The medical term for listening to our body is called Interoception and it’s defined as an: “Awareness of one’s body … intimately linked to self-identity, the sense of being “me”. A key question is how the brain integrates different sensory signals from the body to produce the experience of this body as [one’s own], known as sense of body-ownership.”
The key to actually listening to our body and understanding what it says is feeling empathy for it (and ourselves). After all it is our body, we live inside it. Many times we are culturally conditioned to “tough things out” and that is misinterpreted as a need to deny. If we feel stressed out by a particular situation or our lifestyle in general we tend to disregard the feeling, clamping down on our emotions and keep on going until we break.
We adopt the same senseless bravery when we are ill or injured. We tend to keep on going with a dogged determination that disregards the warning signs. We usually end up aggravating things rather than making them better. Here’s how to avoid all of this in the first instance:
- Be open to how we feel. That means we don’t ignore situations that make us feel stressed out and uncomfortable. Granted many times we don’t have a choice and we cannot walk away but acknowledgement allows us to realize we are getting stressed and that means we can deal with it better.
- Establish a routine. Even the most erratic lifestyles still have some routine. A routine allows us to create natural dips and peaks in our day, when it is OK to slow down a little and grab a breather before forging on again.
- Smile. A smile releases the same endorphins in our body as if we are genuinely happy and after a while everything begins to fall into perspective.
- Be Realistic. Going from zero to hero in any kind of training program is a recipe for disaster and a call for injury. The body is an adaptive machine but it needs time to adapt. So make sure you increase your training load and difficulty levels incrementally and you take the tried and tested “slow and steady” route. In fitness there really are no shortcuts.
- Be kind to yourself. This is probably the hardest part to follow. We tend to sacrifice ourselves way too easily because our bodies are something we control which makes it easy to ignore our own needs first. Making sure we eat right, drink plenty of water and get enough rest and sleep is the hardest thing to maintain but it is important for physical and mental recuperation and long-term balance. Occasional deep rests tend to make up for the hectic lifestyles we all lead and staying hydrated and getting some downtime where we enjoy some music, play a game or just look at a view, are all activities that help take our minds and bodies away from constant effort and allow them to recharge.