents in this world.” She did not sign on voluntarily to lead the charge for the Go Red for Women Movement. Who would? Especially when the prerequisite is a near death experience. Perhaps she was hand picked by a higher power because we need her loud and boisterous voice until ours becomes strong enough to be heard on its own.
I’m encouraged. In spite of the fact that these celebratory months come and go before we turn our heads, I see women everyday beginning to listen and take inspired action. The women’s wellness movement is growing and the conversation is bold, positive, and more empowering that ever.
So, what does your heart say? Are you ready to step up and CLAIM YOUR SPOT? It’s my wellness challenge for the month.
Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your voice.
Feel Good. Be Well. Meg
Wellness Prompt: Take a minute or two before your write this time. Close you eyes and get quiet. Connect with your breath. See what comes up. Is there an area of your life that’s trying to tell you something? What feelings or sensations take hold of your attention? What do you think they are trying to say? What holds you back from listening? 10 minute write . . . Go!
“Feb 6th: Steady as she goes, it’s all about perseverance when the temperature drops, there is still plenty of opportunity for the patient angler.”
I stumbled upon this beautiful piece of nature writing last week in the most unlikely place. I love the outdoors, and before we had kids, my husband and I spent every weekend taking long luxurious hikes on whatever trails were near our house. Now that we have two hockey playing sons and live in suburbia–it’s harder to get out.
So, I forget the lessons that nature has to offer. Like the one shared by this writer: Timing is everything. Be steady and patient in your efforts. Persevere.
I feel the excitement and opportunity he talks about in slowing down and waiting for just the right moment to snap my line taught.
The writer? My brother-in-law Captain Pete. The unlikely place? A post on his Naples Fishing Charters Facebook Page.
Even if you’re not a fisherman, his page is worth a follow. He makes people’s dreams of catching the big one come true everyday. Their smiles are as big as the fish they catch. They will make you smile too.
The real gold for me though, are his nature musings and what he sees when he’s out on the water. As I said, I don’t spend much time off of the pavement these days, so his observations remind me to slow down and look at things more softy in my own life. Maybe they would for you too.
Thanks Captain Pete. I’m casting my line out today. I have a sense that if I take your advice, I might catch me some WELLNESS!
Who else is on board?
Go in Peace.
Feel good. Be well. Meg
WELLNESS PROMPT: What’s up with your wellness these days? Is there an area of your life that might benefit from a softer approach? What if you slowed down, sat quietly and waited like a patient angler? Would you snag the wellness you’re looking for? 10-minute write . . . go!
About my Sunday Sermon: Sunday Sermon is a tribute to my beautiful, 86 year old mom, who was teaching me about wellness before the word was part of our daily lexicon. She used to give me long “lectures” on life–as only a mother can do–while we shared breakfast at Harry’s Luncheonette in Princeton. When she was finished talking, I’d often laugh and say, “Thanks for the sermon, mom. Does that mean I don’t have to go to church on Sunday?” When I stumble on a wellness thought and take the time to write about it for fun and personal insight, it makes me think of those good times.
I can’t recall exactly when I decided to roll up my yoga mat and call it a day.
Maybe it was a few years ago when I couldn’t find a yoga class that I enjoyed within a reasonable driving distance from my house. Sure, there were plenty of studios. But each time I stepped onto my mat and attempted to keep up with the flow and pace of the new fangled fitness yoga, I stepped off an hour later thinking, “Wow. I’m getting too old for this. I just can’t keep up anymore.”
I tried to go it alone for awhile. After all, I was a yoga teacher. I should have had the discipline and knowhow to make it happen for myself. But doing downward dog with my computer screen flickering in the background and a sink full of dishes just a few steps away was a recipe for distraction.
So I quit trying.
Surprisingly, I didn’t miss it that much. I happily replaced my practice (if you could call it that) with walking, swimming, and reading about yoga in Yoga Journal when it landed in my mailbox each month. And when my body felt stiff and sore, I just reminded myself that this was why I didn’t do yoga anymore.
But last week, I found myself standing back on a borrowed yoga mat, in a warm, softly lit studio, in the town where I grew up. I had traveled back to help my parents for an extended period of time, and one night, out of the blue, I excused myself from the dinner table and announced that I was going out to take a yoga class. Just to get out. Well, I didn’t say that part. I acted like it was something I do all the time, not knowing if I would even make it past the Starbucks just around the corner.
I did make it to class that night. And from the moment I put my feet together in Mountain Pose and extended my arms over my head like the teacher instructed, I knew I had been away too long. All the reasons I loved yoga came flooding back as I stretched and moved in tune with my breath. As we took our time moving in and out of each pose–Chair Pose, to Warrior II, then on to Triangle and Warrior I–it dawned on me how much I missed having an activity in my life that encouraged me to move slowly and mindfully.
And I realized I was stiff–really stiff. Every muscle I moved seemed to snap like dry kindling as I coaxed it beyond its comfort zone. But in spite of my rigidity, I was able to find ways to move with some degree of ease through the poses. I took my time. I breathed. I encouraged myself to stay present and not judge. By the third class (yes, I excused myself from the dinner table two more times), I surprised myself by walking my feet up the wall into a modified handstand–something I was sure I was “too old” for.
Finding my yoga practice after a long layoff was a gift. But perhaps the bigger gift was quitting it a few years earlier. Contrast is a powerful teacher–you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, kinda thing. Reflecting back, my journey home to yoga taught me some valuable wellness lessons:
I’m still searching for a yoga class to love nearby. But in the meantime, I’ve rolled out my mat on my office floor and plan to practice in spite of flickering computer screens and dishes piling up in the sink. I’m back on my mat–and it feels really good!
Feel good. Be Well. Meg
WELLNESS PROMPT: Have you given up on an activity or hobby that you used to love? Why? What did you love about it? How did you feel when you were doing it? What keeps you from going back–or what would it take for you to give it another try? 10-minute write . . . go!
I always feel a bit guilty after giving one of my wellness workshops. In spite of my painstaking efforts to prepare and deliver my best material, I often feel like I learn more from my students than they learn from me.
Just look around my office and you’ll see that I have enough wellness books to open a small library dedicated to fixing whatever ails you. But week after week, I find that the most valuable wellness advice I hear doesn’t come from the experts. It comes from the real people in my workshops who share how they stay in their WELLNESS ZONE while juggling cranky kids, horrible bosses, and stressful, overstuffed lives.
Their stuff works for one reason. It’s simple! And simple means that it’s doable and repeatable even when life gets crazy—which is most of the time. Although their results are anecdotal, they are real and tangible: pounds lost, races won, and feelings of wellness achieved against all odds. It’s obvious from listening to them that they’ve found a wellness groove that works.
That’s why I’m sharing these flashes of wellness brilliance with you today along with some insight into why they might work for you. Though I can’t remember their names, I give them full credit and thank them for sharing:
“I lost 38 pounds with one simple change. I cleared out my pantry and loaded up my fridge.”
Eating foods with a shorter shelf life will add years to your own life. Lean meats, and colorful fresh fruits and vegetables also have fewer calories, allowing you to EAT MORE and WEIGH LESS. What a concept!
“I start each day with a healthy breakfast. It makes all the difference.”
I second that! According to the National Weight Control Registry, people who eat breakfast weigh less that breakfast skippers. Eating a healthy breakfast puts you in a wellness mindset and ensures that you won’t hit the pastries when you get the late morning munchies.
“I finished my first 5K race with a supportive group of friends and lost 20 pounds in the process!”
The single best thing we can do for our wellness is to move more! Having a tangible goal and the support of our BFF’s can be a great way to overcome the inertia of the holidays. I love this tip because it’s empowering, achievable, and FUN!
“The first thing I do when I open my computer in the morning is go straight to the comics. I like to start every day with a smile.”
We all know how good it feels to laugh. Doesn’t it make perfect sense that starting the day on a positive note would only lead to more of the same? After all, laughter IS good medicine. Schedule some into your day.
“Don’t say MAYBE when you want to say NO!”
I think I might have seen this one on Facebook, but who doesn’t relate? Saying no to things that no longer serve us—activities, destructive actions and thought patterns, people who drag us down—can free up precious time and energy to spend on our wellness. Try saying NO more often in the new year and see how good it makes you feel.
If our New Year’s Resolutions have any hope of sticking beyond the first week in February, we need real life solutions that can stand up to even the most challenging days. Simple, doable, repeatable—it’s what I call a SIMPLE ACT OF WELLNESS!
Hit me with your best one in the comments below!
WELLNESS PROMPT: Do any of these tips resonate with you? What are your best wellness practices to get through this crazy busy life? 10-minute write . . . go!
Feel Good. Be Well. Meg
I finally have a website. Welcome!
I set out on this journey over two years ago. I know because I wrote it down like the goal setting gurus say you should when you have a big, important, life-changing goal in mind. But I didn’t reach the finish line until now. And there were times when I thought I never would. So much for taking advice from goal-setting gurus.
For many months, I felt frustrated and stuck for the same reasons we all stumble when we set out to make big, pivotal changes in our lives–like getting in better shape, losing weight, switching jobs, or charting a different course for ourselves.
The project felt huge, scary, and overwhelming.
Whenever I thought about creating a website, my mind became cluttered with questions and doubt. Where do I begin? How much will it cost? What happens if no one reads it? Do I really need one? Will I have to trade my late night reality TV for last minute blogging sessions that run into the wee hours of the morning?
It was paralyzing and painful for many long months. Until, suddenly it wasn’t. In a single moment, the path to from blank page to completed website became clear, easy, and attainable. No joke! A few short months later, I reached my goal and launched Wellness Feels Good!
It started with a light bulb moment in a workshop I attended last summer. During the daylong seminar titled “A Day of Impact,” veteran fitness pro and motivational speaker Todd Durkin asked us to get our pens ready to write down the answer to this question:
“What is the single most important thing you can do right now that would have the biggest IMPACT on your business?”
And then he urged us in a commanding voice, “Now, go out and DO IT!”
The words were his, but the voice was my own, and I heard it loud and clear. In that moment, I was certain I could make it happen. I finally had the clarity, drive, and commitment to take real action. I also knew that I had the perfect system for doing it right at my fingertips:
Why couldn’t the same process I share week after week in my wellness workshops, work for my business too? My quest for a website became as easy as the Three C’s of Wellness:
CONNECT. The next morning, I asked myself how I would feel when I had my website up and was able to reach out to more wellness seekers. Passionate. Purposeful. Empowered. Accomplished. I wrote these words down with my bright colorful pens, and they became my wellness words for this task.
CHOOSE. I began each day with the question, “What can I do next to feel like these words?” Then I chose simple, doable, actions to feel that way.
CELEBRATE! With each step forward, I celebrated. No victory was too small—a meeting, an idea, a section completed. Good job! “Do more of that,” I told myself. When I procrastinated on Facebook and felt lazy and scattered, I reminded myself, “Do less of that.”
Day in and day out, I repeated “Connect. Choose. Celebrate!” until all my actions added up to a finished product.
Of course, that’s the simplified version of the story. There were stumbling blocks along the way—including writer’s block, indecision about templates and design, and lack of gorgeous headshots. But when I encountered these, I simply broke the task down even further until there was something I could do to keep the energy moving.
My website is up and running now, and guess what? I feel PASSIONATE, PURPOSEFUL, EMPOWERED, and ACCOMPLISHED just like I thought I would.
I’ll bet with the new year ahead, you have a few ideas of your own about what you’d like to accomplish. Maybe it’s related to your wellness—losing weight, moving more, getting healthy. Maybe you’re looking to change the course of your life with a brand new exciting direction. Feeling overwhelmed? It doesn’t have to be that way.
You CAN get there—and it can feel good!
To help you achieve your goals in the new year, I’ll nudge the process along a bit by asking you the same life changing, light bulb illuminating question Todd Durkin asked me six months ago:
WELLNESS PROMPT: What is the single most important thing you could do right now that would have the biggest IMPACT on you living your best life? 10-minute write . . . go!
Now, go out and DO IT!
Feel Good. Be Well. Meg
P.S. I’m here to help!