Before the Journey: Self-Assessment

Phil and I have identified certain things that we think are necessary in becoming Fine After 50. Becoming Fine After 50 and staying Fine After 50 is a journey–a life-long journey of exploration, self-acceptance, and fulfillment where the only things we take with us are our body, mind and spirit. Before beginning, though, it’s a good idea to spend some time reflecting on where we are right now. This journey is no different from any other long-distance trip: it really helps to know exactly what we are hauling along for the ride before we start out. Trust me–there are enough roadblocks that we all face. It helps to have a heads-up.

So take a few moments to honestly answer the following questions. The purpose, really, is to begin the process of getting into the habit of checking in with yourself. At this stage in our lives, especially for those of us with chronic illnesses, life is anything but stable and predictable. Being Fine After 50 involves self-assessment on a daily basis so that we can learn to dance with the ups and downs of our daily lives. In essence, we begin where we are right now and then we make adjustments based on how we assess ourselves.

So, beginning with our bodies:

How tall are you? Not how tall you were when you were 17 years old–how tall are you now? This may seem like a silly question, but it can give you an indication of how much you are clinging to an outdated image of yourself if you resist the idea of finding out how tall you really are now or if you have a reaction to the answer.

How much do you weigh? Not what you have listed on your driver’s license–what do you really weigh? If you do not already have one, go out and get a decent, accurate scale that weighs to 1/10th of a pound. For many of us, weight gain or weight loss is an indication that something needs to be adjusted–medication, food intake, time spent exercising. If the number is not what you want to see, it also gives you a chance for self-forgiveness.

Now that you have your height and weight, plug that information into the tool on this website to discover your body mass:

http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

While this tool is not infallible (because it does not take muscle mass into account) it can give you a general indication as to whether you are underweight or overweight. Neither Phil nor I are going to nag you about your weight, but just keep this in mind: it’s easier to move when you don’t have a lot of excess weight to drag around. Even a 10% weight reduction (if you are overweight) can make a significant difference in the quality of your life. It’s just as important to know if you are underweight.

In addition to knowing how much space you occupy, there are a few more aspects to consider: strength, aerobic capacity, balance, and flexibility. Phil and I will be talking about each of these in greater detail later, but for now consider:

Do you feel that you get winded doing the things you want to do?
Do you need help lifting or carrying things, like grocery bags or bottles of water?
Can you touch your toes (remember, keep your knees slightly bent)?
Can you balance on one foot for 10 seconds without grabbing onto something to keep from falling over?

Mind encompasses both mental and emotional flexibility and capacity. Nothing impacts the quality of our lives as much as our attitude. We truly can change the quality of our lives by changing our minds. Phil and I will be exploring mind issues in extensive detail, but for now consider the following questions:

Are you lonely? Do you feel powerful or powerless?
Do you feel hopeful or hopeless?
Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or frustrated more than you used to?
What do you enjoy doing?
How often do you allow yourself to do what you enjoy?
Who do you love?
When was the last time you read a book or magazine simply to learn something new?
How well can you concentrate?
If somebody were to give you a math problem to complete right now, how would you react?
Can you program your DVR?

Spirit refers to having a connection with something greater than ourselves. Sometimes this can be a sensitive, charged area. Many of us have unresolved issues with religion or religious institutions. Spirituality, though, has the capacity to help us transcend our human experiences and find purpose and meaning in all areas of our lives. Phil and I will be exploring spiritual growth and development in the future, but for now consider the following questions:

Do you believe in a Higher Power?
If you believe in a Higher Power, do you believe that it is personal and knowable, or impersonal and unknowable?
Do you trust or mistrust that Higher Power?
How does your belief (or lack of belief) in a Higher Power impact your life?

These questions are not intended to be exhaustive or complete. Did they get you thinking about things? Could you answer them without self-judgment? What questions would you have asked?

More to come…

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