How Your Body Tells You What It Needs Right Now

 

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who’s being overwhelmed by physical issues since her marriage fell apart – constant nausea and pain from an old wrist injury acting up.

Our conversation had a more personal focus, but she did ask me my professional opinion about what she could do to help remedy one or the other of those symptoms. As always, I suggested she talk to her wrist and stomach – listen to what they have to say, listen to what they need.

At which point, she very kindly asked, “Ok, I get the idea of listening to my body, but how do I do that?”

Of course! Here I am, constantly spouting off about something that’s obvious to me – and to someone who’s already worked with me – but that idea on its own may mean nothing to you, or you might have a notion that’s only somewhat related to what I’m talking about.

 

Let’s clear that up right now. What do I mean when I say “listen to your body”?

Starting with the obvious

Your body speaks to you on a daily basis. When you get hungry or tired or have a pain, your body sends you a bunch of signals to indicate that something needs your attention. Ideally, you eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired, and step away from the computer to rest your wrist when it hurts: that’s you listening to your body.

If you’re well tuned into your body and actually heed its signals, it doesn’t need to speak very loudly.

Sometimes, though, you ignore those signals, or you’re not in touch enough to actually hear them. In which case, your body starts to speak more loudly: you feel faint and irritable from low blood sugar, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or your wrist is so badly inflamed, you can’t work for 3 days.

Your body acts like a little kid looking for loving attention. Do you see what she needs after the first gentle “Mom?”, or do you ignore her until she’s escalated through “Mom. Mom? Moom. Mooo-oooom! MOM!”

 

Listening as a way of fixing a problem

More specifically, you need to listen to your body when trying to sort out how best to address a certain ailment and to understand if certain remedies are working. Let’s say we’re talking about my friend’s nausea. I would ask her to take a few days to notice if there’s a time of day it acts up more than others, if certain foods or activities aggravate it or make it better. Then, once I’ve made certain suggestions about her eating habits and herbs, she’s going to check in to see if there’s any change – for better or worse.

One issue that comes up often with clients is women who graze mindlessly or fall into some other aspect of emotional eating. There again, it’s a matter of understanding if there’s any actual hunger involved. Is the hunger for food, or for a deeper need? Maybe the need for food is a way of avoiding something else. (This is a big topic, and I’ll come back to address it more substantially in another post soon.)

 

Listening to your Body is a way of hearing the needs of your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s a how-to audio for this part at the end.

The other concept I throw around a lot is based on that Teilhard de Chardin quote about us being souls having a human experience: the idea that the body is a container which allows the soul to move on the earth. The body is how we interact in this existence. So it stands to reason that if the soul wants to send us a message, it’s going to do so through medium of the body.

The sensations you feel in your body are your soul speaking to you in a language you can understand.

In that regard, listening to your body involves so much more than noticing your symptoms after certain foods. Listening to your body is part of a healing conversation.

 

When you tune in and hear what your soul is saying to you via the body, you are engaging in a conversation with your self. You are deepening the relationship to your self – in the same way that conversations with the women in your life have turned them from acquaintances into friends into besties.

Conversations aren’t one-sided. They are a back and forth exchange – speaking as well as listening, asking as well as answering; giving and receiving.

When you speak your concerns aloud, whether to yourself or a friend, you draw them out of the shadow of fear and into the light for release.

When you share the experience of what you’re feeling in your body with your practitioner, you’re giving her a fuller picture of why your body is reacting the way it does and how to best approach its healing.

 

What I teach women is based on a technique known as Focusing – developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin. Some people refer to it as hearing your inner voice or your soul voice or your higher self. Basically, you’re talking to YOU.

Learning how to listen to your body – having a conversation to better understand how it works, how you work – what lights you up and what drags you down – is an essential part of the healing journey.

Put your info in the grey box to access the audio guide which walks you through the steps.

In my next post, once you’ve had a bit of time to practice and get to know yourself in a new way, I’m going to offer a key to making this work as a more effective tool for how you heal and grow. (And let you know what happened with my friend and here wrist.)

Know anyone else who wants to understand how to (re)connect with her body? Share this post using any (or all!) of the buttons here.

Why Do I Need a Nap?

 

Who said that adults are supposed to get through the day without a nap? Who wrote the rule saying that once kindergarten was over we’re all expected to make it through the day in one shot?

In theory, if you actually got 8-9 hours of restful sleep in a night, you’d be able to do it. Sure, once in a while, when you’ve stayed out too late with friends, a quick snooze may be in order.

What does it mean, though, when, day in and day out, you hit a wall at 3:00, and you feel like you need – even occasionally let yourself take – a nap?

 

Consider these possibilities, and what to do about them. (Read them all, they may all apply to a certain extent…the juiciest one’s at the end.)

 

1. How’s your blood sugar?

Using coffee, chocolate and baked goods to get you through your day wreaks havoc with your hormone and glucose levels. Virtually every nutrition blog and healthy living book will expand on this idea. You know this!

** Cut out the refined starches (read more here) and be sure to start the day with a proper breakfast (read this for details) to alleviate unnecessary fluctuations.

 

2. Do you have postprandial leukocytosis?

Post-who? Leuko-what?!?

When your immune system, and your energy, are directed to your belly after you eat.

Your body clock is set up so your digestive capacity is at its greatest at noon, so certain experts suggest you have your biggest meal then. True, but when said meal is all cooked food, when it’s hard-to-digest options – heavy on the red meat, all cooked and fried foods – your body will have an immune response as well.

Pre-diabetics have a similar problem when their blood sugar drops after a sugar- and starch-rich meal, called postprandial hypoglycaemia.

** Make sure your nutrient-dense lunch is high in protein, easy on fats and includes some raw vegetables for the enzymes and fibre. You want to be satisfied, with easily accessible nutrients to sustain you through the afternoon.

 

3. Food sensitivities

Are there certain foods that make you sleepy? Partly, the same idea as above, whereby your immune system reacts in a way that robs energy from your brain.

Allergic reactions (and sensitivities) aren’t limited to sneezing, hives and anaphylaxis. They also cause headaches, mood changes and fatigue.

It took me a while to realize how fresh grapes makes me overwhelmingly tired. I get an almost painful need to lie down and nap – often I do, even for 10 minutes. Red grapes are worse; not surprisingly, I have a hard time functioning fully the day after drinking red wine. Hummus and canned tuna have a similar effect on me.

** If you’re feeling sleepy every afternoon AND you eat the same lunch daily, change it completely for a week. Does that help?

** Reintroduce your usual items one at a time, over a few days, and observe to find the culprit.

 

4. You don’t get enough sleep.

a) You work or watch TV late, or get sucked into Facebook for too long, and it takes your brain a while to wind down.

** You’ve heard these solutions before: turn the screens off at least an hour before bed. Try the usual herbs like chamomile, valerian or oatstraw; meditate or journal to empty your mind.

Note: many experts also suggest exercise – be sure it’s gentle. Notice which types of movement relax you, which stimulate you, and choose accordingly.

b) You awake at 3 am and lie there with your mind spinning with worry.

** Talk to your healthcare practitioner about doing a gentle liver cleanse or getting some adrenal support. Even start by cutting out any alcohol in the evening – do you sleep better?

c) Maybe, for whatever reason, you can’t alter your evening routine to clock out for 8 hours.

** Schedule a nap during the day.

I heard on the radio this morning that there’s actually a nap competition – started (no surprise!) in Spain, where siestas are built into the day as a way of conserving energy during the high heat in the afternoon.

 

Need a Nap? Consider this.

5. What part of your LIFE is dragging you down?

Stress is notorious for eating up your energy and messing with your blood sugar. I know, with so much going on, it’s to be expected. You’re wrung out, and you only have so many hours to get it all done, let alone take time for mindfulness, breathing and a weekly massage.

Yes, those items really need to be at the top of your to-do list, but I digress.

How much of your energy is being sucked away by the things you’re avoiding?

Do you ever notice how hard you have to work to resist making a dreaded phone call or email? Ever notice how light you feel once it’s done?

What about those worries that keep you awake at night? Do any of your whirling thoughts require an action? Would you feel safer if you just got that insurance policy updated? Would you sleep better after getting your son’s persistent belly aches addressed by an expert…other than Google?

What about how you’re feeling emotionally? How much of your precious energy are you shunting to keep your fear, anger, grief, etc. at bay?

Those emotions are big & scary, but they’re also meant to move. Keeping them locked up only pushes them deeper, where they’ll stagnate and cause more problems down the road.

LET THEM FLOW!

* put on music and dance, scream, cry them out

* write in a journal, talk to a friend or a professional

* take flower essences; gentle, yet powerful support for this type of healing

Don’t worry, they’re like waves – your emotions will peak then subside, if you let them.

 

Tapping into your body and noticing it feels, how it wants to be nourished, works wonders for your energy and sleep.

Feeling and expressing your emotions will enhance that nourishment and unleash your energy that much more.

What drains your energy, and how do you get back into the flow? When you share your insights in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Any of your friends feeling dragged down by life, complain of how tired they are? Send them this post using any (or all!) of the share buttons below.

How to Find Hope & Motivation after Divorce

 

There’s something about life after moving that has reminded me so much about how things were after I got divorced, 17 years ago.

There came a point when I knew what I had to do, when I couldn’t live as I had been. When I understood I’d be better off on my own than in a marriage where I was expected to bow to all his needs with no expectation of return. A marriage where I spent an awful lot of time alone, feeling like a single parent, and furious with him for landing me in that situation.

Then came the flurry of activity that is divorce – thankfully it was a relatively amicable split, but there were still legalities to work out, stuff to sort and the kids to consider and nurture in a new way.

I lay awake at night worried I’d never be able to support myself and 2 kids (albeit part-time) on my own, until life eventually settled into something I could handle. As sad and as difficult as it was, I took a certain pleasure in being able to stretch my wings more than I ever had with my parenting and the house, without judgment or accusations of being inconsiderate.

That’s when it reality hit.

There I was, 34 years old: I’d been through school and had a steady job. I’d travelled a bit, been married, had kids. All the boxes I’d wanted to tick as a girl had been ticked, or at least the ones I believed should have been ticked.

Was that it?

Will this be my life from now on?

With a few health issues no longer content to stay in the background, it started to feel like it would even start heading downhill from there.

This happens after a move or a big career shift as well as with divorce, that once the stress calms into a routine, there’s a lull.

A wise woman will recognize that lull for what it is: a well-needed break, the calm after the storm. Time to rest, rejuvenate and gather your resources for what comes next in this life on the other side.

Sometimes, we’re not so wise.

There were days when I came face to face with the same issues as before. I was alone, having to do it all on my own. Some days I wondered why I’d even bothered.

Am I really better off than before?

Did I really need to upend the kids to still be in the same place?

And I was still blaming him for it.

It was my garden that spring that taught me the lesson I needed to learn: it’s possible, even inevitable, to start over.

Every year, the flowers wither and die. Fields go fallow and leaves rot. After the snow melts, the world’s all muddy and smelly. There’s a moment when you almost doubt anything will ever actually grow. And then it does.

Look out the window and it’s all dank and colourless. The sun warms up that much more and poof! It’s orange and yellow and violet. Robins chirp. Crab apple blossoms and lilacs fill the air with their perfume. Pea shoots herald crisp green sweetness.

Something had died in my life; come to an end. That didn’t mean I needed to stagnate in the fallout.

It was time to let the seeds of what I wanted for myself to take root. It was time to notice the colours in me, and ask myself: What form of sunshine would help them to bloom?

I started to focus the warmth of my attention on just that: people and activities and food that lit me up, that excited me and nourished me to my very core.

I started to trim away the branches that were holding me down – the blame, the regret, the self-flagellation.

I had done all this, kept putting one foot in front of the other through the previous year because I needed to make me a priority. I chose this life so that my needs, my values would have space to grow in a nurturing environment. How else could I expect to be truly healthy, effectively raise my sons and be of any service in my community?

When you’ve lost motivation for what you want most, when you can’t find the hope of a better day, I beg of you to try this:

Open your senses to the world around you.

Notice:

what flavours make you swoon

which aromas make you sigh

which colours energize your mind

which music makes you dance

Remember: The most beautiful bounty grows from the humus and rot.

Don’t give up on yourself!

 

If you need more help putting self-care at the top of the list, let me know, I’d be glad to help. Click here and we’ll set up a time to talk.

 

If you know someone who’s stagnating in the fallout of the life they’ve left behind, help them to blossom using any of the share buttons below.

Help! Things are Changing and I Don’t Know How to Let Go!

 

There comes a time when you’re moving from one phase of your life to another, when it becomes inevitable that something has to shift, and you become painfully restless.

You’ve hit that time when how you’ve been living your life becomes so uncomfortable, the thing you’ve been avoiding seems the better choice.

That’s transition.

It’s raw with emotion, it’s unbearable to be in your body, it makes you nauseous and it’s fucking scary!

Just like labour.

pain of transition

The first stage of labour is when your body works to open and clear the passage for the baby. When things are ready, you move from dilation mode to the 2nd stage: pushing that baby out into the world. Between the two you hit transition.

I remember so clearly from the birth of my 2nd son: I was so distraught with the pain, nothing I could do, no position I tried, helped. I hurtled myself aimlessly around the living room of our apartment, throwing myself onto the couch like the over-dramatic heroine of a bad Victorian novel. I crawled around on the floor begging for relief. With my 3rd, I secretly wished someone would whack me over the head with a baseball bat.

Why does it have to be so terrifying?

The fear is two-fold: partly it’s the inevitability of the situation. You’re at that point of no return – there’s been no going back from the moment that little embryo latched itself so snuggly into your womb.

What’s really scary, though, is that you’re barrelling full tilt into unknown territory and a life you never knew. Your life will never be the same again, for better or for worse. Even if you’ve had babies before, each one is completely different. Not to mention, women have died doing what you’re about to do.

In life, the point of no return happens with a commitment. Consciously or not, a seed starts to grow in your psyche – in your soul. A dream you want to fulfill, a relationship you know needs to grow or end, or the unavoidable metamorphosis of your body as it ages.

The decision to embrace and move forward with this transformation is no longer a choice. Scary and uncertain as it is, the one thing you do know is that the life you’re now living doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s become a little too snug like that old pair of jeans you wear out of habit, or maybe the decision gets made for you when the rug got ripped out from under you.

Something’s got to give – you either buy a new pair of pants (consciously alter your life with a new career, listen to the little symptoms that have been nagging you to take better care of yourself, improve or leave your marriage) or the zipper blows out while you’re walking happily along a downtown street (you get fired, you have a health crisis, your husband leaves you for his young assistant).

Once that decision is made. Once you make that commitment, there’s no choice but to move forward into the unknown.

The pain of transition – in life as in labour – lies in the resistance to the process.

When delivering a baby, the wisest thing you can do at this point is get very quiet.

Turn inward, connect to the baby who’s likely just as freaked out as you are right now, and trust your resources to get you through this birth safely. You’ve spent months eating right and tending to your needs. You’ve read and listened and shared with friends and professionals. It’s time to trust your body and trust your midwife.

Resisting the pain of the movement you’re in and flailing around looking for some miracle solution only intensifies the pain.

All that resisting and flailing only dissipates your energy and puts you at greater risk of hurting yourself.

When giving birth to your new life, the wisest choice you can make is to focus inward, connect to the woman who will emerge from this chaos and trust that you have what it takes – in your body and heart, and trust in your support system. (Oh and breathe!)

When a woman comes to me for help, it’s because the status quo with her body has become too uncomfortable and she’s ready to take the necessary steps to renew both her physiology and her life.

My role in that regard becomes that of a doula. A woman in service of other women, offering practical advice and the emotional support she needs to move through the chaos of the transition safely. Using the language of her body as a guiding light, we access the needs and desires of her soul, to find the solutions for her body and her life. I hold her hand and stand witness to the process. You might call me a soul doula.

In the 3rd stage of labour – the afterbirth – a good midwife feeds the new mother a nourishing snack, full of the electrolytes and protein she needs for recovery. She will bathe her and let her sleep – the coming days and weeks will be a challenge, at least she will start out feeling held and ready to take it on.

Once you’ve landed in your new life, do the same.

Rest, recharge, eat nourishing food and find help where you can. The new road is long and may have a few bumps; allow yourself to start with a hand to hold.

If you want me to be that hand, click here and we’ll get started.

Something’s not right. Should I give up gluten?

 

Every once in a while, you get to the point in your life when something’s got to give. The sense of dissatisfaction spills over into your body, so you just don’t feel right, and those nagging little things start to get louder.

Life has a way of showing up in your body.

I’ve given up counting the number of women I come across who feel the stress of life in their digestive tracts.

  • Women whose IBS reflects the turmoil in their marriage or their job
  • who can’t eat when things get too intense
  • who develop allergies to everything from soup to nuts
  • who suddenly can’t digest the foods they’ve always eat
  • who start gaining weight without having changed a thing in their habits.

When life takes a big left turn, it’s only normal that you’re going to feel it where you’re most susceptible – digestive tract or other places.

When you’re in the muddy transition zone of moving from the life you knew into the vast unknown, your body is going to express its fear in the place it knows you’ll hear it.

When something desperately needs to change, your body will speak to you in a language that makes you pay attention.

Because you feel it in your body, the first place you’re going to look to fix things will be with your body.

Inevitably these women all ask me the same question: “Should I give up gluten?”

Possibly, though not necessarily.

 

Why gluten’s an all-around problem all of a sudden:

Without going into a long sermon about the overload of gluten (mostly highly-hybridized wheat) in our North American diets, understand that too much of anything difficult to digest will cause problems.

Being on the harder-to-digest end of the spectrum, gluten helps set the stage for inflammation anywhere in your body.

When there’s already inflammation specifically in the gut, there is limited access to the brush border enzymes that break down that gluten, amplifying the problem.

Meaning: If there’s any of inflammation in your body – anywhere in your body – gluten may do you more harm than good.

 

It’s not just the gluten:

I can almost bet that most of the gluten you eat comes in the form of refined wheat (or other grains), i.e. flour products. Even if your bread and pasta and muffins are made with whole grain flour…they’re still made with flour!!

As a matter of fact, even if you’re avoiding gluten, there are a heck of a lot of lovely substitutes that are also flour-based…because they’re aimed at replacing the stand-bys you’d rather not go without.

Think of it this way: remember when you were in kindergarten and you mixed flour and water to make a paste? Imagine how that paste would gum up your intestines, making the digestion of almost anything more difficult.

Meaning: Get your starch and sugars from whole grains (full stop!) and vegetables…not flour products.

 

The bigger picture:

Let me ask you this – regardless of whether you know the source of your stress and your belly aches:

What about your life are you not digesting?

What is it about your current life and the chaos you’ve been getting through that you can’t assimilate?

What are you having a hard time swallowing?

What makes you nauseous?

I can do this all day, but I think you get the point.

Here’s your invitation: Insert whatever symptom  you’re having (digestive or otherwise) into the metaphoric questions and notice what comes up.

Most likely you’ll find emotions that need expressing and beliefs that could use re-evaluating.

Meaning: Your digestion is a reflection of how you digest life.

I wrote a whole post elaborating on that idea here.

 

Chances are, even if staying away from gluten will ease your symptoms, the way your body is reacting – the way it’s speaking to you – will open the door to the places that really need your love and healing attention.

All you have to do is listen.

 

I’d love to hear what comes up for you when you ask yourself those questions. If it’s too personal for posting below, by all means, send me an email instead. When you share your story, you open the possibilities for others.

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