x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Invest in your health to reap rewards on your wealth

Superwomen: Life was going just fine for Personal Finance columnist Janelle Malone. A new baby, a good work-life balance and a lifestyle that ticked all the boxes. Then came a telltale click one night.

Have you thought about the relationship between your bank balance and your health? Over the past 18 months, I have become increasingly aware of how earning an income affects my overall well-being.

It all started with an injury. My son was three months old when I tore an anterior cruciate ligament. For anyone familiar with this type of knee injury, it's no walk in the park. First comes six weeks of non-negotiable bed rest followed by a course of intensive physiotherapy.

For a new mum, this was hardly ideal. Confined to my bed, I couldn't check on my newborn baby during the night or day for that matter. I wondered how I was ever going to survive six weeks like this.

Thankfully I had the internet for entertainment and, most importantly, the help and support of my family and friends.

My doctor reassured me that many women experience soft bones during the first six months after childbirth. But in retrospect, I can attribute my injury's root cause to my emotional state at the time.

As a first-time mother, I felt overwhelmed by my new circumstance; while it was a blessing, it was also terrifying. Suddenly, I was responsible for the welfare of another life. I was also fretting, as I'm sure many first-time mothers do, that my career days were now over.

Born in Australia in 1978, I was raised to be independent and self-sufficient. Empowered by my work, I made my own decisions - decisions I was proud of because they were always mine. I felt secure knowing that the buck stopped with me.

I had moved out of my parental home at 18 and, at 21, was entirely independent, earning my own income and paying my way through my studies. It wasn't always easy, but I was in control. And if I didn't like a job or wanted another, I prepared my CV and made my next career move.

Having a baby changed all that. As motherhood set in, I found myself not wanting to return to my former career in retail development. I yearned for more flexible hours in an adaptable environment.

And so, after my knee recovered, I began working for my husband in finance. Together, we made a formidable team and created a schedule that, from a lifestyle perspective, ticked all boxes. With the baby at nursery in the morning, we could get our work done. Come the afternoon, it was time to play mum.

Life was going great. I had completed my physio and had what I believed to be the perfect balance between motherhood, work and play. I had started boxing and was getting really fit - I was even running again.

Until one night, I heard the telltale click as I rolled my leg over in bed. My kneecap literally popped out. I panicked. How could this happen after all my hard work over the past 20 months?

I had diligently followed the advice of my physio and chiropractor; work was going great, and I was feeling super fit. We were even getting sleep. What gives?

It turned out I had learnt to walk without full flexion of my left leg, causing muscle and ligament wastage. My surgeon explained that, basically, my outer leg glute muscles were pulling my kneecap out. To repair this damage, I needed a further course of intensive physiotherapy. Should this fail, I would need an operation.

I felt helpless and frustrated, as if life was slipping through my fingers. My mind felt rearing to go, but my body just couldn't keep up.

This experience illustrated to me the connection between the mind and body. I truly believe it was fear inhibiting my recovery. What if something were to happen to my husband? How would I pay the rent and keep providing for my son?

Being a part-time mum was great for lifestyle, but not so great for my personal sense of security. The uncertainty of future employment options filled me with insecurity in the event of a life crisis.

I should clarify that we had all of the self-protection elements in place - life and critical illness insurance for us both, as well as regular long-term savings.

Financially speaking, I knew that I would be fine. But on a personal level, my knee was telling me otherwise. Without sounding too spiritual, I asked life to give me the answers. I rewrote my CV, but the thought of not having the flexible working hours made me feel sick.

Then something strange happened. Businesses and brands started approaching me to collaborate with them on my blog.

Companies wanted my advice and support running the social media aspects of their business. I found fulfilment and security in my work - and my knee started to heal. I became empowered again through my ability to earn. I felt safe and protected, and so did my body.

This experience reaffirmed a belief that I have long held true - that good health is true wealth. And when we invest in our health - physically, emotionally and spiritually - the rest of our lives all fall into place. By recognising my inner yearning to create my own wealth, my health problems began to dissipate.

If you are dealing with your own health challenges, I encourage you to do the same. Dig deep and discover the answer that fits best for you.


Janelle Malone is a wealth commentator, writer and author. You can read her blog at www.womenmoneyandstyle.com.