Are You Listening To What Your Body Tells You?
In this article:
- Listen to Your Body Before it Starts Screaming
- How to Listen to Your Body
- How to Help Your Body Heal
- Listening to Your Body Takes Practice
The human body is a miraculous piece of work. It’s an advanced machine with the brain and heart at the helm keeping our blood flowing and our motor skills going as if we’re on auto-pilot. Unless you’re in extreme pain or incapacitated, you don’t have to will yourself to blink, yawn, or move. When you put your mind to it, you are able to accomplish feats that seem superhuman like climbing mountains, running marathons, or lifting twice your bodyweight. A mother carrying another human as it grows in her belly for nine months, giving birth, and then healing afterward still blows my mind. Our bodies are amazing! We are so accustomed to being able to do these extraordinary things without a second thought. We push ourselves past limits, yet perhaps in doing so we may be conditioning ourselves to ignore signs that we’re not okay.
Have you ever gone through your entire day and your shoulders are aching, but you can’t figure out why? Did you sleep in an awkward position? Nope. Did you pull any muscles or make any sudden moves? No visible injuries can be seen, but you are experiencing a dull pain. Then you start to replay your day in your mind. You remember sitting in one place for a long time. You were working on something that kept stressing you out. Gradually through the hours your shoulders rose up to your ears, your neck dropped to look at a screen, and you were stuck in an uncomfortable position without relief. Yet you endured because you needed to finish the task. But the stress of the situation got the best of you and you still feel it.
Our bodies hold on to so much information. Like a computer, we humans store memories in the motherboard also known as our minds, yet we also store memories in our bodies. It’s not just muscle memory from doing repetitive tasks, but emotional memories. Yes, your body holds on to your emotions and those emotional memories can turn into trauma that manifests physically in your body. Doctors continue to study how trauma manifests itself in the human body and the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. dives deep into this phenomenon with extensive research and interviews from patients who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to experts in psychology and medicine.
Since we were children, we’ve been taught not to listen to the messages our body sends to us. Take a moment and think about it. How many times did an authority figure tell you to toughen up when you said you were hurt? How often did your parents send you to school when you said you didn’t feel so good? For many of us, we were conditioned to push down the pain and keep going.
“There’s a lot of people who aren’t listening to their bodies. We have to be responsible for every scream and every ache,” explains Diana Dencker, a functional nutrition health coach. “If you tend to the alarm bells as they go, you can create healthy systemic balance.”
Perhaps you don’t believe any of this applies to you. You may not have experienced extreme trauma at all, but you may not be feeling your best when you want. Maybe you’ve been overdoing it on the caffeine because you feel sluggish, but your body is trying to tell you that you need to rest. Your body is a clear indicator of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being and there are ways to heal when you notice something’s even a teeny bit off.
It’s 10 times harder to fix what’s going on inside of you when you continue to ignore the signs. You sense that there’s something going on within your body, now how do you listen?
- Search for physical signs. Take a good look at yourself. Is your hair abnormally or prematurely thinning? How’s your skin? Bags under the eyes? If you look disheveled, there’s a strong indication that your wellbeing needs attending to and that’s okay. Be gentle and take account of your health without judgment.
- Slow down. We are so accustomed to functioning at high levels of stress and productivity. Apply the lessons that this past year has taught us and chill out. When you are able to stop busying yourself with work, errands, and taking care of others you will actually be able to focus on what’s bothering you. That last email you want to send can wait until tomorrow. Remember that your health is paramount.
- Meditate. One of my favorite health check-ins I do regularly includes a body scan meditation. I breathe and focus on each part of my body allowing those parts of myself that may be experiencing pain or discomfort to speak. Take as much time as you need for this meditation.
See your physician. If your pain or symptoms are severe and recurring, you may need to see a professional. Perhaps they can even refer you to a specialist.
Talk to your therapist, life or health coach, or someone you trust to listen and advise you on your emotional, physical, and mental needs. If you believe there’s something wrong, it’s best to figure out with a confidant who can help you make sense of it all.
Try stretching and restorative yoga. Have you ever watched a cat or a dog stretch after waking up or sitting for a long time and thought “Man, that looks like it feels great?” You too can have that experience. Feel into those parts of yourself that need love and stretch. I thoroughly enjoy winding down with restorative yoga right before bedtime to help shake off the day. Not only does it work wonders on my body, but also on my mind.
Take a self-care day or hit the spa. Work out those knots in your body with a massage. Try acupuncture, Reiki, or cupping to relieve tension in your body. Soak in a jacuzzi or in your tub. Long baths in lavender or Epsom salt really work wonders.
Try hair, skin, and nail supplements. While you’re on the journey to getting healthier, give your body a boost with multivitamins specifically targeted to help restore healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Tend to your belly. Take an account of the foods you’re eating and how they make you feel. It may be time to invest in prebiotics and probiotics to balance whatever’s going on inside your tummy.
Your body is constantly speaking to you. It communicates within itself and then to you. If there’s an imbalance in part of your body, there’s an imbalance in the entire system. Maintain your care and pay attention. Remember that your body holds on to your emotions. What you may not be able to verbally articulate, your body is expressing through physical pain and physical attributes. But there are ways you can help. By speaking and listening to your body with kindness and grace, you can begin to heal those parts of yourself that need it. Love on your body and your body will love you back.