We’ve all heard our fair share of advice telling us how to listen to our bodies. But how many of us actually follow that advice?
I know that, for a long time, I didn’t. Sure, I thought that I was doing everything in my power to stay healthy. I was cutting out sugars from my diet. I was doing daily exercise. I was even stuffing myself with expensive supplements and using the latest health-tracking gadgets to bio-hack my way to health. Nonetheless, I was still finding myself wiped out every few months.
So, after a Sunday morning visit to the ER (followed by a full month of antibiotics and the inability to do anything else but recuperate), I realized it was high time I learned to listen to my body.
And, boy, did that decision change my life!
Learning How to Recognize the Signs
For most people, the signs of the body struggling to keep up tend to be different. For me, there are a few things that signal it’s time to take a rest.
The first is trouble sleeping. Sometimes, I start to suffer from insomnia (usually because I’m still staring at a laptop as late as 10 or 11 PM). Others, I can’t seem to get enough shut-eye, resulting in day-long drowsiness, too much coffee, and an unavoidable energy crash. Usually, it takes days for me to get back from even a single night of poor sleep, which is quite the undertaking when you’re self-employed.
The second clear sign of not taking care of myself is my skin. Whenever I get too busy (or too lazy) to cook wholesome meals, I slide into the trap of indulging in the wrong foods. Of course, a piece of cake or a delicious pizza won’t do me any wrong. But if it’s all I eat for a few days, I definitely start to notice dullness, puffiness, and sometimes even breakouts.
Finally, there are the flare-ups of my old injuries. Generally, my body takes nowhere near the kind of beating it did during my high school track days. After all, yoga and walking aren’t exactly hard on the joints. Nonetheless, my old knee and hip injuries do rear their ugly heads every once in a while. And the fascinating thing is, this tends to happen when I’m about to come down with a bug.
But here’s the deal: recognizing the signals my body is sending isn’t the challenging part about keeping in top shape. What I struggle with is listening to those signals and taking measures to ensure I stay healthy.
Practices Helping Me Stay In Touch With Myself
Back when I realized that the cycle of care-free highs and debilitating lows couldn’t go on, I decided to come up with a system that would help me listen to my body more effectively.
In the simplest of terms, I understood that recognizing that things were wrong wouldn’t be enough. Instead, I knew I had to create a set of rules that would force me to check in with myself every day, tracking everything that would impact my health (and yes, that meant my emotional state as well).
The first thing I did was start a habit tracker. But, instead of using it in a way that would force me to pick up coveted behaviors (like waking up at 4:30 AM every day), I made it wellbeing-focused. I tracked my sleep hours, work schedule, eating habits, and whether I provided myself enough time to relax.
Secondly, I’ve been doing my best to dedicate some time to daily journaling. I’m definitely not as diligent about it as I would like to be, but I still find that a 10-minute check-in before sleep helps me reflect on the day’s events. It also allows me to recognize the physical and emotional signals my body is sending to me, allowing me to identify practices that are superfluous in my life.
How I Use These Methods to Listen to My Body
For the most part of April and May of 2020, I felt like I was coming down with a bug. But while my subjective symptoms (a scratchy throat and a constant feeling of exhaustion) indicated a possible illness, my bloodwork and doctor’s tests kept coming back clear.
So, I decided to do a bit of mindfulness practice. I thought, if I took the time to listen to my body, I would figure out the signals it was sending and come up with a good plan of action.
I started by paying more attention to my daily routine. I noticed that most of my time was spent between one of three things. I was either working, doom-scrolling, or engaging in vigorous physical activity (as I thought I wasn’t getting enough movement).
So, I decided to create a routine that would be 100% focused on self-care and then check in with myself twice a day.
I came up with a strict 7-hour work schedule (enough to get everything done as long as I didn’t procrastinate). I set up time limitations on most of the apps on my phone. I picked up a couple of books. And, I blocked out time every morning and afternoon for reading on my balcony.
After a few weeks, I noticed that I was starting to feel better. Not only did the scratchy throat go away, but I was easily falling asleep before midnight and waking up at 7 AM feeling energized. Even more, the quality of my work went up, and I was in a noticeably better mood than was objective, considering there was a strict lockdown going on.
Taking These Practices to Move Forward
So, am I to be taken as a role model on the practice of listening to your body and doing everything in your power to stay fully healthy? Absolutely not! I still struggle with taking good enough care of myself.
But I do recognize that I’ve made a lot of progress. Sure, there will always be times when I push myself too hard. But, as long as I keep checking in and taking the time to listen to those signals my body sends me, I know I’m on the right track to feeling my best, physically and emotionally.
Sarah Kaminski is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.
Image courtesy of Kristina Paukshtite.