Today is World Health Day. It got me thinking about how my ideas about what constitutes ‘healthy’ have changed since last year.
For starters, there’s the eye twitch. For about four weeks now there’s been a persistent little ‘kink’ in my right eye. It’s not always there, but now and again it pops in and reminds me that all is not quite well. When I first noticed it, I figured I was just tired. Well, it wouldn’t be surprising. Even at three and a half, sleeping through the night is by no means a sure thing for my daughter, especially with a new-found fear of the dark and all the possible nasties that might be lurking under her bed/in her wardrobe (once it was a fox outside her window. How it got on the roof is beyond me).
But it’s still there. Even after nights when it is most definitely not ‘my turn’ and I screw earplugs in to make sure I don’t hear the wails in the middle of the night, the twitch persists. I found this article today about how the pandemic may well have changed our bodies. For some reason, it just hadn’t occurred to me that my eye twitch might be down to an excess of screen time. Especially now that I don’t teach, I clock hours and hours staring at this thing every day. And what’s worse, I use it for leisure time too. Chats with friends, family and ‘games night’ are all happen via this bright and headache-inducing rectangle.
I started to wonder what other ways my body might have shifted. My standards for exercise have definitely changed. Back when this all kicked off last year, I was jumping along with the best of them to Joe Wicks, finding extra tough HIIT workouts online and mixing them with a hilly 10k run every weekend. These days I’m proud if I manage a ten-minute walk. The last time I ran I managed a measly 2 miles before I staggered home again. In the face of this isolation, this lack of genuine interaction, I’ve just lost the motivation for anything more than the bare minimum.
I do feel like there have been some positive changes. Perhaps because I haven’t been able to flit from work to social engagements to a run and everything else in between, it’s forced me to sit still and notice how I’m feeling. I’m far more likely to articulate the cause of an emotion, the things I might need in order to improve my mental well-being. Of course I don’t always follow through with what I should do (wine and chocolate is the same as walking and meditation, right?) but at least I’m aware of it.
I think we often forget that our brain and bodies are linked. I don’t know why, it’s not like they aren’t joined up in every way possible. Like the food we eat and the activity we do have an impact on only everything below the neck. Having spent the last year in various stages of stress, anxiety and depression, it’s hardly surprising our bodies are unrecognisable.
So what now? I don’t like setting goals and targets when it comes to health. Too often it reminds me of the horrible days of my twenties where I hated my body and used to punish it with ridiculous diets and insult it in the mirror. But maybe it doesn’t have to be about the distances run, the calories consumed or the weight gained (not that I’ve weighed myself for ten years). Maybe it’s more about an awareness of our bodies, our minds, of what they’ve been through and all that they do. Maybe it’s time for a radical shift in perception.
Rather than seeing myself as a constant work in progress, I’d like to be able to like, no, love, the way it is now. To appreciate that, in this moment, this is the only body I have. The only thing to carry me through the world. To speak, to think, to feel and to move. If that were my starting point, I wonder if I’d spend so much time staring at a screen when I could be taking these muscles and bones out in the air. If I’d listen to it more, what it actually needs, rather than making knee-jerk decisions about food and activity. If I could exercise to become stronger and more powerful, rather than worrying about how it looks with clothes draped on it.
I’m certainly not there yet. But just beginning to realise it might be a step in the right direction. It might also get rid of the twitchy eye.
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