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Adapting to a Virtual Era with a Healthy Approach

In a blink of an eye, the saying be careful what you wish for became almost a regretful reality, turning the lives and routines of many upside down. What I didn't expect was the fact that with countless changes, finding ways to remain mentally and physically healthy would become vital.

God knows how many times I wished I didn't have to start my day by hitting Miami traffic. I can't deny the thing I most hate about my daily routine is having to drive early in the morning. The task itself isn't really the problem; I actually enjoy sitting in the driver's seat and hitting the road, but the stress that comes along with rush hour and the sunrise honkers here in South Florida mixed with early morning fast-and-furious drivers doesn't really amused me. Thankfully, having the opportunity to admire nature as the day starts and, every once in a while, encountering a few extremely kind souls behind the steering wheel are enough to brighten the everyday chore.

My daughter isn’t a big fan of the commute either. Nonetheless, on March 13, 2020, after many days of speculation, we were informed that school was going virtual following the decision of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. At first, I was really excited about the idea of not having to drive 10+ miles back and forth and waking up right past 5 a.m.

Reality, however, didn't take long to catch up with me. From that week on, my life basically consisted of becoming my daughter's teacher. Despite all the efforts of her amazing teacher and the prerecorded video lessons available to us, it only took me a few days to realize that things weren't as simple as just being able to spend some extra quality time with my daughter.

In fact, besides being available during school hours to assist her with anything she might need, I had to comply with deadlines and upload all her school work, leaving me with little or no extra time, forcing me to put aside my personal projects and chores around the house. I would only get things done if and when time allowed.

As if that and watching the housework pile up weren't enough to cause me a good deal of stress, my husband, who at the time was already working at home due to the quarantine, started to experience an unknown health issue. A condition that, at times, made him even unable to serve himself meals. To top that, a misleading diagnosis by the first doctor he visited gave us no other option than rush to the ER late on a Friday evening.

Given the circumstances due to COVID-19, while he was assessed (after having to walk to the hospital's front door all by himself, which was heartbreaking), my daughter and I headed to the parking lot and waited for updates in the car.

"Is daddy going to be OK?" she asked countless times.

We stayed for a couple of hours in the dark and nearly empty parking lot. Meanwhile, I observed a handful of people wearing masks, coming and going. I tried to cautiously addressed every single one of my daughter's questions while trying to keep my cool and confidence about the entire situation. A feeling I didn't own at the time.

Fortuitously, before we headed out the door for the ER that night, I was able to grab some drinks and snacks. We enjoyed them as we watched movies in the back of my car, which truly helped to make the situation a little lighter.

At the same time, the minutes didn't pass fast enough. Eventually, she felt asleep on my lap after my promise that I would wake her up as soon as her dad came back to the car. Luckily, when he finally returned, he brought along with him some good news: thanks to the visit to the emergency room, a second opinion led him to believe it would be wise to seek another professional's opinion. As the weeks passed, after several tests, exams, and visits to the doctor's office, he was finally able to be diagnosed and properly treated.

On my husband's most productive days, he was indeed able to help around house even though he was still unable to play with our daughter as he usually did. While the help was highly appreciated, the downside was having to step up and take over his share of the highly energetic games he played with her. At times, it felt like the weight on my shoulders continuously increased. I felt extremely overwhelmed.

To even out the unsettling feelings, I turned to emotional eating, allowing myself to indulge in whatever treat I felt like eating, sweet or savory, at any time of the day. An unhealthy habit that ended up being adopted by the entire family, and behavior that, instead of solving the problem, could negatively influence our quality of life and health considerably in the long-term. I was creating a whole new problem and knew I had to get our routine and lifestyle back on track. That's when, as usual, running came to rescue me.

Many believe running is a sport, but for most of us avid runners, it is, in fact, a lifestyle. More than a physical activity, it is an opportunity to get in touch with nature, God, and ourselves. It's a moment we take to work on self-knowledge and self-awareness. To pay attention to our body and how it moves leads to gratefulness. Besides, as we appreciate the amazing elements of the natural world, we can't help but sense its amazing power of healing. With that said, as I ran, I started to organize my thoughts and to plan for some seriously needed changes.

Everything was going well for a while but that changed abruptly. After all, when one of my sacred haven running spots got packed with journalists and TV crews covering a story on a crime scene, it took away all the peace and relaxation nature could possibly convey to my soul. Nonetheless, what used to bring pleasure turned into a long nightmare.

For many weeks, I wasn't able to look at that specific spot or even bear the idea of catching the view on my left. Instead, I had to completely twist my face to the right while I ran. That, unfortunately, wasn't able to stop me from feeling sick and becoming nauseated. Still, with my head turned the other way, after taking a couple of deep breaths and keeping on running, I was finally able to compose myself, face forward and stop thinking about it. I focused solely on my run and how blessed I felt just for being alive.

During this last weekend's run, I was able to stop, turn my body completely to the left, and stare at it for the first time in months. Instead of the sad and negative thoughts, I saw it as a reminder that, while the coronavirus numbers are going down here in Miami and despite the struggles we have been through, many of us were able to endure without losing it; an indication that when we feel like we can't handle something, we should seek help. Above all, we shall never stop moving forward no matter how slow our steps are . . . This is a clear message that we should never lose hope or think that death is the only option—or even an option at all.

From the many challenges I’ve faced in my life, I’ve learned that while pain hurts, facing it is what turns us into stronger individuals. Learning from it makes us wiser. That being said, if I feel like I am not doing well emotionally, I have no other option than to find a way to fix it. To look for a solution! A healthy remedy is mandatory, no matter what. I shall never stop moving forward!

As the summer break started to approach its end, and having the mental and emotional part figured out, I was excited to recognize that I had not only made progress, but already had a plan in place for getting healthier in the months ahead since school was to be virtual, and my husband would continue to work from home.

Given that my daughter would be having a live room teacher, I could take advantage of any opportunity to focus on the most relevant chores around the house, including setting time aside to plan our meals. I added more salads and sides with a wider variety of vegetables, besides scheduling days to prepare meals for the week, saving unhealthy treats and desserts for the weekends only.

As far as staying active, I purchased a fitness watch for my daughter and started to offer daily incentives for reaching goals I set for her. I wrote an informal contract and we both signed it so everyone would be working hard to accomplish their goals and stay healthy during this new do-everything-from-home era; a time in which we are being pushed to adapt, learn new ways to live, and keep moving forward toward our goals.

To my surprise, during all this corona craziness, I was nominated to partake in the challenge of raising awareness for veteran's suicidal prevention. It basically consisted in doing 22 pushups for 22 days. I was in disbelief and started to think of a hundred excuses not to do it. Thankfully, in a matter of seconds, I realized this wasn't about me, and no matter what, I had to get it done.

I not only completed the challenge, but decided to continue doing it in order to improve my strength and be open to trying new things. I couldn't be happier with the way things turned out; I'm so glad I was forced out of my comfort zone and tried it!

As far as my personal projects?! Well, they are still partially on hold, but I have been trying to dedicate a little bit of time toward them every week when I have the energy—in the evenings before I get ready to rest for each new day . . . No wonder I haven't been able to write posts as often. But hey, at least I am trying! I'm moving slow, but what matters is that I didn't stop!

So, how are you making sure you are moving forward?

Confidential military crisis line: 1 (800) 273-8255 (option 1) or text 838255

Military One Source: 1(800)342-9647

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