If you tell your body to do things day after day, year after year, ignoring signs of communication from your animal body, you are missing the cues and experiencing what I call the Mind-over-Matter approach. Physical cues such as exhaustion, digestive problems, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and getting viruses and other infections all the time are signs that our bodies are out of balance. If we value only our minds over what matters for our bodies, we not only set ourselves up for stress-related illness and syndromes, but also for accidents, troubled relationships and empty-feeling lives.
It took me years to allow myself a day off work when I was feeling a cold virus coming on. I would keep plowing ahead until I literally got a fever or a secondary infection. I would get so upset and blame myself for letting others down and get angry at the inconvenience of my body. As a self-employed person, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, and there is no one else to fill in for me with my commitments to others. It’s taken me until late in my fourth decade to understand how much down-time I need in my life in order to stay balanced in my work and family life…and I rarely get sick anymore. When I do get sick, it’s still not easy for me, but I tend to see it coming sooner, and immediately get serious about checking in with myself more deeply to see what has gotten out of balance.
This past winter, I was fortunate to travel to Florida to stay with some friends for a few days. I had been so looking forward to sunshine, the ocean and relaxing. Years ago I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affect Disorder, which basically means that I get depressed, sick, and have trouble sleeping with corresponding day-time exhaustion if I don’t get enough sunlight, vitamin D3, and/or exposure to my light therapy appliance. I knew I was heading down a “slippery slope” just before I left for Florida in that I was more tired than usual, my mood was more subdued than my typical energetic self, but I figured I’d be ok if I could just get to the beach! I noticed these physical signs of depletion, but I also started asking myself about any underlying emotions that were brewing inside me. I realized in particular, that I was in need of some personal time where I could spend time creating… my new website, music, art.
As awesome as my trip to Florida was, I didn’t get to spend extended time on my own personal projects. When I got home and resumed my normal schedule, I came down with a sinus cold. This was the first cold I’d had in years so I was very suspicious about what had caused it and wondered if I had not taken my longing for personal time seriously enough. I came toward myself and tended to what was underneath that was coming through as my cold virus. Sure enough, when I slowed down and tuned in, I realized I was craving time just for me before I went back to work. My body was grieving, even though I was not aware of any sadness emotionally. I took some time off work since the cold was coming on strong and I could not risk exposing my clients to germs. I holed up, rested, wrote and tended to my aching self that wanted to luxuriate in solitude. I allowed tears to come and admit to myself how easy it can still be for me to over-ride my inner needs. After thoroughly enjoying my personal time, my body and aching self recovered. I was back to work by the end of the week feeling satisfied and rested. I am so lucky to have clients who understand if I need to reschedule due to personal needs. I try hard to build my self-care into my normal daily life to keep balanced and fortified. But I know there are no guarantees in life, and the best approach for me to handle what comes along is the regular practice of listening to my body to hear what truth it has to tell me. I’m grateful for it’s guidance.