Why did I eat that donut? Oh, I don’t feel good.
No, not only 5 hours of sleep, again!
I’m dehydrated. I need water!
I’m full of energy and ready for the day!
Thanks for giving me that relaxing Epsom salt bath. I needed that magnesium!
I feel better when I don’t eat sugar.
It may sound ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s that far fetched.
Did you know your body talks to you?
Maybe it’s not an audible voice, but your body does talk.
It gives you signals. It communicates in feelings. It speaks in symptoms.
Are you listening?
I like to ask myself this question, because for years I ignored what my body was telling me. I was a master at pushing it aside and pressing on with my life agenda. Men and women are good at this. And this is not something we should be commended for. In fact, it often takes a health crisis for us to start listening! How unfortunate. We can’t take care of our responsibilities and love our family well, when our health is crumbling. That’s when we start listening to our body. That’s when we start saying, “How did I get here?”
For you who are already in a health crisis, it’s time to start listening!
It’s time to make a big change in your perspective.
It’s time to make small changes in your daily life.
Change of Perspective
It’s not selfish to take care of your body’s needs.
Let me say that again.
It’s not selfish to take care of your body’s needs.
Think of it this way. Your body is a gift to cherish and nourish. The Bible describes the body as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) It also reminds the Christian that the body is the temple of God, in which His Spirit dwells. (1 Corinthians) We have the privilege of being good stewards of this amazing human body.
Now, to disregard the needs of others is selfish. It’s good and right to take care of those whom God has entrusted to us, like spouses, children or aging parents. The blessings that come from serving one another outweigh our bodily demands. We are called to give up our needs for their needs. In those times, it’s just the right thing to do. For instance, it would be wrong for a nursing mother to ignore her hungry child’s cry, because she is so self-focused. However, what I am asking you to consider is how that nursing mother can care for herself throughout motherhood, so that she can be the best loving caregiver for her baby.
I’m not referring to a surface caring of the body, like grooming, showering, and eating three square meals a day. Basic needs are fairly easy to recognize. I’m talking about a deeper understanding of what YOUR body needs, compared to every other human being on the planet. We are created differently, in shape, height, personality, desires, and needs. For example, because of my genetics, autoimmune condition, or whatever underlying reason, I thrive on a minimum of nine hours of sleep per night. However, my husband does just fine on seven. We have learned to work our schedule and lives around that need. Jim is very gracious to be quiet in the mornings when I sleep longer. (If we ever have children, we’ll have to adjust, I know! We’ll cross that bridge with thankfulness when it comes.)
My aim here is to make you aware of your body’s signals, so you can be healthy. By listening and responding to your body, you will be ready and able to give more of yourself to your loved ones.
Change in Daily Life
What does YOUR body need? Have you truly thought about it?
In the busyness and stress of American life, our senses have become numb. We are sleep deprived, nutrient deficient, and emotionally strung out. Unpleasant symptoms or feelings is our body’s way of trying to get our attention – to change the way we eat, sleep, think, or move.
But there is hope! By making small changes in our daily lives, we can learn to be present and listen in each moment. I’m getting better at it, but it takes practice. Here are some clues that my body gives me. It may not be the same for you, but hopefully this will get you thinking.
Poor digestion – This one is huge! I wish I had listened to my body the first time around. (See My Purple Pill Story.) Now, occasional acid reflux tells me to examine something I ate or to let go of anxious thoughts.
Tight muscles – I especially notice this when I’m driving in traffic or when I have not exercised enough.
Shallow breathing – When I’m typing emails or writing my blog, I get so focused, that I forget to stop and breathe deeply! Check this especially if you have a desk job.
Trouble falling asleep – Too much stress and too little exercise are usually the culprits for my sleep problems. Lately, I’ve been learning that exposure to blue light in the evening, especially one to two hours before bed, is detrimental to my sleep. We love our new low-blue light bulbs!
Itchy skin – Sometimes it’s an offending food. But worry affects my skin far more than I wish to admit. I’m still working on this one!
Our bodies talk to us in other ways too. Do you experience these? (These symptoms may also indicate a serious medical problem. Always consult your physician.)
- Achy joints
- Weight gain
- Sugar cravings
- Panic attacks
- Foggy thinking
There are a myriad of signs and signals your body could give you. Now that you’ve started to recognize your body’s clues, let’s look at possible ways to address them.
How to Start Listening
View food as nourishment – Do you consider food as fuel for your body? Just as you wouldn’t put gasoline in a diesel engine, your body is not designed to handle trans fat, petroleum-based chemicals, or high-fructose corn syrup in processed food. Over time, it breaks down. Look at your food choices. Make a conscious effort to nourish your body with real food. You might be pleasantly surprised how your body talks to you after switching to a whole foods diet.
Discover food sensitivities – In addition to eating real food, I recommend a food sensitivity test. When you eliminate foods that are causing inflammatory reactions, your body will calm down. The top food intolerances are gluten, diary, soy, corn, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and shellfish. (Read my post Why is Gluten Sensitivity on the Rise?)
Make sleep sacred – Americans are suffering a sleep deprivation epidemic, according to the CDC. Are your body’s distress signs due to lack of sleep? Seven to eight is what most of us require. Getting more sleep may revolutionize your health.
Take naps – This may seem obvious. Rest when you get tired. But how many of us actually stop, even for a few moments, and allow our bodies to rest? Fifteen to twenty minute power naps can recharge your body and your day! Give them a try. Don’t fight it; let yourself rest.
Learn to say no – For driven goal-oriented people, this is so hard, but oh, so necessary! You can’t do everything and you were not meant to do everything. When you say yes to every project and activity, even good ones, you risk burn out and health problems. Plus, you take away the opportunity for someone else to excel in their gifting! Give others a chance to say yes.
Ask for help – Asking for help not only prevents problems, but can save you when you are struggling. My good friend recently asked for meals to be delivered to her family while she is sick with nausea in her first trimester. I was so proud of her! We need one another. Asking for help is a great way to give your body and mind support when you need it most.
Stop and breathe – I find learning to breathe deeply on a continual basis is difficult. But if I can stop and think about breathing for a few moments throughout my day, I refresh my mind, muscles, and even cells.
Get up and move – If you sit most of the day, you are setting yourself up for long-term health issues. Prolonged sitting increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, and even early death. Your body may be giving you clues now – achy back, poor posture, neck pain, and eye strain. It’s imperative that you get up out of your chair and move! (I just got up and did ten squats.) At work, walk the long way to refill your water bottle, get up and go talk to your colleague instead of using the phone, or build short movement breaks into your day.
Go outside – How often to you get fresh air? Sun? These are critical aspects to health and yet, we spend most of our days indoors. Not only does sunshine help our body make Vitamin D in the summer, but being out in nature also gives our spirits an opportunity to relax and renew. My brother takes an outdoor walk during his lunch break almost daily and says it’s one of the best things he does for his high-tech, high-stress workday.
Stretch tight muscles – Stretching is another way to relax and melt away tension. Learn a few simple stretching exercises to do at your desk or find a routine to do at home when you wake up or before going to sleep.
Massage your feet – Massaging my feet is a favorite way to relax muscles, as well as aid breathing and digestion. There are acupressure points in your feet that correspond to your entire system. Suburban Grandma has a helpful list and videos of how to massage your feet with these points in mind. It really works!
Check your thought life – “As you think, so shall you become.” Bruce Lee is not someone I usually quote, but in this case, he is right on target! Your thoughts determine how you feel and act. Your body will psychologically follow your positive or negative thoughts. Anyone who has battled panic attacks understands this. The Bible puts it this way. “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil 4:8) Could it be that your body is experiencing symptoms that are directly related to your thought life? Change your thoughts; change your body.
Try some of these ideas and see if they work. Let me know if they help you listen to your body’s signals. In a future post, I will explain a beneficial Life Balance Chart that helped me process and analyze my body’s symptoms in detail.
Your body is speaking! Are you listening?
Listen for yourself.
Listen for your family and your future.
Your health depends on it.