When life gives you lemons

Positive changes to your health may come from adversity

A life-altering situation can prompt change.

Its sudden appearance runs interference with whatever is experienced as routine, typical, or expected. More neuroscientists, psychologists and researchers are saying a lot of our lives run on autopilot, so it takes a jolt of certain magnitude to knock you off balance to wake up to what’s going on. Nowhere is this evident as much as during a health crisis. And it may not necessarily be you who’s afflicted.

The phone call: “Mom’s in hospital.”

“Is she all right? What happened?”

The unfortunate news snowballs into more details, more updates, more visits and appointments until stabilization of some sort results. Her doctor says, “She’ll recover but will have to be on meds, monitor her heart, and do rehab for the foreseeable future.”

Apart from the obvious “who’s going to take care of the kids after school?” and other practical needs that swamp your brain, another looming thought makes its way to the staging area. “Is this going to happen to me, too?” You quickly do inventory and come out 50/50 on the other end. “Mom smoked but she quit a long time ago; she likes her dessert (so do I); not big on exercising (I try to go to the gym at least twice a week); she didn’t work but worried about dad (my business since COVID has been slow and I’m not sleeping well because of it).” Reason and reality both tell you some adjustments have to be made given the newly added stress to your already checkered lifestyle.

So here you are. Not quite ready to face mortality but in sizing up the picture, you are brave enough to admit, “I need to do something.” A bunch of suggestions come to mind: you’ve heard them all so there’s no point in repeating what most of you know. Logically, you take one or two in hand and begin your regime (after the weekend of course). Free will. Power of choice. It’s up to you.

Whatever action you implement for however long is directly proportional to the response-ability you have in improving your health patterns. The promises you make to yourself and keep are crucial in beginning and maintaining your course trajectory. The image of your mom in the hospital bed may well be the driver—and let it be so. She loves you enough to understand. Perhaps it’s guilt or fear or anger that motivates you. Let them—that’s why you have these amazing emotions your body emits so that you can push forward. It’s a misperception that these feelings are seen as negative when, in fact, they are helping you not only to survive but thrive.

Your choices will alter external circumstances not only for you, but for those close to you. Maybe family members will join you, creating new-found energy and confidence all around. This cannot help but make mom feel a whole lot better.