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?

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #1: Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

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.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I’m not sure if others can relate to this, but for the longest time I was really confused about creativity.  I didn’t actually know that I was confused at the time.  In fact, I thought I had it all figured out.  I’ll take you through it.

When I was young, I learned that there were essentially two types of people.  Left-brained versus right-brained.  A-type versus B-type.  Creative versus not-so-creative.  I easily classified myself as a left-brained, type A, not-so-creative person.  I was analytical, for sure.  I was no doubt a rationale person.  A planner.  I still am.  That piece of my identity, I was not confused about.  The problem was that I had essentially learned that being such a person was mutually exclusive from being a creative person.

And learning this ‘truth’, I short-changed myself.

In elementary school, creativity occurred in art class.  Those that excelled could sketch with talent and paint with beauty.  Those that didn’t (i.e. me) slapped stuff on a paper and waited out the tortuous period, anticipating the bell to ring.

In high school, creativity occurred in electives.  There was art again.  But there was also photography, drama, and music.  My vision of what it meant to be creative expanded – but just ever so slightly.  I tried these things.  I really did.  And, I generally failed miserably.  I still couldn’t create anything beautiful from chalk or pencils or paint.  I was way too insecure and shy to get on a stage, and musical instruments were like foreign objects to me.  If it wasn’t a triangle with a little wand to hit it with, I wasn’t going near it.

By the time I reached early adulthood, I was entrenched in the mindset that I was simply not born with creative ability and would never obtain it.

It wasn’t my thing.  When I thought about it, this disappointed me, but it was something I accepted.

But oddly enough, as I moved through the world, met other people, read new things, and took different jobs, I realized just how confused I had been about what it means to be creative.  Creativity is not limited to art or theater.  Creativity is a mental process.  It’s a method of thinking and living that involves exploring new concepts, generating ideas, trying new things, and being adventurous in experimenting with thoughts and actions.

Once I understood this, it became clear to me that I am a indeed a creative person AND a type-a, left-brained, planner, too.

I’m creative when I problem-solve with clients at work about how to make their lives more safe and comfortable.  I’m creative when I wade through my apprehension to see what it feels like to work a sewing machine.  I’m creative when I see a recipe and start thinking about what spices to swap for one another and what vegetables I might want to use that aren’t included in the instructions.  I’m creative when I read a book and let my mind wander into a world of fantasy or when I generate ideas for blog post while out on a run.

I am creative all the damn time.

Seriously.

I bet you are, too. And, you may not even notice it.

My creative pursuits are most evident these days in my knitting, cooking/baking, and writing.  (By the way, I’ve always been a writer, but never thought of it as creative.  Since I generally wrote non-fiction-type things I didn’t think it counted.  Funny.)  But, as I’ve shared, it shows up all over the place.  Some of my most creative moments don’t necessarily have any tangible end-product.  Brainstorming with co-workers and solving problems with clients is a whole world of creative energy in its own right.

Moral of this story?

It took me to practice creativity in my thinking to understand what creativity really is.  Doing so has opened up a whole new sense of self and a fascinating abundance of possibilities.

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To read the previous series in this column, select the ‘Why Wednesdays’ tag in the right side column.  The prior series in this column explored the topic of running.