Even with the stress of the NICU staying healthy is important

In my last few blogs I wrote about how wellness is not just being active and physically fit but possessing a combination of the various dimensions of being well. For the best possibility of wellness it is essential to find positive feelings about each wellness dimension (emotional-mental, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual). A well person is fulfilled in work, is spiritually satisfied, enjoys free time, is physically fit, is socially involved, and has a positive emotional-mental outlook.

Last month I hit on being well emotionally and intellectually. This month I am focusing on physical wellness. Being physically well encompasses engaging in activities that assist in higher levels of health. For the most favorable physical well-being, a person needs to connect with their physical self while avoiding harmful habits (i.e. smoking, excessive drinking, not wearing a seatbelt). An individual with physical wellness is typically labeled as fit (instead of unfit). This part of wellness does include being active.
If one is physically well then an individual will be able to effectively complete what he/she needs to do during the day while also using his/her free time successfully.

Having a little one in the NICU is stressful – I know. Having a little one at home discharged from the NICU is stressful and exhausting – I know. Having a little one admitted to the hospital for various surgeries or illness(es) is stressful and exhausting – I know; all from personal experience. However, doing a little something each and every day will allow you to the be absolute best parent you can be to your own special miracle. Whether your little one is still in the NICU or already home, it is imperative that you make time to be physically active (even if it’s for 10 minutes a day). I promise you it will make you feel better.

In general, I am a very active person. I ran my eighth marathon in November. I have taught numerous fitness classes over the years and pride myself on being healthy and fit. However, when my daughter was born 4 months early and stayed in the NICU for 117 days I can honestly say I had a very hard time justifying spending time running or working out instead of being at the NICU by her side. I did exercise a handful of times during those 4 months but it was extremely sporadic. I can also say that I was very tired and lethargic during those 117 days. Yes, partly because of the long hours I spent at the NICU, but the larger contributor of that has to do with the fact that I was not active and not really getting any type of exercise in during the day.

In crisis situations, like having a little one in the NICU, it is very important to take time for yourself – even if it is 10 minutes to walk around the block or stretching in your living room. When I finally got back to running, a few months after my daughter came home, every single time I ran I felt recharged, refreshed, and that I could “conquer the world.” Quickly remembering I had always felt that good after all my workouts, I immediately asked my husband why he hadn’t shoved me on a treadmill or out the front door months earlier. It would have done us all some good had I been more active while my daughter was in the NICU.

If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely take more time for myself to be more active in order to be mentally and physically recharged for my long days at the NICU.

There are a TON of different things one can do to be physically active besides the usual running/walking/biking. Things that people don’t normally think about as being active include: walking your dog, stretching, gardening, cleaning, doing laundry, and mowing the lawn. Even parking in a farther spot at the hospital or grocery to make you walk a little farther can be considered being active. . All of these activities get you off the couch, moving around, and feeling “normal” – as normal as one can feel when you have a little one in or recently discharged from the NICU.

In addition, avoiding harmful habits can assist in being physically well overall.

Habits to AVOID:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Abusing drugs (prescription and nonprescription)
  • Not wearing your seatbelt
  • Not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle

Next time I will focus on the last two remaining dimensions of wellness – social and spiritual.

Stay active and be healthy!

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About The Author: Andrea Silva