One day last spring, I was simultaneously riding my Peloton and sobbing hysterically. Alarmed, my husband walked in and asked me what was wrong. I struggled to verbalize what was going on in my head because it wasn’t one specific thing. It was weeks of stress, anxiety, fear and uncertainty that I had been trying to manage through exercise exorcisms. And I was failing. Miserably.
I told him that I felt claustrophobic and I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to run away and escape. I felt invisible and underappreciated for all the extra things I had taken on since the pandemic started. I felt like I was failing at everything. I cried and cried because I had tried so hard to be that super mom who could keep everything together while juggling work and having my kids home ALL. THE. TIME. But the truth was that I had completely fallen apart.
I thought that I had been doing a good job of taking care of myself. I was exercising daily and making more home-cooked, healthy meals. I was forcing myself (and sometimes my husband and kids) to take daily walk breaks. I was attending Zoom Happy Hours in an attempt to keep up some semblance of a social life. But my normal routine wasn’t cutting it. My Covid meltdowns were more frequent and more intense as quarantine dragged on with no relief in sight.
When I objectively looked at my routine, I realized that I had been focusing solely on my physical health. What I was missing was a break. Time to myself. The feeling of doing nothing. I used to have time after the kids went to bed to relax and binge watch TV but that time was now spent ordering groceries, printing out worksheets for the next day of remote learning and catching up on work that didn’t get done during the day. I realized that all of the moments I used to have to myself to take a deep breath, relax and reset were gone. And it was making me crazy.
When you have a GI autoimmune disease like ulcerative colitis, the prevailing assumption is that flares are triggered by food and can be controlled by diet. But what I’ve learned about my body is that my biggest trigger is actually stress. If I let my stress get out of control, it has physical repercussions for my body. Bleeding, pain, nausea, chronic fatigue, joint inflammation; The list goes on and on. So while I had stayed physically active for months, I had been ignoring the true root cause. I wasn’t managing my stress and by extension, my mental health.
I took a long, hard look in the mirror to figure out what I truly needed. And the answer was simple. I needed time. Time with no strings attached. No distractions. No multitasking. Time away from my house and my never-ending to-do list. Time to get out of my head. Time to stop moving and just be. And that time couldn’t just be a one and done. It would need to be consistent. I would need to make myself a priority. Over and over again.
As someone with a weakened immune system, finding a place to escape and relax outside my house during COVID was a challenge. Imagine Float has always held themselves to the highest standards in cleanliness. I knew their COVID protocols would make me feel “safe” while simultaneously meeting my stress reduction needs. There are temperature checks and screening questions before you arrive. The timing of appointments allows for little to no interaction between customers. All of the services are conducted in their own rooms so you are never in contact with anyone else and the air filtrations systems are top-notch.
What “me time” is differs from day to day. Some days, I need a long run outside in the sun. Other days it’s one of the four services at Imagine Float. It might be a visit to the infrared sauna where I can detox and relax in silence with my current book. On days when I don’t have a ton of time, I fit in a quick 30-minute compression therapy session or a 3-minute energy boosting cryotherapy session. The day of the epic Peloton meltdown? I submerged myself inside a float cabin for 90 minutes. And when I emerged, I was a completely different person.
I have committed to myself and my family that I need to invest in my self-care for not only my sake, but theirs as well. I now schedule an infrared sauna appointment every Friday. One hour, once a week for myself to breathe, be alone and relax. ONE HOUR. That really isn’t that a lot to ask considering how much I give to everyone else. We need to normalize the conversation around self-care and mental health and stop thinking of it as a nice to have or a reward for good behavior. It is an absolutely necessity for a healthy and happy life.