Why listening to your body is worth it

Let me hear your body talk

I woke up dizzy this morning. My head swam, and the bedroom veered to the right. Walking downstairs was a huge challenge, one tackled by scooting down on my bum, like a child stealthily sneaking downstairs to eavesdrop on her parents' grownups-only cocktail party. I fell down while measuring out my dog's food and decided this rainy day had something to teach me: Take it easy. You + couch = all-day HBO movie marathon.

How in tune are you with your body?

I'm not talking about true illnesses and ailments; obviously, if you have flu-like symptoms, you need a doctor. What I mean is listening to what your body tells you: what you need, whether a project is right, if an idea is wrong, and when you need to relax.

How in tune are you with what your body wants you to know? You might be ignoring its signals to take a chill pill while you're determined to soldier through, yet you owe yourself the courtesy of listening to your body's needs.

Yoga and meditation can play big roles in the mind-body connection. They encourage the participant to focus on her body's signals and capabilities and how the physical connects to the mental (and spiritual and emotional). Over time, my body has used weight loss to indicate stress, numb limbs to alert me to nutrition problems and hair loss to point out workaholism. (I could employ the ol' asterisk here, leading to a disclaimer at the bottom of this post, but this is too important to hide: I'm not a doctor, and you should always consult your physician about anything that seems awry. My symptoms and their causes were each confirmed by my physician, so if your body seems off or out of whack, please have the sense to seek help.)

I love this piece by Jocelyn K. Glei about productivity. She writes about the importance of setting boundaries for ourselves to protect our work. One of the best boundaries we can set is to take care of our bodies, to set the hard rule that we won't work while sick. Sure, if we prop ourselves up just right and balance our laptops just so, we can work through an illness. But should we be doing this? Should we sacrifice getting well faster to beat a client's deadline?

It isn't worth it. Our work isn't its best when constantly interrupted by coughing fits, sneeze attacks, dizzy spells or the myriad body problems we attempt to soldier through.

Remember when we weren't available 24 hours a day? When a colleague had to pick up the phone to do the hard job of verbally summoning us to work on the weekend rather than shooting an emotionless text?

Remember the phrase "off the clock," when we could casually hang out with friends and family, unburdened by work's responsibilities?

(And while we're reminiscing, remember summer break?)

Writer Cheryl Strayed told The Great Discontent:

What I've really learned in my 43 years is that the body does not lie; the body actually tells you what's right and wrong. If you get a sinking feeling in your stomach or a heavy heart about something, you shouldn't do it; and if you get a lifting, light feeling in your body, you should.

I had a copywriting opportunity recently to create content for a company's website and ad campaign. I felt sick over it because it's hard to turn down work, especially for freelancers: Every dollar made goes toward health care, taxes, the mortgage, you name it. All of the un-fun things those adults at grownups-only cocktail parties drink to forget.

In the end, I turned down the work. With all the time we spend laboring, we should be invigorated by our lives, passionate about the effort. That can't always happen (bills, bills, bills), but when we can control it, when the body screams "PUMP THE BRAKES" and the mind wails "I DON'T WANNA DO IT," we should listen. We owe ourselves that much.

  1. What has your body told you about your mind's condition?
  2. What boundaries are on your stop-doing and must-do lists?

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