Why Wednesdays? – Why “Listen To Your Body” Is More Than Just a Platitude

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

 

Listen to your body.

Listen. .  .  . to your BODY.

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

I hear (i.e. read/see) this command often.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve been hearing it for years, but didn’t really pay much attention to it.  I used to think it was just a silly expression.  Something that felt good and wise to say – easy advice for all sorts of circumstances.  What did it mean, really??

Of all of the many things I have learned in the last couple of years, the value of this advice is one of the most powerful.

I tend to be a cerebrally-inclined person. Historically, I sit up residence in my head, sometimes to the detriment of my other parts.  I’m analytical.  I spend a lot of time pondering things.  I toss around ideas and apply solid logic when solving puzzles and problems.  With this natural inclination towards being a bit too intellectual, it’s easy for me to flat out ignore my body (the whole rest of me), despite the fact that it’s constantly talking to me.

It’s true.  Our bodies are chatty things.  I’ve become very aware of this since I started heeding the advice that I need to listen to it.  Something I’ve been working on actively is to use my brain to actually pay attention to what my body has to say and it’s been an incredibly insightful process.  Now that I’ve made wellness, nutrition, and physical activity part of my life, it’s become even more important.  As a runner, I need to recognize the difference between a niggle and an actual injury, between a desire to eat from boredom and a real hunger that needs to be tended to, or between simply feeling tired because it’s been a long day and feeling worn down because I’ve been pushing too hard.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

I personally believe many of us function in our world in sort of a survival mode.  We’re often just trying to get by, get through, get over.  We rush from one place to the next, we down caffeine to wake us up; we take pills to lull us to sleep; we zone out with the television as a distraction, and so on.  In so many ways, it is the American way.  I am personally hugely susceptible to all of this and it takes a real conscious effort to slow down and be present in and aware of each moment, each task, and . . myself – my body.  It is a practice that I am constantly working on (to some success, I’m happy to say).

Here are some of the insights that I’ve had so far:

1)      What and when I eat has direct impacts on my mood and mental functioning. – Seriously, if I don’t sufficiently nourish my body, I’m a mess.  Cranky, scatterbrained, dizzy – it is not pretty.  I know not to push breakfast too late in the day and that if I’m going to be running around for a few hours, I need to carry a healthy snack with me.

2)      Sleep may be my nemesis, but it is important.  – I’m a bit of an insomniac and I used to think that this wasn’t a very big deal.  I now notice that when I have a particularly bad night of sleep, I have loads of ill effects – copious amounts of hunger, increased stress levels, random body aches.  Blech.

3)      My anxiety/stress and my body pains have a symbiotic relationship.  – As I’ve mentioned before, I do carry anxiety with me often.  I also have disruptive and persistent (albeit non-serious) physical issues, such as Raynaud’s Disorder, migraines and tendinitis in my hands/wrists.  It’s become strikingly clear that when one of these is elevated, the others are triggered, too.  It’s a good reminder of how interconnected all parts of us are.  It’s unbelievable how an increase in stress can immediately bring on my Raynaud’s and how working through serious pain in my hands can make my tension escalate.

4)      Doctors are not necessarily the experts, despite how much they try to act like they are. – Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not anti-doctors.  They’re great.  Sometimes.  However, it’s become very apparent that they don’t always ask all the necessary questions, gather the pertinent information, and listen to what you have to say.  What YOU have to say – the one person who is pretty much guaranteed to be the ultimate expert with what is going in your body.  I’m working hard on being a better advocate for myself at medical appointments and not always taking an initial diagnosis or dismissal as the final word.

5)     My body actually knows (better than my brain) when I need to push and when I need to rest.  – For me, my default is to push.  I’m not much for rest and relaxation and when I first started running this was detrimental.  Like so many new runners, I over-trained, didn’t recover properly, and ended up with fatigued, weakened muscles and injury.  I have really learned to listen for signs that my body needs some rest – and I provide it (no matter how much my brain may protest).  For instance, when the niggle in my left knee becomes too loud, I need to address it.  When my periformis becomes super painful, I know I’m not spending enough time stretching and strengthening my hips and glutes.

This is really a very condensed list of lessons learned on this matter, but I hope it gives you some idea.  Listening to all the chatter my body puts out is still something I’m constantly reminding myself to do, but the pay-off so far has been invaluable.

I would love to hear how others do with this.  Are you a natural at it or do you struggle, too?  What have you learned along the way?  If you’re also a runner, do you feel that training has helped you tune into your body’s signals better?

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Last Week’s Entry:   Why Libraries Are Worth Saving?

27 comments on “Why Wednesdays? – Why “Listen To Your Body” Is More Than Just a Platitude

  1. seetinarun says:

    Great post. I experience much the same things – tendency to push, but actually succeed more when I stop and take the time to listen to parts of my body other than the pushy voice in my head! Love your insights.

  2. Joanne says:

    Such a great post topic! I think learning to listen to your body is a constant thing..you never quite master it and you always have to be thinking about it!!

  3. wisejourney says:

    I am not a runner but I recognise and respect the relationship between the whole me…head heart body and soul I suppose. They each relate to the other and with increasing mindfulness I am more in tine than ever before with my physical being than ever.
    Indeed I do know my body better than anybody and if something aches I. Am pretty sure I know why. Thank you for your post. Excellent.

  4. krrichar says:

    Agree 100%… I ate horrible most of my life, not to anyones fault really, when I was young, it seems like Frozen and Processed foods were the norm, from school lunches to dinner, it was normal and ok.

    Then I ate label healthy for a while “fat free” “healthy” “low carb” … and all those fun buzzwords..

    Until finally came to my senses… I started cooking and living off a whole food diet.

    It wasn’t until that point I could really FEEL what my body was trying to say. Until we try something different, I think it’s really hard to gauge what is wrong and what is right to feel in our very own body. It’s hard to listen when you don’t know what you’re listening for.

    What we wrote off as “just another stomach ache” or “midday crash” was a direct result of the garbage we put in us.

    Although I wouldn’t have it any other way, nowadays the few times I don’t eat perfectly clean, my body is pretty mad, and it’s so much more noticeable now.

  5. krrichar says:

    Reblogged this on Lucky Rabbit Recipes! and commented:
    Love this article, I ate horrible most of my life, not to anyones fault really, when I was young, it seems like Frozen and Processed foods were the norm.
    Then I ate label healthy for a while “fat free” “healthy” “low carb” … and all those fun buzzwords..

    Until finally came to my senses… I started cooking and living off a whole food diet.
    It wasn’t until that point I could really FEEL what my body was trying to say. Until we try something different, I think it’s really hard to gauge what is wrong and what is right to feel in our very own body. It’s hard to listen when you don’t know what you’re listening for.

    What we wrote off as “just another stomach ache” or “midday crash” was a direct result of the garbage we put in us.

    Although I wouldn’t have it any other way, nowadays the few times I don’t eat perfectly clean, my body is pretty mad, and it’s so much more noticeable now.

  6. Jennifer Szescula Flanagan says:

    I saw your post in my Blog Feed and had to laugh (in that way that the universe is telling you to listen and will do anything to make you listen even if you are trying to ignore it ;). I can so easily default into survival mode – I agree that is OUR way of life and how we are brought up. And I agree with you on your #4 – doctors can be a great help but the most important information and diagnosis comes from within yourself and listening to your body. After many years of trying to assist myself medically (anxiety/depression and now it seems a bit of bipolar), I’ve taken it into my own hands and I am finding much more relief and understanding in “untraditional” modes of healing – where my body gets the final say! Imagine that!

    When I ran a few years ago, my body was yelling at me to stop and take a break. So I did for over a year. Then I started back up again just last year but it seems that it is not meant to be for me long term. My body just doesn’t want to keep jostling around that way (though I love the high it gives me and kept pressing my body to give it to me). Though I want it the high the price I pay within myself for days afterward just is not worth it to me anymore. (I still keep thinking that maybe I can go back though, maybe I just need more of a break…who knows?)

    • Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story with this! That is unfortunate about not being able to run, but it is great that you are recognizing the signs. I hope that you are able to find other activities that brings you the good feelings and is agreeable to your body.

  7. jenn says:

    this is so relevant! becoming “tuned in” to your body is surprisingly difficult – seeing as we’re intuitively tuned in as babies, and grow further and further out of phase as we get older – and genuinely requires practice and vigilance. i’m a push-er as well, and i have to be really conscious and honest with myself as far as ‘am i pushing within my boundaries? or am i pushing past my body’s breaking point?’

    it’s all a process, eh? : ) great post!

  8. mary says:

    This post if full of so much wisdom. I am learning to listen to my body – finally. My body was no longer speaking in a normal voice – it was screaming at me to do something about it or it will just quit!
    I finally listened. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Cindy says:

    I love this post. It is so important to listen to our bodies. Part of being healthy is being “in tune” with one’s self. 😀

  10. amhow says:

    I love ALL of this

  11. gargupie says:

    Excellent reflection. I’m also trying to ‘learn’ to listen to my body. Before, I would ignore all the apparent symptoms (aching joints, forgetfulness, basically a walking zombie), but now I would tell myself it’s ok to take a rest day from exercising and it actually does the body good to let it heals itself.

  12. Sarah Phang says:

    great post! sometimes I do not give my body enough credit for its innate wisdom. Last week I had 2 days off from working out and was pleasantly surprised with breaking new boundaries when I returned to my workout. Rest is good when your body tells you to! And I totally agree with your point on sleep. Sleep is not only good for physical bodily repairs but also so vital for a powerful mind to create solutions for your daily challenges! thanks for your wisdom.

  13. Great post! Bodies communicate really well when we take the time to listen. Which we probably all need practice at! I tweak my exercise/fuel plan regularly based on what my body is telling me. Also, I just found your blog and it looks awesome! I completely agree with your buddy system post as well. I do run with friends, but mostly for their encouragement. I get my best runs in alone and it really centers me in a way that doesn’t happen when I run with others. Thank you!

  14. […] posts (duh!) but found a seriously awesome blog sista out there upon reading her February post about listening to our bodies. Wellness is holistic – everything is connected.  And when it […]

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