It’s no surprise that we now live in a very different world now because of COVID-19. The way we work, play and live have changed dramatically. For some this has been a really great thing. It allowed them to destress, to remove daily stressors that affected their physical health, it allowed people to focus on things that they didn’t have the time to before, it let people heal. Unfortunately, I was not one of those people.
Getting COVID-19 back in March was truly a life changing experience. Having caught it just 2 days before the Canadian lockdown was truly one of the scariest moments of my life. Not wanting to add to the public panic and confusion, I hid the fact that I had COVID. I hid the issues and symptoms I was experiencing. I didn’t tell anyone that I had contracted it, I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone else and I certainly didn’t have the energy to connect with anyone.
The symptoms got worse day by day and hour by hour. The giant shifts of energy blew me away. There would be periods of time where I would have just enough energy to stay awake while streaming reruns of my favourite sitcoms and then there would be days where I wouldn’t even have enough energy to get to the bathroom properly, I had to crawl and support myself to prevent for any potential falls. My insomnia was exacerbated, sometimes sleeping 2 hours total and other times I would sleep 16. Breathing was difficult at the best of times and at the worst, I had my thumb hovered over the call button as I pre-dialled 911. Eating was extremely difficult. Aside from flavour changes, appetite would be all over the place. One moment a simple cracker would keep me full for the entire day and the next moment I couldn’t stop eating. And then there was the emotional side of everything. Social media became detrimental to my life and feelings of isolation and fear grew more and more. Luckily, I got out of the danger zone and survived.
After 2 weeks, I was out of immediate danger but now was dealing with the side effects, which were all of the above, just more inconsistent and with a few new ones! It would take me the next month or so to fully realize the damage that was done. Alcohol would now seize my liver and cause immense gastric pain at 1 standard drink! Mood Swings and emotions would come wildly and inexplicably. One minute I would be watching one of my favourite comedy movies and then I’ll be crying for no reason whatsoever. I would go out for a quick 5k run and would get “breathing attacks” multiple times during the run and would need to walk (For context, I was training for a marathon immediately before infection running 60-70km per week with no issues at all)
All these side effects still occur to this day, although at a significantly lower rate and this past Thanksgiving long weekend was the first time since COVID that I ran a 5k without stopping.
So what now?
I was pushing myself to get back to where I was with my old health goals. I put more and more pressure on myself to be a better athlete, entrepreneur, friend and person. I kept pushing until one day I finally asked myself; why?
Why was I pushing myself so hard athletically? All races have been cancelled
Why was I pushing myself so hard to be emotionally available to others but neglect my own needs?
Why was I forcing myself to be the old Ben and meet the old Ben’s goals? I was not the old Ben anymore. I failed to recognize a very important fact, that the old Ben cannot exist anymore. Our old world does not exist anymore.
When I fully realized how much damage I was doing to myself through my old goals, I felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I preach balance yet my life was anything but balanced.
The world had changed and I needed to as well.
Forcing myself to stop and reflect was exactly what I needed. It allowed me to better prioritize goals. It allowed me to slow down and give my mind and emotions a rest. It allowed me to set more realistic goals. It allowed me to redefine what ‘Healthy’ means to me.
Now, there’s a great emphasis on balance. There’s more empathy and forgiveness if I didn’t hit a training goal. There’s more understanding if I didn’t hit every one of my daily business goals.
That understanding helped me come to terms with what COVID is still doing to me. It helped me come to terms that my lung capacity has likely been permanently reduced by 20-30%. It helped me establish a new self-care routine to attempt to get my sleep back on track. It helped me redefine how I define health.
Now we as a society sit on the cusp of something big, but we are definitely in a limbo. This limbo doesn’t need to be bad like most limbos but rather we can be opportunistic! Before whatever new world order we move into in the post-COVID era, there is a wonderful chance for you to re-evaluate your health goals. You might have more time to now focus on your health goals, especially as we move into the winter months. And I highly recommend you do. Your life might be put on hold because of this pandemic but this might JUST be that time you’ve needed to finally focus on ALL aspects of your health.
What new goals will you be setting? We can help!
P.S. there’s something HUGE coming at ESN at the end of the month. Stay tuned because the entire ESN team is rested and ready to go!
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
Owner and President of ESN
The greatest wealth is Health