Quiz time! Do you listen to your body?
MIND YOUR BODY
1. If I experience a new pain in my body, I tend to:
A. Just plough on, until I invariably end up bed-ridden.
B. Pop a couple of paracetamols and cross those fingers.
C. Ascertain what’s wrong and get appropriate treatment promptly.
D. Decamp to bed immediately and send for a doctor.
2. When it comes to following my gut instinct:
A. I often go against my gut, even when I know something is wrong.
B. I rarely listen to it – otherwise I’d never get anything done.
C. When something isn’t right, I sense it and notice sensations in my body.
D. Before I do anything, I pretty much consult a psychic.
3. My physical pace is generally:
A. Clunky, awkward and I’m rather accident-prone.
B. Fast, and my body is tense.
C. I make time for quiet reflection daily, even if it’s just for five minutes.
D. I often need long naps during the day.
4. My self-care routine is:
.A. Non-existent. I’m good at looking after others – not so much myself.
B. Minimal – perhaps a bit of fresh air at lunchtime. I only tend to my health when I have to.
C. I have a daily routine that consists of exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep, meditation and down time.
D. Complex. I have a lot of dietary requirements and allergies, which can make life challenging.
5. If I find myself feeling tired, depressed or burnt out, I will:
A. Self-medicate, either through alcohol or sleeping pills.
B. Push through – it’s normal to feel stressed from work.
C. Listen to what my body’s trying to say and get the necessary support to restore my wellbeing.
D. Panic and find myself frozen with anxiety.
6. In terms of my mind-body connection, I would say:
A. They are totally disconnected. I lead with my head.
B. The occasional trip to the gym or early night seems to keep my mind and health ticking over.
C. I believe my body is often trying to communicate with me and I’m very in touch with my emotions and physical sensations.
D. Mind and body must be in perfect synchronicity at all times, or else a week off work beckons.
The thought of listening to your body just isn’t on your radar. You may consider that kind of behaviour an unnecessary indulgence, or you may feel you’re in some way undeserving of gentle care. Perhaps you expend a lot of energy looking after others, while turning a blind eye to your own needs.
You may roll your eyes at the concept of putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, but it’s possible that if you don’t start looking after your own health, your body will communicate more and more loudly until you need to stop and take note.
Consider whether you might have self-destructive tendencies. In the future, try to break habits that don’t serve you and think about all the reasons why you are grateful for your body.
‘SHED’ stands for ‘sleep, hydration, exercise, diet’. Review how well you’re tending to these basics and identify one gift of self-care you can give yourself today.
JUST GETTING BY
Deep down, the concept of listening to your body isn’t completely alien to you, but you don’t do it enough. You are capable of tending to your needs in many ways and, on the whole, you make decisions that keep your mind and body functioning fairly well.
You may also be aware of ways in which you could listen to your body more, whether this is driving yourself a little less hard at work, exercising often, getting more sleep or simply stepping off the hamster wheel of life.
Don’t always go for the convenient or seemingly easy option. Without wanting to scare you unnecessarily, this kind of ‘everything will be fine’ thinking can sometimes catch up
Slow down and pause for a moment to focus on your breathing. Even if it’s during a toilet break.
TOTALLY IN TOUCH
Congratulations – you’ve honed the art of listening to your body. Perhaps this comes naturally to you, or maybe you’ve learned the hard way after running yourself into the ground once too often.
Psychotherapist Sheldon B Kopp wrote: ‘The secret of enlightenment is: when you are hungry, eat; and when you are tired, sleep.’
There’s a helping hand within your psyche that tends to and protects your needs. You know what balm is required. The way in which you care for yourself also sends a message to those around you that they have permission to care for themselves, too.
Practise mindful eating and see which foods most nourish you.
Time for some tough love: rather than listening to your body accurately, you may be overly sensitive, and fail to know the difference between a minor ailment and a serious illness.
If you’re constantly complaining about something, ask yourself why that is. If you bombard friends with details of your latest perceived health setback, it might be time to turn to someone better qualified for support. If you’ve made extreme lifestyle choices, try to get a firm grasp on where that’s coming from.
Meditating may help you focus and quieten your mind, so that you can discern the messages that really count.
Read more: Are you burnt out?
FIND YOUR BALANCE
WHAT LIES BENEATH
Culturally, here in the West, we tend to give the body pretty short shrift, prioritising the capabilities of the rational mind and focusing more on the external appearance of the body rather than what’s going on inside. For many of us, the internal functioning of our bodies only becomes a consideration when something goes wrong.
MAKING SENSE OF SENSATIONS
As you sit and read this, try to notice how conscious or unconscious you are of the sensations in your body. In disciplines such as yoga and Aikido (a Japanese martial art), practitioners talk of dropping out of the head and into the body. Practising this expansion of awareness through the body is an excellent first step.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FEEL
Deepak Chopra says: ‘Feel what you feel.’ Don’t deny or try to talk your way out of something – the best path is to simply embrace how you feel and act accordingly. Resist the temptation to override the body’s calls for attention: it’s unlikely that what a headache is trying to communicate is that you need painkillers! What is its real cause?
INTERPRETING THE HIDDEN MESSAGE
If you have a mystery ailment (that you’ve had checked out by your GP), which is persistently hanging around, it might be helpful to explore what you think that ailment would communicate to you if it had a voice. It’s quite possible that your body knows something your mind has been striving to ignore.
Do you go with your gut? Balance asked Londoners about their connection with their bodies