Glenda Ford knew that something was really wrong when the meal she had been looking forward to – her favorite dish at her favorite NYC eatery, Junior’s – tasted like dirt. “I took a bite and my mouth just dried up,” Glenda, who is the administrative assistant to Dr. Joseph Wiley and coordinator of Pediatric Office Services, recalls. At first, she thought she was just exhausted. After all, she was working a full-time job, helping her son with her 12-year-old granddaughter, taking care of her mother, completing a playwriting course at Center Stage and volunteering with an after-school program.
“I was taking care of everyone but me,” Glenda says with a rueful chuckle. Powering all her engines left her out of steam. She got “horrible charley horses” and a sore throat that wouldn’t heal. She was constantly thirsty, and so fatigued that she taped her emergency contact information to her phone in case she passed out at her desk. Though she tried to solider on until her next checkup, she ended up telling a co-worker just how awful she felt. Her colleagues intervened, and Glenda took a “dipstick” test that helped confirm a diabetes diagnosis.
“You don’t know how sick you are until you feel better,” Glenda says. In addition to taking insulin, she gets her Zumba on three times a week; if she’s not boogeying down, she’s making a splash at water aerobics. Clothes she couldn’t have worn four years ago are now getting roomy. “I’m much healthier,” she gushes. “You have to take time out for yourself and you have to listen to your body.”
For health care workers, who devote so much energy to helping others, this is easier said than done. Mary Bohlen, a clinical social worker in outpatient Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, says that she’s seen employees call in on their days off to check up on patients. While tying up loose ends is understandable (and admirable), Mary reminds us that “boundaries” is not a dirty word.
“Boundaries help you stay professional,” she says. “When you feel good, you get things done.” Sometimes, she adds, challenges in our personal lives can clue us in to how much our scales have tipped toward work. Mary’s colleague Beth Huber, social work manager for the M. Peter Moser Community Initiatives, advises us to “build in that ‘kids waiting at the bus stop’ time – a commitment that forces you to take time for yourself.” Beth says that she’s prioritized exercise in a major way, varying her routines to keep things interesting. Mary takes delight in her family, especially her 2-year-old granddaughter. Whenever she’s feeling tired or stressed, she takes a breath and thinks of the little girl who “fills my life and heart.”
Like Beth and Glenda, Katie Barritt, a nurse on the Intermediate Care Unit and the Vascular Access Team at Sinai, feels the burn to free her mind. “I work on average 50 to 60 hours a week,” she says. “On my days off I make sure I do some form of exercise: swimming, biking, running, yoga and weights.” Though our muscles may ache after reading that list, Katie suggests that we start small. “You always have time to exercise,” she says. “Just like you make time to eat and sleep and brush your teeth. Even if you can only do little things, they add up.” Valerie Coleman, a unit clerk at Levindale, agrees. “I don’t have time to relax, so I joined a water aerobics class for 10 weeks. I get into the groove of the water and it just lets me float away.”
Your “kids at the bus stop” doesn’t have to be exercise. Trish Smith, the web content writer for the Marketing department, unwinds by updating her blog. “I’m exercising my mind and flexing my creativity,” she says. Audrey Bergin, manager for the DOVE Program at Northwest Hospital, relies on weekly acupuncture to ease her stress: “It gives me time to focus on myself, my health, emotions and psyche.” Whether you’re blogging or visiting family, dancing or letting the water carry you, you should revel in whatever brings you back to yourself. Glenda Ford cherishes all she’s learned.
“I feel marvelous,” she says. “This isn’t just temporary, this is my life.”
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