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?