Monday, April 4, 2011

Rediscovering What's Important

Over the past few months, the stress in my life has been growing.  With Ironman training for multiple hours every day, graduate school work constantly building up, and budget cuts in my field of education, I have been drained and unsatisfied.  My workouts have been uninspired, my papers for grad school have been lackluster, and my enthusiasm at work has diminished.

This past week, my husband and I travelled to Ambergris Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize, with my parents.  This location is well known for its snorkeling adventures, Mayan ruins, and breathtaking tropical setting.  Every day we woke up to the sun shining over the sea with cool breezes blowing through swaying palm trees.  We were able to enjoy each other's company while exploring the islands: swimming with sharks and sting rays, reef fishing, manatee viewing, etc.

Dave and I tried to keep up with our training somewhat by going on island runs or completing some longer ocean swims, but I would say we pretty much took a week off of training.  This is very unorthodox to most serious athletes.  Training schedules are meant to be strictly followed to maximize one's fitness level; taking a week off is a huge setback.

Yet on the 75 mile bike ride the day after we got back from our trip, I felt the best I have in months.  My mind was clear and focused, my body energized and strong.  I find myself actually looking forward to the 14.5 mile run I am about to go on in a few hours.  I am refreshed and balanced.

While I know that taking a week off training is not advisable and that I will not be able to take such a hiatus again before the Ironman, this past week helped me to reflect on how my mental energy has been poorly spent.  In the last few months, I have allowed negative stress to overcome my productivity... and my well-being.

Right after a life threatening illness like Stevens Johnson Syndrome, there is a reevaluation of one's values.  The daily stress we experience is minimized and the bigger picture is fully understood.  Love, happiness, and appreciation become the center of our priorities.  What a gift!  Yet as we get further from that experience, the clarity is lost.  The "daily grind" seeps back into our existence and stress is created from meaningless things.

Belize helped me to recenter myself.  Over the course of the week, my stress dissolved and my core values were in focus once again.  While I can't always afford an international tropic vacation or have the ability to put all of my responsibilities on hold for a week, I do need to become better at finding time and methods for realigning myself with what is truly important on a more consistent basis.  I cannot allow myself to drift from the most meaningful and fulfilling parts of my life: family, friends, and the joy of living.

Some people do yoga, others get massages or go on hikes in the mountains.  We all need to find regular ways to let the meaningless stress drain from our bodies, leaving us with a crystal clear focus on the most significant aspects of our lives.  While I will not be going back to Belize any time soon, I will embrace my new resolution to refocus myself more regularly on what is truly important in my life.  This does not mean that I will give up on training or on school, but rather that I will move forward with a better sense of balance and perspective than before.

I encourage you to take some time for yourself.  Rediscover what is truly important in your life.  Let the daily stress you carry fall away and center yourself on the love and happiness that surrounds you.

To donate to the Burn Center, go online to  In the Designation field choose "Other" and type "Burn Fund (Team Emilie)".

Or you could mail your check to "UCHF- Burn Fund (Team Emilie)" to UCHF 12401 East 17th Ave. Mail Stop F485 Aurora, CO 80045.

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