2020 is the year that brought many of us to our knees. The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the entire world, leading to death, job loss, isolation, fear, and stress.
Children were all of a sudden learning from home. Women were leaving the workplace. Stay at home orders were in place. Preventative health care was prevented. Everything shut down.
Here I was a mother of three, a physician, a wife, and CEO of a female-focused health care company. Our office is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 2019 – pre-pandemic – we had decided to open more locations across the country as women had been traveling from Seattle, Florida, New Jersey to seek the health care we provide. So, we were managing patient care for thousands of patients, along with looking to expand and grow when the pandemic hit.
My world tumbled upside down. I was managing taking care of three children from home, helping them navigate the realities of our new world while trying to keep my staff employed and safe. I sadly said goodbye to many team members as they made the difficult choice to stay home. We had to figure out how to deliver health care in this new world, where PPE was not widely available, and so many questions lingered about the virus.
I had to put the needs of patients, staff, and my children before my own. That’s what we all do as mothers and as physicians. I underestimated how long the sacrifices would last. I watched my schedule increase from three days of patient care to five, along with running the business and managing employees, recording podcasts, and holding educational events. We run a health care business to educate, advocate for, and empower our patients. Yet, in the midst of all this, here I was at the helm, the unhealthiest I had ever been. I had abdominal pain, insomnia, anxiety. I had walked away from working out and was not careful about the food I was choosing to put into my body.
I am naturally very healthy. I love to be active; I love to be outside; I genuinely enjoy cooking, and I am drawn to healthy foods. I am a Yogi at heart, and I love to dance. A year into the pandemic, the person looking back at me in the mirror was a complete stranger. Those who loved me and knew me best gently pointed out that I was not caring for myself.
I felt guilty “indulging” in self-care when so many needed me, but they helped me realize if I didn’t take care of myself, how would I be strong enough to take care of others? I had to learn how to give myself grace.
I have now vowed to myself that although I would continue to take care of my children, family, and patients, I would follow my own professional advice. I have started to work with an executive coach, and she has been amazing. She has shown me that if I spend time to make time – I’ll no longer feel like I am running on empty with no time for self-care. She helped me create a vision board for myself, with my goals for the year – achievable goals for myself that are both professional and personal. She helped me create a calendar that I love. I have built-in time to work out, cook, and decompress. I have built-in time to perform clinical research and write papers and teach.
I have found my hiking boots again and frequently get lost in the woods on purpose.
Getting lost helps me find my way.
I am intermittent fasting, sleeping again, and my abdominal pain has all but disappeared.
We are on to incredible things in 2021 with a woman at the helm that I now recognize when I look in the mirror.
Somi Javaid is an obstetrician-gynecologist and founder and CEO, HERmd. She can be reached on Facebook, Instagram @somijavaidmd, and Twitter @somijavaid.
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