Though your body holds valuable information you need to function at your best, if you are like many, you have developed a habit of ignoring its messages and plowing ahead. The noise of competing external demands can become so overwhelming that you become deaf to the essential, subtler whispers from your body that something is amiss and merits attention.
You take aspirin rather than investigate what’s causing your head to ache. You power up by doubling caffeine or sugar intake, rather than getting more rest—or recognizing your fatigue as an early symptom of burnout you’d do well to heed.
When asked to take on yet another commitment, what insight can you glean from the thousands of messages embedded in how your body responds?
- Is your mouth pinched, tight or frowning?
- Are your shoulders up around our ears?
- Is there a knot of tension in your stomach?
If any or all of these symptoms are present, it may well be your body’s way of screaming “no” because you are already over-extended.
For years I demonstrated extraordinary ability to put professional deadlines and everyone else’s needs ahead of my aching bones, burgeoning fat stores, full bladder and weary soul. (Does anyone else see the irony in calling them DEADlines?) I had mastered the hamster wheel approach to life. I kept going—no matter what—thanks to working vacations and loading doses of junk food, caffeine and sugar.
Until one day I woke up 80 pounds heavier in body and soul—no good to myself or anyone else. Despite the fancy titles, fortune and fame, I had become a poster child for baby boomer burnout. How could the American dream have become such a nightmare?
On the journey to finally learning to take care of the one person I’d always neglected—MYSELF—I discovered a variety of tools and techniques to help me become more attentive and attuned to my body’s frequency. For those of you eager to do the same, here are some simple steps to help you support your own long term well-being physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually by becoming a better somatic listener.
Start with the breath. Mindful breathing is a major part of body awareness. Turn off thoughts and just let yourself experience the inflow and outflow of breath. Note how and where you are breathing or failing to, clear signs something important is going on.
Allow yourself quiet time. Sit for ten minutes just observing yourself, even (especially) in the middle of a busy day. Meditate. Take a walk or a nap. Soak in a warm tub rather than taking a quick shower. Practice the long-lost art of doing nothing.
Get a massage. It’s not self-indulgence; it wakes up the whole nervous system, releases toxins and helps you tune in to what your body is trying to express.
Use your journal to dialogue with your body. Ask your body how it’s feeling, what it wants, what’s going on. Give that sore wrist or stiff lower back a voice by inviting it to share its message.
Eat when hungry, sleep when tired. Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Do your real rhythms and needs (quality, quantity and frequency) of eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, experiment with changes that might better align with greater well-being.
Do a relaxation body inventory. Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside. Try tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension.
Practice mindfulness. Get used to tuning in to your physical self, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. A big bonus: getting to enjoy the insights your physical self can yield concerning your mental, emotional and spiritual selves.
Whatever you do, remain playful in your approach. We sometimes have a tendency to mistakenly believe that nothing valuable is accomplished unless we are deadly serious and suffering. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! If your body suggests rolling down a grassy hillside, taking flight on a playground swing, flying a kite, skipping down a winding path or laughing giddily for no reason, don’t resist.
Your intuitive impulses hold the key to your well-being.
Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
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