By Ilene Federman, LCSW-C
As a licensed therapist, I often ask my clients, “where do you feel that in your body?”
It is a simple question that can be hard to answer. Emotions and pain are not the only things that dwell in your body. So too do deep-seated beliefs, fears, and even passions.
So, what does “listening to our bodies” mean and how does it work?
Our bodies are one of our best sources of information. They are speaking to us all day, every day … telling us what we need to feel healthy, comfortable, and happy. Our bodies tell us to eat certain foods over others, get enough sleep, and exercise in whatever way works for us.
But are we listening?
Unfortunately, we have been taught to ignore what our bodies are telling us in order to push ourselves and even please the people around us. We stay awake to watch the end of a program, we exercise through pain, we eat in ways that make us feel bloated and sick. This is not proper self-care, in the short-term or the long run.
Tuning in to the sensations we experience throughout our days (tightness in our chest, butterflies in our stomach, aches in our back) is important to do. We must take the time to listen.
Here are six things you can do to give your body the attention it deserves:
- Connect to your mind and body using breath and touch. Breathe deeply and bring into focus your inhale and exhale. What do they sound like? What do they feel like?
- Notice what your body is telling you. Are you feeling tense, tired, thirsty, tight, stiff, achy, anxious? What could these feelings mean? How can you address them to feel better?
- Respect your body. When you notice yourself having negative thoughts, replace them with thoughts of gratitude for how your body serves you. What does your body allow you to do?
- Listen to what your body needs and honor that. If you are thirsty, drink some water. Tired, take a nap.
- Consider what you need to stay healthy and go get it. Do you need greater support in the workplace or at home? Should you consider getting yourself a massage or a gym membership?
- Trust your gut. We often learn to tune out our body’s signals which can lead to an unhealthy, and possibly dangerous, disconnect. Are you pushing away what you know about your body? Are you masking what’s really going on? Tune back in! Re-establish the connection.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start listening to your body. If you’re unsure how, seek input from a medical professional like a therapist, counselor, or general physician. Don’t ignore YOU.
Ilene Federman, LCSW-C is Manager for Adult Therapy Services at Jewish Community Services.
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.