You know the phrase, "listen to your body." But what does that actually mean? For some people, they seem to be in tune with what their body needs while other folks seem disconnected. It can be a triggering phrase when you feel like you're trying to improve your habits but old cycles keep repeating themselves.
I recently had a big reminder of how to listen to my body.
Towards the end of my traveling tour in the van, I was starting to feel overwhelmed. All the moving around was fun but I could sense this underlying exhaustion that was slowly building. For most of the summer we only stayed a couple days in one place.
Once September rolled around I desired to stay in campgrounds and beach areas for a week or more. I wanted to become grounded and connected to a place and myself. As soon as we would begin driving again, I lost my foundation and instantly felt aggravated trying to find the next sleeping spot.
I wasn't listening to my body. Or I was and I wasn't doing anything about it.
My mind and ego were shouting, "keep driving and exploring, we're having so much fun!" While my body was whispering, "can we pause for a couple weeks? We've been on the go since June. A recharge would be awesome."
Finally my body decided to speak up by being sick.
I developed a sore throat, body aches, and the chills. It was hard to swallow and sleep. It wasn't long until I couldn't handle the discomfort that turned into pain and exhaustion. Lucas drove me to the emergency room in the middle of the night and 4 hours later, after a needle down my throat and nasty rounds of throwing up, I was sent home with a tonsillar abscess diagnosis (a pocket of fluid and bacteria next to my tonsils that was inflamed) and a negative COVID test.
As I've been healing, staying in one place, and resting, I've been reminded again how and why listening to the body is so important. Maybe you're like me and you're currently sick or you just intuitively know this "listen to your body" phrase is not full of hot air.
Here are ways you can tune into what the body needs.
The Body and Mind Connection
Being happy and healthy isn't just about the numbers (your weight, BMI, or white blood cell count). It's also about your intuition, senses, lifestyle and how you feel. Unfortunately, the body and mind are often in conflict with one another and makes it challenging to hear the bodies needs. The body is on nature time and the mind is on, what I like to call, modern time (I have to be here, do this, be that). The goal is to give the body what it needs in any given moment.
Hungry? Have a meal.
Tired? Take a nap.
Feeling disconnected? Walk outside.
Restless? Create art.
Overwhelmed? Sit in silence.
Don't over think it. The body is designed to be alive and vibrant. It requires simple inputs. Take action with less thinking.
Pushing Through vs Flowing Through
It's the classic way to be. At least how I was taught in the sports world. Be tough, brave, and strong. Fight through it. Keep going. Don't stop. Earn every step of the way (just typing that stresses me out, ha!).
You can stop pushing. Really, just pause. Look around. Feel inward. Listen.
Place your hand on your heart, take a big breath in, exhale, and feel the flow of your breath.
No need to keep pushing the strict diet, hard workouts, counting calories/carbs, and marking everything off your to-do list. What you push will persist and the pressure will only ramp up more to be perfect. When these expectations arise, use your sense of touch on your body and breathe into your hand. Arrive in the present moment.
To flow, do as my Mom says. Grab your tube, hop in the river and go with the flow. Let go of the control and ease into the current with a smile and trusting heart. Enjoy the ride. Get wet. Watch the trees and shoreline go by. Everything you need will be readily available to you right when you need it.
Be Curious and Reflective
Ask yourself these questions and answer objectively...
What's the underlying feeling?
What does my body need in this moment?
What does my body need in the future?
Take 15 minutes to check in with yourself. Connect with a friend and have them reflect back what they see and hear. Write your answers in a journal and review them a day later to see if they still ring true. Draw a picture of how you feel inside now and draw another picture of how you want to feel inside in the future. Use color! Lastly, be honest with yourself. No one will see the answers so you might as well be raw and frank.
It's all about the inner drum beat. Align your daily schedule with the weather and season and be like nature. Fall is time to let go, prune, do less, wear fall colors, eat warm and hearty root vegetables dishes, wrap up summer projects, sleep more, stay warm, connect with community and friends, and have stability in your schedule.