Monday, August 26, 2013

I've Learned to Listen to My Body

When I entered 7th grade English, one of our very first assignments was to create a slip of paper with something that we had learned about life on it (our teacher had been inspired by some book she read that summer).  Mine looked something like this:

In gymnastics, we were constantly told to listen to our bodies.  As competitive athletes, we tried to push ourselves beyond our limits, only to often end up with a greater injury that set us back even further.  I thought my "learned" advice was really wise... until I saw everyone else's hanging up on the wall, and then I thought mine was stupid.  I cringed when I saw it next to the giddy middle school sayings about smiles and silver linings to clouds all in some sort of curlicue font.  Mine just didn't seem to fit in.  I'm pretty sure I used Times New Roman.  

It was too simple.

So I thought.

These days, I realize how valuable my "learned" advice was, and how even now, I have not really learned what it means to listen to my body.  I've gotten better; I've learned some quirks that my body has, but still I sometimes push it beyond its healthy limit.  This past week has been a rude awakening to the lesson of listening to my body.

It started Tuesday morning... actually, no, rewind.  It started a few weeks ago.  In middle-end of July, I spent an entire week on my feet at work.  Since high school, I've had a bad back (stress fracture combined with a strain and an excessively curved lower back), and standing or walking for long periods of time tends to aggravate it.  That Wednesday (I remember because I had to run rats), I couldn't bend over because of my back pains.  I eased up for a bit and felt myself getting better.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday morning (since I'm a morning exerciser now)...

I decided to do this Fitness Magazine workout, which was not more intense than other workouts I've been doing recently, so I didn't think anything of it.  I texted Nick in the middle of the day, saying my back was tensing up, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to bend over in another few hours.  Sure enough, I was right (unfortunately).  Well, Tuesday evening through Friday evening I was unable to bend forward any more than like 5 degrees.  It was worse than last time- a sneeze nearly brought tears.  I used a heating pad and avoided exercise-- pretty much all movements involve your core and most were painful, so I listened to my body and took a break.  By Saturday, my back was finally beginning to feel the benefits of rest, just in time for my stomach to kick in.

Friday evening, I attended a happy hour, had plenty of wine and ate some catered food I'm not accustomed to.  Sometime between my last bite of food and 2am, my intestines decided to form a coup and overthrow everything inside.  Holy cow.  I spent the night getting up every 10-20 minutes for the bathroom, praying for the pain to stop.  I was sweaty and miserable.  Somehow Nick slept through all this.  All day Saturday I laid in bed with a pillow (or was in the bathroom).  I struggled in making the decision to stay home or go sailing.  I held out as long as I could in making the decision and then realized that sun mixed with dehydration and being stranded in the water with no bathroom could be a disaster.  I'm glad I stayed home.  By Sunday I ventured to the couch and analyzed some data for my research, only to find out my project has been a huge bust.  I made the call last night at about 11pm to stay home from work today.  I wasn't sure if I'd be up for it.  If not a physical rest day, I at least needed a mental rest day.  I found out today that I needed both.  I was hoping to feel well enough to at least be productive at home today-- maybe go to the post office, clean, etc.  I learned this morning that I don't think I'm quite ready to venture out of the apartment for an extended period of time.  Hopefully tomorrow I should be well enough to resume normal life.  

Until then, I am learning to listen to my body.  My physical body, my mental body, my spiritual body, my emotional body.  It's all telling me it needs a break, and at this point, I don't have much of a choice but to listen.  Too many weekends worked, not enough stretching, too little relaxation, not enough deep breaths.  I need rest, and my body is forcing it upon me.  And I'm trying to convince myself that it's not something to feel guilty about.    

What is your body telling you?

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