It’s a tiny little thing, less than an eighth inch in diameter, orange in color, with a crease across the face of one side. It can easily be lost if dropped, so I guard it carefully because it has made a significant impact on my well-being in a short period of time
The thing to which I am referring is my dosage of hydrochlorothiazide, the medication I take to lower my blood pressure. What it really does is reduce sodium in the blood stream and lower shortness of breath. The domino effect from there has led to improved sleep, which aids in reducing daytime fatigue, which helps lower stress levels, which assists in maintaining lower blood pressure, and so on.
Who knew such a small piece could have such a reaching effect toward my wholeness and health.
Since becoming an entrepreneur and business owner 9 years ago, I’ve slowly watched my blood pressure increase, my weight inch upward and my fatigue level become increasingly difficult to manage. The stress of the day to day operations of keeping our business relevant in the midst of a changing city landscape and unpredictable economy had taken its toll on my body. I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
I had always felt proud of myself for being fit, healthy and staying away from the doctor’s office. I’ve never taken medication on a regular basis. I seldom even took aspirin for headaches. As a deliberate choice, I took up distance running as a freshman in college because, unlike weightlifting or biking that requires alot of expensive equipment, I thought it was an activity I could sustain over a long period of time, needing only a decent pair of shoes and the will to step out and run. I ended up running three marathons over the years, the last one after I turned 40 (it was some kind of mid-life milestone.) But when the business opened, the enterprise took over as the sole, dominant force, dictating its demands to me rather than vice versa.
At one point early on in the business venture, I developed severe heart palpitations, severe enough to provoke a fear in me. So I called my sister, a registered nurse, and explained my symptoms. As only an older sister can do, she explained to me in no uncertain terms, that in her professional opinion, she’s 90% sure I am just working too hard and need to take care of myself.
But instead of taking the advice, I carried on with life as I knew it, operating out of fear of failure rather than out of a spirit of abundance. I had leveraged everything to start the business. Failure was not an option. If we went under, I had no Plan B.
To be fair, this sense of urgency is what makes many entrepreneurs succeed. Desperation can be the impetus that wills a person to survive, but eventually the survival instinct needs to be transformed into the practice of sustainability. The start-up has to grow up. The new motto must become, Thrive, don’t merely survive.
Another wake-up call came about 3 weeks ago when I found myself in the emergency room with an extremely elevated blood pressure reading and a severe, piercing headache that affected my equilibrium. Was I having a stroke or aneurysm? The person who felt invincible as a young man is now feeling his mortality. As I lie on the gurney, staring at the ceiling, I recalled those days as early as 16 years of age how I liked the fact that I could work long hours in the Oklahoma hayfields under a blazing hot sun. I wore the ability to work late and wake up early and do it all over again as a badge of honor. What was happening to me? Was I getting lazy?
No, I was just feeling my age.
I have a friend who labeled the feeling of aging as “body betrayal.” He described it when the mind wants something done, but the body refuses to cooperate. The mind remembers being able to perform at a certain level, but the body interrupts and says not now, not any longer.
There’s a lot to be said for willpower, and even more to be said about sustainable thinking when it comes to growing older.
I like to think of sustainability by reversing the two words; ability to sustain. To be able to carry on, to keep on going, and hopefully for a long time. This is the goal of sustainability. It’s a good way to assess how we develop our sources of energy and our food supply, but even more important to apply to a daily personal lifestyle. What does it matter if my food is organic if I allow stress rule my life? Fear and anxiety will rob me more of life than what car I drive. Tension will take me down quicker than week of Big Mac’s.
I’m still amazed at how the assistance of one little pill has had a cumulative effect on all the other factors of my personal health and wellness. Sometimes that’s all it takes. This is the essence of sustainability. It starts with the little things, which influence the big things.
Take care of yourself. You need it and others need you to do it.