I have often found in life that what goes on around me has a tendency to sweep me up in its path and overpower the vitally necessary “me time”. This has always been true working for quite possibly the most recognizable shipping company in the country, and I have learned in my multiple years with the company that I have to be the one to take that step back. If I don’t have concern for my own health and well being, no one will.

Now this all sounds so much easier said than done. And over the last few months I have definitely struggled. I struggled so much that I basically lost hold of that elusive need and fell into an overwhelming mess of stress, anxiety, and, on particularly bad days, panic. It was after a full fledged panic attack that I realized I needed to do something different. I needed to take that step back. I needed to take care of myself.

Well, flash forward almost three months, and the old pattern becomes something that’s almost too easy to fall back into. Working five days a week and stressing about work the other two is not a healthy way to live. I’ve managed with the help of some professional therapy and my rock of support to manage not to let work become a 24/7/365 issue. However, it didn’t occur to me until just a few days ago how truly far I’ve come.

Back in March, when the COVID virus was first truly starting to gain a foothold in the country, I was still having to travel for work. I wasn’t happy about it, and even though I was told I could still travel within a certain radius, I put a hold on that. I was too late. Somewhere in the midst of moving around for work, I had contracted the virus. It knocked me down for three weeks, and I still had lingering effects for months. Hell, I still do. In fact, just this last week I had shortness of breath from Saturday thru Thursday. So when it was announced that my department would be having to go to Oakland to help the center catch up on volume, I did something I had never done before. I said no.

Of course, in most corporate work environments, saying no marks you as not a team player. This usually means that those of us who try to please ourselves and our coworkers end up never really saying the word. We find ways to adjust our schedule. We find ways to make yes work.

I like to consider myself a team player. I’ve been the one to cancel plans and go where I’m needed. I’ve worked the job of two people to help others out. But when faced with the prospect of having to travel during a pandemic – a pandemic of a disease I have already suffered horribly from – I found it within myself to do what needed to be done. It wasn’t a big thing. It was a tiny word, as small as they come. And yet, somehow, it released a burden I didn’t even realize I had been carrying.

Maybe that’s what I needed to learn all along, that taking care of myself can be just as essential as helping out teammates. After all, if I’m burned out I can’t help anyone. If I’m sick again I definitely can’t be of any help, and then my long term health comes into question. It’s a vital lesson that it took me 34 years to learn. But one that I think we all have to if we’re going to keep our sanity, especially now.

No great recipes this time, but I’ve been feeling a need for comfort food lately, so maybe something along those lines later.

Until next time…