Spend a little time with a group of nutrition professionals and it becomes apparent that we're a Type-A, tightly wound bunch. We are passionate, perfectionists, and generally like to know what’s coming next.
As you can imagine, we type-A's have had a doozy of a time with this global pandemic -everyone has. Especially since personal challenges don’t stop just because of a little pandemic.
I'm like the majority of dietetic professionals when it comes to personality traits. I have a list of lists. I like to make sure all my ducks are in a row and that they stay there.
The entirety of this past year has been a test of my ability to be flexible and compassionate with myself. Neither of which I'm a fan of.
My emotional roller coaster test started in the fall of 2019. I decided to apply to dietetic internships again having recovered from the mental letdown of not getting a spot 2 years prior. I was in a great spot with my career and family; my youngest child was finally gaining some independence from me. I started getting my application ducks in a row and SURPRISE! I was pregnant.
Completely unplanned and totally not in line with the plans I'd made for the next year of my life, I decided to postpone applying for an internship until the following spring. I'm a really tired pregnant person and I didn’t want to deliver a baby right in the middle of my internship. Who would?
I started warming up to the idea of being a mom for the third time and rehashed my plan to finally become a dietitian. I'd only been working on it for a decade, what's another year or so (insert eye roll). Then the next emotional curveball hit. I miscarried.
It was traumatic, emotional and something I never thought I'd go through. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone, and boy did it increase my capacity for self-compassion and empathy to anyone who's gone through the emotional turmoil of losing a pregnancy.
The window for internship applications had opened while I was recovering from surgery and there I was, an emotional wreck, forging on with my goal to be a dietitian.
I'm not saying it was the healthiest thing for me to do, mentally or emotionally. But I had to keep moving forward or risk having two things I loved ripped from my grasp.
I stopped taking care of myself mentally and physically due to the emotional stress and because I wanted to pursue a dream I'd worked so hard for, for so long.
Hear me when I say this. I don't recommend complete self-sacrifice as a way to achieve your goals - at least not to the point of risking your mental and physical health. But I had weighed the risks and benefits and decided I still wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a dietitian.
In spite of everything, I managed to get accepted into the program I applied for, and once again got my duck in a row to take the next steps toward my goal.
The day before I was scheduled to start my internship orientation, I arrived at the airport in plenty of time but my outgoing flight to Salt Lake City was delayed for no apparent reason and I was going to miss my connection from Salt Lake City to Tulsa where the orientation was being held.
Wait it gets better!
Turns out, there is only one flight from Salt Lake City to Tulsa each day. My 6-hour travel day was now turning into a 24-hour travel day. Once I finally got to Salt Lake City, I spent all afternoon and evening strolling the airport, sobbing, emailing, texting, and calling my husband, the internship director, my classmates, my coworkers. Everyone.
Finally, I boarded the only option to get to Tulsa at a reasonable time (still after orientation was scheduled to start). It was a red-eye to Atlanta. Once I landed in Atlanta, I caught a few Zzzz's on the floor in the Atlanta airport before boarding the earliest flight to Tulsa around 6 am. Phew. Talk about stress. And now as I'm reflecting back on all this, I'm REALLY grateful that it all happened pre-COVID!
West Coast to East Coast and halfway back in 24 hours. Was not my idea of a good time.
It's easy to completely fall apart in these situations, but I was becoming the queen of compassionate flexibility and working hard to stay in tune with what my body needed to stay grounded and survive.
I can't say I handled everything with the grace and calm of a yogi. After all, I was sobbing in an airport full of people, and public display of emotion is not how I roll. Remember, I like my emotional ducks in a row!
What did help me get through the difficult situation, was making sure I had lunch, knowing that I was safe and the fact that I was one step closer to achieving a goal I'd set for myself over a decade ago.
We all deal with emotional curve balls and roadblocks in different ways - this past year has taught us all the fine art of coping mechanisms. Hello, ice cream, Coke Zero, and Netflix!
We all have a choice to push through those challenges using whatever coping mechanisms we need or to let those roadblocks devour us.
Regardless if you think your coping mechanisms are healthy or not, being aware of how you cope with emotions is a powerful thing. Understanding what your body and mind need to deal with stress is half the battle. And being flexible in what you choose to deal with life stresses is important - especially with a side of self-compassion.
Is eating ice cream the healthiest way to soothe yourself? Maybe not all the time. Do I sometimes wish that my coping mechanisms included running marathons? Maybe.
Do my body and mind feel a little better after chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when I am overly stressed? Absolutely!
Does that make me any worse of a person? Heck no! Be kind to yourself and do what you need to hit the emotional curveballs of life outta the park.
Learn more about emotional coping skills, emotional eating, and never letting go of your passion for a vibrant, fulfilling life by listening to the Savor Food and Body Podcast.
Enjoy weekly shows on topics such as Intuitive Eating, Health At Every Size®, intuitive movement, women's health in midlife, food, and cooking, all with a little sense of outdoor adventure on the side. You can tune in and subscribe to Savor Food and Body Podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.
Kim Hall RDN is a former intern at Alpine Nutrition LLC