Resiliency and Self-Care

There are so many things on my mind right now, ideas floating around me like little gnats. Sometimes an idea sticks around long enough for me to write it down for a later post. Other times I swat the idea-gnat away from me, and it is lost forever. Once in a while, an idea comes to me about a blog post and it becomes something like a wormhole– a tune you can’t get out of your head to save your life. And I must write that post. Today is one of those days.

A couple of weeks ago (Geez, where is time going?) I met with a couple of wonderful ladies doing wonderful work with zoos. They are helping employees grow resiliency through mental health. This is so important, because most people think having a dream job means there’s never a bad day. But this career choice, being an animal care professional, is HARD. Zookeepers work hard, and yes, play hard. They have to be 100% on-game, especially when working with potentially dangerous animals. And that’s not easy.

The ladies from GRAZE (Growing Resiliency in Aquarium and Zoo Employees) help zoos move through crises– death of an animal, a fire at the facility, a natural disaster, or animal escape. I shared with them how I believe ZooFit shines in this area. My expertise is not in crisis management, but in preparation and building resiliency before an event happens.

I shared some of the details of my worst day on the job: the death of our African elephant, Watoto.

Read about my special bond with Watoto here

Watoto was no spring chicken, but she wasn’t sick or on death’s door, either. She didn’t lay down to sleep like most other elephants do (we suspected arthritis in her limbs prevented that). So when co-workers found her lying on the ground one morning, we feared the worst. And after hours of trying everything in our power to get her back up on her feet, the worst fear was realized. We had to say good-bye. 

Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes. But what I also remember is how I took care of myself after that emotionally draining and traumatic experience. I didn’t buy a gallon of ice cream and binge eat my feelings. No bottomless bottle of wine. 

One of the first things I did after Watoto passed away was contact my personal trainer and ask him to meet me for a workout. That’s right. I exercised.  

Losing Watoto was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. She was one of the reasons I even started on my fitness journey. But this type of grief requires self-care, not self-indulgence. 

I’m actually not saying there’s anything wrong with drinking or eating after a bad day. But at least for me– and I have a strong feeling you might agree with me here– eating my feelings away doesn’t help me cope with the feelings of loss. 

This is what ZooFit can do for us. On our best day, we celebrate our wins and use that all for motivation in the bank. But on our worst days, we can fall back onto our healthy habits because we know it will feel better. We choose self-care over self-indulgence. And we rise up stronger than ever before.

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