Monday, September 15, 2014

When the going gets tough, listening to my body makes it less rough

As a full-time working mum who goes from her first working shift straight to her second mummy shift, I find it easy to feel extremely tired, physically and mentally. My body is exhausted with terribly tight muscles, especially in the upper back and, occasionally, the lower back. This could be due to long hours of working in front of a laptop, and from carrying little AA. This fatigue means that sometimes, I can’t stay awake past 9pm.

In fact, this feeling of extreme tiredness is not limited to full-time working mums. All mums, all dads, in fact, everyone can and will feel this way some time, and we react differently. Some have mild headaches, some have extreme muscle strain, some always feel lethargic and can’t seem to get enough rest, others fall sick easily because the body’s lower immune system becomes weaker..

Unfortunately, many tend to ignore these ‘protests’ by our bodies, due to our busy schedules and commitments. I’m no different. For my family and work, I do ignore my body’s shouts of ‘help’ with the terrible upper back pain that I get every other week or so. I always have some kind of excuse to not deal with it, such as having to finish up the work so that I can rush home to spend time with my little darlings. When I’m suffering from lack of sleep, I’ll get a caffeine boost from my trusty tea (since I hate coffee), and have it black without milk. Anything to get my body and mind going through the day, through the week, even though it gets tougher as time goes by.

I’ve gone for massages to ease my tense muscles, but only when the pain gets too unbearable. I knock out at 9pm because I’m just too tired and my mind has simply surrendered and shut down. It came to a point when I realised I must do more. Rushing from one responsibility to another, like clockwork, is not helping. I must listen to my body and the messages it gives me. So that it can get the needed rest and restoration it deserves.

Why? Because I need to be sensitive to myself. Because if I don’t look after myself, who will?

So, I applied what I’d learnt in yoga, and so far, it has helped me to better listen to my body.

Be open to my body, feel what I feel and trust it
Since it’s my body, it is always reacting to what I do to it, always speaking to me subconsciously. I have to be willing to listen and not deny what I’m feeling. I have to trust my body. If my leg is aching, it is aching, for whatever reason, and I need to do something about it!

Make a conscious effort to slow down
In order to clearly listen to my body, I have to slow down. First thing every morning, I would set aside about 10 minutes or so to do some yoga, focusing on only a few postures and moving slowly from one posture to another. Throughout the day, I also give myself a mental check every few hours. During this time, I would take a short walk, and take a break from the hustle and bustle of work life. And just as easily, I pick up the pace whenever I want.

Stop breathe

Relax, breathe deeply and focus
In the mornings, I also spend a few minutes to do deep breathing, and to tune myself to my body, to feel my body’s unique sensations. As I inhale and exhale, I slowly relax my body, consciously releasing the tension and focusing on how each part feels.

Sometimes, I also find other ways to relax, breathe deeply and focus. This means forcing myself to give myself some me-time to do what I like. Besides snuggling up with a good novel, I’ve found that doodling and drawing and just letting my mind flow freely helps tremendously. At the end of it, I feel more refreshed and in tune with who I am, what my body feels.

Listening 1
As you can see, I'm not an artist. But good or bad, it helps me relax.

Be sensitive and listen to my body’s warning systems
Listening to my body means I need to be sensitive to it, to myself. This also means understanding my body’s warning symptoms. If I’m working continuously, not stopping for breaks and not getting enough rest, a light-headed feeling is a warning sign for me. Sometimes, I crave more sugary drinks. This is my body’s trigger, its way of telling me: I really must rest, NOW!

Be good to my body
This means, treat it well with healthy foods. Lots of vegetables and fruits and water. And… exercise, exercise, exercise. My body’s triggers and messages will then be more positive and healthier too.

By being good and more aware of how my body feels, I can ensure that I feel refreshed and rejuvenated most of the time, ready to face the trials and tribulations of daily life with gusto and determination and vibrancy.

The ways that I’ve shared above has helped me a lot in listening to my body. I hope that it will help you too. Or if you have other ways, do share how you listen to your body.

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