Listening To Your Body by Natalie Sweet

I had many things to say on this subject. Many. I had planned to talk about how important it is for us, especially as service providers, to listen to our own bodies and serve our own needs. I had plans to preach. But the truth is sometimes I try to ignore my body because I do not want to hear what it’s saying to me. I drown out it’s wisdom with justifications as to why I need to do things exactly as I have been, no changes necessary. What a joke! We all know Mother Nature will not be ignored. If you don’t listen, she just gets louder. And last week, for me, she got real loud. 

Like many, I’ve had a doozy of a past year but it seems like the worst (the COVID unknown) is now over. In the past month I have driven from my refuge in Toronto to my home in Los Angeles, gotten vaccinated, emptied my storage unit, moved into a new home, and fully prepared/redecorated/restocked my beauty studio for its long awaited reopening. Needless to say, things have been mildly chaotic. But I was prepared! I’d spent months planning and plotting each detail; crafting spreadsheets of product and supply orders and new protocols, choosing design details, learning new technical skills. So when I finally arrived back in Los Angeles and it was time to make these plans a reality I didn’t just hit the ground running I was in a fullspeed Olympic sprint. 

The thing is, the lessons I learned during the last year really emphasized the importance of calm, of moving with intention, of taking thoughtful time to check in and see how I feel, of staying focussed and in the moment, but the second I got back to Los Angeles I tucked those away. I got out my lighter and lit that candle at both ends and I did it with glee. I thought I’d been patient for so long that now it was GO time. During my energetic first week back in LA I’d found ways to repeatedly injury myself. It started out small, I’d trip or stub my toe, but then I smashed my finger in a door more than once. It hurt. I realized I needed to chill out, that I needed to remember to take it easy and do things at my own pace. My body was giving me these harsh little reminders. In retrospect it seems so obvious, but I didn’t really get the message, besides I had stuff to do! 

Late last Tuesday night, I sat hunched over my laptop way past my bedtime. Exhausted I rubbed my tired eyes. Just my luck, this simple, careless action severely scratched my cornea, a 5mm scrape to be exact (rather large for an eyeball), which immediately blurred my vision and within a few hours devolved into searing pain. Suddenly, nothing else was important. Nothing. The unpacking had to wait. The studio set up hard to wait. The texts had to wait. Happily, I survived and so did my eye (it’s still healing) but afterwards it felt like I was punched in the face both literally and figuratively. I had been completely stopped in my tracks and forced to listen. My body had been telling me what it needed (rest, a slower overall pace, not to get overly anxious), but I refused to listen so it forced me to. I couldn’t help but think,  ‘how apropos the week before I’m supposed to write a blog about listening to your body’. I share my story as just one example of what can happen when we try to ignore our own body’s infinite wisdom. 

While I sincerely hope something like my cornea scrape never happens to you, chances are there has been a time or two when your body has sent you some pretty clear signals that you chose to ignore. I find this often happens in relation to how our bodies feel after we work. The postures in which sit all day, the specific movements of our necks and wrists sometimes can create discomfort within our bodies. We all notice this but we often ignore it. The same thing goes for our mental health.

When we find ourselves in mental overwhelm often our bodies are screaming out to us “Stop! Drink water! Breathe calmly! Don’t get caught in the echo chamber” but we don’t, we can’t, we have other things to do. Sigh. The thing is, ignoring our body’s signals is a dangerous game. The longer we put off dealing with our sore backs or poor posture the more discomfort we can find ourselves in which eventually can lead to a shortened career and a lower quality of life. The same, of course, is true for mental health.

The body doesn’t forget things, even if our conscious mind does. The body registers your pain but also all the times you decided to ignore it. Eventually, the body will get the last word. It’s more than OK to slow down and give your body what it’s craving, weather that’s bodywork, a warm bath, or just 5mins of solitude, in fact taking good care of yourself is your #1 job. 

I think it’s important to keep in mind that your body loves you and is always, instinctively, trying to help and protect you. So when you hear it’s messages, even if you don’t like them or want to deal with them, please remember that you are worth the effort and thank your body for its help. 

What physical signs do you pay attention to? Let us know in the comments!

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