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When My Body Shut Down, I Knew I Needed a Change

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Nalini Mani

Making changes in life and lifestyle are often things we put aside as secondary and tertiary even. I know I have done so for a long time.

My moment of reckoning, when I knew without doubt that I had to change my behavior, my lifestyle and my way of dealing with stress was in 2010. I'm a consultant -- no stranger to working long hours and running at breakneck speeds. Work Hard, Play Harder = my motto. Sleep = Immaterial.

September, 2010 -- I found myself crying for no good reason. I'd be working on something and start to cry -- two weeks of these moments hitting me at the oddest of hours. I was exhausted all the time. Sleep was elusive.

September 13, 2010 -- I walked into my home at 10 p.m. after having gotten off the shuttle from LGA. I walked in, took my shoes off and sat for a moment on my couch. I don't remember much of what happened. The next thing I knew was that I was still sitting there, on my couch, in the same position, at 9:30 a.m. the next morning, completely dressed.

My body shut down and I could not physically move. My brain said "move," and my body refused to comply. I know I did not sleep. I had not slept more than an hour or two in days. I know I had cried and was still crying. My mind said, "Get up, get some water, go change, brush your teeth and go to the bathroom." It took me four hours to get the energy to crawl to the kitchen for water. It took me another day to ask for help. It took my family and friends to help me see what I had done to ruin my health.

You see I compartmentalize my life -- work, personal and play. Everything has its own box, and as long as it is in a little box, I don't have to dwell on it or stress about it. It caught up to me ... that, and the fact that this was the year I was to turn 40 -- and wondering what I had done with my life. Who was I? That and the fact that I realized (after the event) that I had not dealt with so many things in life.

Most importantly, I had not dealt with my father's passing away -- my rock my anchor. I was wondering where I was going in life and feeling I had not achieved much -- succeeded perhaps, but not achieved much. So I dressed up my life with icing by not eating well, not sleeping, working long hours and only working. It made my body rebel, which brought all my other destructive behaviors to light.

It took me four months to get my sleep patterns back on track. I worked my way up from 1.5 hours a night to five nights by the end of December, 2010. My body physically took a hit; my immune system went down, and I caught every flu and cold virus known to man at the hint of a chill or a cough or sneeze. My hormones went nuts -- weight gain, anyone? My wake up call -- at 40 years old!

Today, I'm still learning to bring balance to my life. I have, however, learned to say no; learned to say I don't know; learned to ask for help (sometimes); learned to take a step back; learned to be present with family and friends; learned to address issues as they come vs. putting them in a little box at the back of the closet. I sleep for at least 6.5 hours a night (with the odd five once in a while). I am still learning to take care of myself ... and I am happier for it.

Arianna has invited her Facebook followers to share their wake-up calls -- the moments they knew they had to make changes in their lives in order to truly thrive and not just succeed -- as part of a series produced in conjunction with the release of her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving. You can read all the posts in the series here.

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