“I Don’t Have Time for My Health Right Now! I Have to WXYZ…”


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Joanne Pizzino, MD, MPH
Medical Editor
Health&Healing in the Triangle

Joanne Pizzino, MD, MPH, is board-certified in Preventive Medicine and diplomate-certified in Integrative Medicine. After her own self-empowered healing epiphany in 1997, she has guided people to live healthier through both Eastern and Western medicine, ancient and ultra-high-tech healing. She now practices telemedicine in 10 states, allowing you to see the doctor from the comfort of your home or office.

Contact her at: www.doctorjp.com

By Joanne Pizzino, MD, MPH
Medical Editor
Health&Healing in the Triangle

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I recently experienced a pretty severe shoulder injury while moving. I was unable to sleep for four nights because of 8-9/10 pain. I was essentially non-functional and knew I had to go get some orthopedic help ASAP to even be able to have enough energy to see my patients. On the fifth morning, I was already waiting at the doors of the orthopedic urgent care when they opened. I had cleared a two-hour window to get seen and get treatment before my next scheduled patient. When the nice attendant at the desk told me it would be a 1.5 to 2-hour wait until I could be seen, I left dejected, knowing this would not leave enough time to see my patients. I began to cry on the elevator down, saying to myself: “I don’t have time for this now. I have to work!” As I sat down in my car in sobbing in pain, I had a “come-to-Jesus” talk with myself:

“Really? Work, or anything else is more important than taking care of my body right  now?

My body is really getting my attention, almost screaming in pain!

And shoulders are about what burdens us. Right now, my work seems a burden that is more important than me.

An important part of my job is to help people to understand and acknowledge how important self-care is for health, and here I am not even following my own advice.

OK, I am going to let go of how “important I am at work” and “the other people who really need me” and surrender to having to reschedule my morning so I can take care of myself. I simply cannot have another sleepless night. Put the oxygen-mask on myself first, as they say on the airplane, right?”

This has really been a defining moment in my life to pay attention to many self-care issues that have been relegated to the back burner as I had to focus my attention on the many other fires I had to put out first. Or so I thought. Actually, the truth is, I cannot really effectively help anyone else if I am not functioning well. We often choose quick-fix solutions such as surgeries and medications because we deem the self-care activities less worthy of our time. This is, in fact, another way of devaluing ourselves, of saying “I” don’t matter as much as my job, my family, my yard, my friends, ______ (fill in the blank with anything that somehow seems more important than the physical vehicle that supports me to live my life.)

It shows up in many cumulative small ways:

“I don’t have time to go to the gym this week.”

“I don’t have time to clean and cook more fresh veggies and fruits that I know are important to good nutrition.”

“I don’t have time to meditate today.”

And soon, a month or two has passed since we last did that activity. Until our health screams to get our attention. Do I have to have a heart attack or cancer before I somehow find the time for doctors’ visits, physical therapy or chemotherapy treatments, getting my meds at the pharmacy, changing my lifestyle to survive, etc.? In the article* later in this issue, I compare our willingness to undergo the drastic alteration to anatomy of surgery because we have somehow “failed” at self-care. I put “failed” in quotation marks because this often shaming self-judgment is not really justified. There can be multiple reasons you have not been successful in resolving your health issues. Here I list several with the example of how this may show up for someone who has been challenged with weight loss. These can include:

“I don’t have the right knowledge.” (This may not be the right diet for my unique condition.)

“I didn’t apply the recommended treatment consistently.” (OK, so I cheated.)

“My depression/anxiety/ADD/hidden shame or other emotional issues sabotaged me.” (I NEED these foods to comfort myself in ways that I cannot speak about consciously.)

As an integrative medicine specialist and health coach, I work with individuals to listen closely to their story, identify areas like these, give them expert science-based medical advice to personalize a treatment plan to address the issues, and then support them to make sure they stay on track to get the results they desire. The Functional Medicine approach is: “Determine the root cause. Then do an intervention (treatment) and monitor to make sure we are getting results.” In the weight loss case, this would not only be the scale, but body composition, laboratory testing, and personalized Functional Medicine analysis to get to the root cause.

When IS the right time to pay attention to your health? Should I wait until the situation is so dire or desperate I have no choice? Can’t I just wait till I have time to make that change? Remember, as one of my favorite bumper stickers says: Ignore your health, and it will go away.”