Listening to our bodies
Our bodies talk to us all the time. But do we listen? And do we know what they are telling us?
Our bodies send us messages and clues all the time to tell us what they need. We feel thirsty when we need a drink, we feel hungry when we need to eat, we feel tired when we need to sleep, we feel the urge when we need to go to the toilet. Other signs that we need to pay attention to our bodies may be pain, stress, stiffness, tension, fatigue, inflammation and many other bodily symptoms that indicate less than ideal health.
Our bodies are so cleverly and wonderfully made. They are our vehicle to move around, interact and function in this world. They are the most amazing balance of chemical reactions, nerve impulses, muscle contractions, cellular regeneration and degeneration, and the list goes on. Truly, the complexity of the human body is phenomenal. I am sometimes amazed that it ever goes right at all, after all such a tiny change in any one thing can cause an amazingly complex cascade of events and result in poor health.
We so often neglect our bodies. We take them for granted. We get caught up in the busyness of our day to day lives and the busy chatter in our minds. We put our work and others above our own health and needs. We often allow these things to take precedence and we forget to listen to the sometimes quiet whispers from our bodies. The thing about ignoring the quiet whispers is that if your body cannot get your attention this way and cannot get what it needs, the quiet whispers will eventually get louder. If need be, they will turn into screams if that is what it takes to get your attention. Your body will do what it needs to to get your attention.
Are you guilty of not listening to your body? Perhaps you catch yourself holding on to go to the toilet until you are oh so busting because you have to finish making the dinner, or you get to the end of the day and you are starving because you haven’t eaten, you are so dead tired but you are determined to stay up late to watch your favourite show. Don’t beat yourself up about it – we all make this mistake at some time. But we have to make sure that we do not make a habit of this. Let now be the time that you start paying more attention to your body. Start to develop a good relationship with your body.
Sometimes even when we do start to listen to our bodies, we have become so out of tune with them that the messages have gotten all mixed up. For example, you may feel hungry when in fact you do not need food at all, your body may be tired and need to rest but it has been so overstimulated (by work, caffeine, late nights, etc) that you can’t even get to sleep, you don’t think you are stressed but your body is telling you otherwise. As you practise listening to your body. You will start to understand its messages more. Just like anything, you get better at it the more you practise. Start by tuning in to your body several times a day, even if for only a few seconds. Notice what it feels like and see if you can determine what it is telling you – are you tired, thirsty, hungry, stiff, tense, busting for the toilet, in pain, stressed, overwhelmed?
We should marvel at our bodies and have the greatest respect for them. We should celebrate them. Appreciate what your body allows you to do, even if it doesn’t look quite as you would like. Love it for how it enables you to walk, to hug your loved ones, to do the things you love doing. Respect your body enough to look after it well. Nurture it. Take the time to pay attention to it. See if you can determine what cues it is giving you. Is it telling you to slow down, to eat better, to get out and go for a walk, to stretch? Or perhaps, you need some help figuring out what it is telling you. Perhaps a Doctor, a Physiotherapist or some other health professional can help you figure out the clues. Sometimes the messages are so complex and confusing that we need the assistance of someone who has training in understanding the body.
As Physiotherapists, we are trained to assist people in determining what is causing their symptoms and what we need to do to treat them. We use a thorough subjective examination (history taking) and physical examination to help us determine what your body needs. We can then work with you to provide that for your body to improve the way that it functions for you.
So, what do you need to do? Do you need to just stop for a minute and listen to your body? To start to listen to its messages and take action accordingly? Or perhaps you have no idea what it needs you to do – perhaps you have ongoing pain that you are not sure how to manage?
If you do need help with this process, find a health professional whom you trust to assist you. Your body will thank you for it.