Our bodies are amazing instruments that are constantly sending us messages about how they are feeling and what they need. Unfortunately, we often ignore or override these signals, pushing ourselves to the limit and neglecting our own needs. When we don’t listen to our body, we can experience physical and emotional exhaustion, stress, illness, and injury. Until a few years ago, I completely lacked awareness of the messages my body was sending me. It took a health crisis for me to finally start to listen. Had I listened when my body was whispering, I wouldn’t have had to wait for it to scream at me that I needed to make some changes.
What Is Pain Telling Me?
Another important message to listen to is pain. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong or that you need to make a change. It’s not your body telling you that you just need more ibuprofen or tylenol. For many years I didn’t even question why I had chronic pain in my early 20s. I was annoyed by it, but I didn’t take the time to slow down and figure out the root of my pain. It took years of practice of slowing down and connecting my body to realize my pain was coming from me doing too much – I was in a constant state of fight or flight and my body was trying to use the pain to force me to rest. Ignoring pain can lead to serious problems down the line, so it's important to take it seriously and address it.
Am I asking too much of my body?
Am I putting my body into physical positions that aren’t healthy?
Am I doing too much?
Is what I’m doing in alignment with my values?
Is there a relationship that I shouldn’t be in or need to limit my involvement in?
Is there something I feel guilty for currently or is guilt an emotion I constantly carry with me? Guilt seeks punishment and punishment creates pain in the body.
In addition to physical messages, your body also sends emotional messages that are important to listen to. For example, if you feel stressed or anxious, your body may be telling you that you need to slow down, take a break, or engage in activities that help you relax. It may even be that you need to eat more! Many of us aren’t eating enough nourishing foods, or even enough calories that leads to anxiety. Emotional distress can be caused by taking in too much negativity – be careful about what you listen to, watch, and read because it all affects you. This is especially true of social media – be very aware of how you feel during and after going on facebook or instagram and make sure to limit how much time you spend on there. Ignoring these emotional messages can lead to burnout, anxiety, and other mental health problems, as well as general restlessness and apathy.
Am I Giving My Body What It Needs?
Finally, listening to your body means being aware of what you put into it. This includes the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, and even the air you breathe. Pain is often caused by eating foods that cause a lot of inflammation. There are some generalized foods that are known for causing inflammation like sugar and highly processed foods. But then each individual can have pain caused by foods that just their body doesn’t like due to food sensitivities or allergies. It helps to pay attention to what you’ve eaten in the last 24 hours when pain strikes or to keep a food journal to see if it’s food related. Foods that I am sensitive to will cause mild headaches and brain fog for me personally. Pain can also be caused by dehydration – your muscles and joints need lubrication, as well as all of your cells. Imagine the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz and how he needed to be oiled to talk and move – your body needs enough water to keep functioning well.
Listening To Your Body Is Self-Care
Listening to your body is an essential part of self-care. By paying attention to the messages your body sends you, you can take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. This can lead to greater health, happiness, and overall well-being. So the next time your body sends you a message in the form of a symptom, take a moment to listen and ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you. Even if it’s too hard to take a big step towards doing what your body needs, try taking the smallest step you can in the right direction. Every single choice we make is either moving us towards or away from health, there are no neutral decisions. Taking baby steps in the right direction is what moves us toward health in a sustainable way.