“Turns out having an organ explode inside your body can be the nudge you need to slow down.”
This sentence comes from Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You, an invaluable, encouraging, actionable new journal written by my friend Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com.
Rizzo, then a senior health producer for Fox News, was used to being super busy and super productive. On top of her day job, she was building two websites, creating products, and doing publicity for her first book Listful Thinking.
So when she felt a dull pain below her bully button, she basically ignored it and kept on working—and working and working. When she finally went to the emergency room, two days too late, she found out that her appendix had burst inside her body.
This caused all kinds of complications—so many in fact that Rizzo spent eight days in the hospital.
As she writes in Listful Living, “I didn’t eat solid foods much at all. I lost twelve pounds and had bruises up and down my arms from IVs, blood draws, and injections….My doctor took me out of work for six weeks…I was so weak when I left the hospital, I couldn’t even lift my arms, pull myself up in bed, or basically move…There were days when taking a shower was my only activity. That was it. And the ordeal would consume my entire day. I would psych myself up to take the shower, actually do it, and then was so exhausted afterwards I would need to lie down. I was too exhausted to even watch TV at times. My body was working overtime to heal itself.”
In addition to giving herself the time and space to rest and recover, Rizzo has become more intentional and mindful about her days—and what she says yes to. In Marie Kondo style, she writes, if an opportunity, event, or activity doesn’t being her joy, Rizzo doesn’t do it anymore.
Rizzo’s story might sound like an extreme example. But it’s actually not. Because it underscores the importance of meeting our needs and listening to our bodies. Because if we don’t care for ourselves, our bodies might no longer be able to sustain us.
In short, it’s a slippery slope. And ignoring a quieter, seemingly less significant need can lead to ignoring a louder, more critical one.
This doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up about yet another thing that we’re not doing. It’s simply an invitation, an opportunity, a reminder to honor ourselves.
Rizzo’s story is a vital reminder for everyone to pay attention to our physical cues. It’s a vital reminder to slow down and take regular breaks to refresh and recharge, even though for many of us resting is really hard (one of my favorite lines from the book is “rest is the new hustle”). It’s a vital reminder that prioritizing our health is always worth it (our mental health too!).
Today, take some time to think about how you’re currently caring for yourself. How long has it been since your last check-up? Are you taking enough breaks (or any) throughout the day or throughout the week, or are you working into the night and early morning? Are you cramming activities into your day, even though you’re incredibly exhausted? Are you prioritizing everyone’s needs above your own? What have you been doing that’s working? What about any small, simple activities that go a long way?
If you aren’t taking great care of yourself right now, that’s OK. Because, as Rizzo’s story also illustrates, that can change. We can change our habits, our mindset, and our decision making. And we can change that right now. Even this second. All you have to do is say the word, and do one thing differently.