What Balance Means To Me
How do I maintain a healthy balance in life? Well, I can tell you my answer today is a lot different than it was a year ago due to a catastrophic event that I never could have envisioned.
Life is like that. We worry about so many things that never happen. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, everything changes.
I didn’t expect a health crisis. I was very conscious about my health. I was eating a proper diet and ran 10 to 12 km about three times a week.
It was a beautiful March evening after work, and I went for a run. In the seventh kilometre, I started to develop a headache which quickly evolved into crushing neck pain. Off to hospital, we went, where I underwent a CT scan that revealed a brain bleed -- an aneurism.
The rest is a complete blur. I don’t remember anything until my ninth or 10th day in the intensive care unit.
When I came to, I was in denial. I couldn’t really believe what happened. And then they reaffirmed what they told me in the beginning — that it was a brain aneurism.
After denial, my reaction turned to frustration and anger. Here I am running three times a week. I’m watching what I eat. I’m being very conscious of my health. For a while, I actually wondered: “What’s the point of staying healthy if this is going to happen anyway?”
But then I went home and realized I had been given a second chance. The outcome could have been so much different.
I took a step back and looked at wellness through a different lens. I decided that yes, I’m going to exercise. I’m going to eat well. But I’m also going to be conscious of work and stress. I’m going to take that time to really reflect on what causes the body to tense up and what causes the body to age.
No one knows what caused my aneurism. The doctors called it an anomaly. It might happen again. It might not. They don’t know.
Regardless, they urged me to uncover the stressors in my life. And I’m a lot more conscious now about what’s important in my world. For me, it’s about self-awareness and knowing what your body and mind need.
In any job at any level, it’s so easy to slip out of balance. We work long hours and then we take home the stresses of our jobs to the rest of our lives.
For me, physiotherapy, yoga and discussions with a psychologist helped me identify what I can do differently so I don’t bring those stresses with me home.
In Alberta, kids from kindergarten all the way through Grade 9 are required to have at least half an hour of physical activity a day through activities that are organized at the school. It’s mandatory. So for me, I think I can mandate something similar in my own life. That can mean leaving the office at a defined time and having the support of people around me to keep me accountable.
It’s hard to change without support. I have a very close group of friends and colleagues and family. They tell me at the end of the day, `Mauro. It’s time to go home.’
I laughed at first when my colleague Colleen Turner suggested I should try yoga for body and mind. I initially thought it was a bit of a gimmick. But I make a conscious effort to go, and I like it now. It’s made a big difference in terms of peace of mind.
When we think of wellness, most people talk about diet and physical activity. Both are important, but the mental aspect is huge. The doctors told me that I survived a catastrophic event. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can arise and you don’t even recognize it until it’s too late. So that’s why I decided to see a psychologist to try and prevent that from happening.
The outcomes were good. I’m not an outward person who likes to talk about deeply personal things, so having that outlet with someone who is unbiased really helped.
Sleep is a challenge for me since the aneurism. I’ve learned to listen to my body as I don’t sleep normal hours. On the weekends, if I’m tired, I just let myself sleep. There’s no reason to push.
Balance, to me, means sleep, exercise, mental wellness, proper nutrition. But it also means time for self-reflection to really decompress. It’s about taking the time to reflect or, at the end of a busy day, saying: `I’m done. I need to leave now.’
At this time of year, we tend to talk about making big changes through New Year’s resolutions. But I think we need to check in with ourselves on a daily basis and really realize what’s most important.
When people ask what’s most important in our lives, we quite often say our family and our personal time. Some people might say their spouse, their kids or their dog.
Whatever it is, we need to make sure our top priorities are our top priorities every day. We need to dedicate more time and more hours to what we say is important.
That’s what balance means to me.
We want to hear from you. What does balance mean to you?