I had a major health scare at the age of 22, during my MBA summer internship.

After years of unhealthy hostel eating and erratic sleeping, my health finally decided to give in. There may have been other folks who did exactly the same thing. Genetics may have helped them.

It did not help me.

As I struggled through my internship, I cursed the situation. A high stress, relentless job. I found myself unable to put in the hours that I demanded from myself. Each day was painful, each meal a chore. 

Health is not handed to you, it needs to be earned. The advantage that youth gives you is that it allows you to live an unhealthy life. Most people don’t get affected when they are young. 

I did. 

For the first few months I kept wondering, why me? I hadn’t done anything that was especially bad that it had come to this. I looked at my friends who seemed to have lived the same “indiscriminate” life as me. They seemed fine. 

Till one fine day, I realized that maybe this is a blessing as a wake up call.

Good health is made up of three things. The body works well when it is properly nourished, challenged and rested. In essence, food, exercise, and sleep.

It seems very simple. But implementing simple things everyday is the hardest. 

A lot of people advised that I should “get disciplined”. As a person who loved the flexibility of life, this suggestion seemed dead in the water. But my situation was such, I was willing to try anything.

I first started sleeping on time. Having shifted my sleep cycle to 2:00 AM in college, I challenged myself to get to 11:30 PM. It was insanely hard the first few months. But as I was predisposed to being an early sleeper, I was able to get there soon. 

The advantages started to show. 

As my sleep started to get better, I felt like exercising more. I hit the gym. Initially I hated the gym. After more than 6 months of being on and off, I started getting more regular. 

I realized that discipline doesn’t constrain you, it sets you free.

Due to my health issue, it took me almost a year to fix my sleep and exercise. I started working. Some of the gains I had made unravelled. After getting into the rhythm of work, it took me another year to start building on my health again.

Clearly, you can damage things quickly, but repairing them can take years. 

My biggest unlock with food happened when I stopped eating out for a few months. The outcome was incredible. I had never felt so good in my life. The health disaster that I had at 22, was finally getting fixed at the ripe old age of 25!

I normalized at 25, and since then I was sleeping at 11:30 PM, gymming everyday and eating healthy. 

At around that time, I started seeing a lot of friends complaining of this peculiar thing. They would say “I am burnt out”. Most of them worked in high-stress jobs like me. For some, the stress was relentless. 

When a close friend collapsed, it was my second wake up call. 

Being burnt out was essentially not a physical problem, it was related to the mind. When the mind is continuously worked, without stopping, like any machine – it collapses. 

Having solved physical health, it was time for me to solve mental health. Few people then focused on it, but due to the experience – I began to take care of it. 

I started doing things that would “decompress”. Writing, gymming, playing, family, and just doing nothing at all are fantastic ways to do so. In my journey to better mental health, I discovered these. From 25 to 27, I sorted this new layer of health. 

Then the pandemic happened.

All my routines were broken. As we went through the harrowing experience of the first wave, I wondered how I will get back my bearings. But with a good foundation set, I was able to quickly re-orient myself. Shifting all my routines to my house, things got better. 

The precautions taken against COVID generally improved my health. 

COVID has been our generation’s biggest reminder that health is everything. If you don’t have health, you can’t do anything. Period.

As I see the catastrophe of the 2nd wave, I am pained to see the harsh truth that health is everything. With the healthcare system collapsing, people of all kinds are losing their lives. It doesn’t matter if you have fame, power or wealth. 

If your health deteriorates there may not be any going back. 

COVID is going to get worse before it gets better. To save others by not pressuring the health system, stay home, wear a mask, get vaccinated. Be with your loved ones.

When the storm settles, if there is one piece of advice I will give it will be this – take care of yourself.