© 2011 jen

Checking in with yourself

In the early years of my business, when I was first making hats, reconstructed sweaters, scarves and more, I would work crazy long hours.  I might crochet for 12 hours a day, or sew for 8 hours at a stretch.  The next day I’d be broken down—sore shoulders, pain in my hands, basically unable to work. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Overuse Syndrome. For months I really had to take it easy with many exercises and therapies designed to help my hand and shoulder recover, and it was so not awesome.

That was when I first started to really check in with my body.  I started to realize that if I felt a hint of pain, that was a warning sign for me to change my posture, positioning or to take a break.  If I didn’t initially recognize the pain or ignored it, the pain would increase.  Probably to some this insight is obvious, but to others this post is a reminder of the importance of paying attention to what your body is telling you.

This idea extends beyond physical pain. When I am using my computer, after a few hours I can start to feel a bit wiggy.  You know what I mean, anxious or stressed feelings associated with living online rather than in your own skin.  That stressed out feeling is another warning sign.  A way for our bodies to communicate with us to say, “Take a break.”  If I start to feel this way one of the best things I can do is to go on a walk.  Even if I have a deadline, I’ve found that taking a 15 minute walk does wonders for my mind, body and spirit.

This technique will even work with sickness.  How often do you get sick and realize that you’d been feeling sort of cruddy for a couple of days, but didn’t do anything about it?  I know that used to happen to me all the time.  Nowadays, I try to take an Emergen-C, a vitamin D, drink some water and get in bed as soon as I can.  As a result, I rarely get sick anymore.  It’s amazing how much your body has to say if you’re willing to listen.

The process of doing daily body check-ins is so simple.  In fact, it’s so easy to do that once you’re doing them you’ll wonder why you didn’t always do them.  Best of all, you can really do a body check-in from anywhere.  Often I’ll sit on the floor, cross legged, close my eyes and just listen to what my body is saying.  Whether it’s a pain in the shoulders and neck, tightness in the foot, or maybe the message is that you’re feeling high stress that day, your body is almost always talking to you.

Do you hear what your body is saying to you?   If you’re like me and have a high pain tolerance, checking in is even more important because you won’t notice you’re in pain until it’s pretty far along, then have to work at healing and recovering from the injury, illness or what have you, which is even less awesome.

Typically, we notice parts of body when they are in pain.  One fabulous side effect of body check-ins, is you can find areas where you are strong and healthy, which is an opportunity to revel in your strengths.

Tips for quick effective ways to check-in with yourself:

1. Check yourself – Sit on the floor, stand or just try to be still where ever you are and take just a minute to focus on you.  Go inside of yourself and see how are you feeling.  Where is the tension?  Where is there pain?  Be aware of areas where there is discomfort and try to be kind to yourself in those areas that don’t feel well. If your foot is sore, try to stretch it and stay off of it if possible, if you’re feeling sick try to take better care of yourself and go to bed as early as possible.

2. Find your strengths – As much as you notice where there is discomfort, also notice where you are strong and healthy. Where are you moving freely?  When you have the time give gratitude for the parts of your body that feel good.

Whenever I do a body check-in and my hands or feet are feeling good I’m so thankful.  I will silently say something to myself like, “Hey hands, you’re awesome!  Some days you might hurt, but today you make me stronger.” Or “Feet, way to run on the treadmill.  You’re so bad ass!”   Yes, this is ridiculous at first, but it feels good to feel your own strength and then acknowledge it.

3. Don’t wreck yourself – When you feel stressed try to find ways to de-stress, if only for a minute or two.  Stress breeds more stress and can put you in a spiral headed toward anxiety and depression city, so lowering stress and getting off that train is important.

My favorite check-in when I’m in a hurry, crazy, stress mode is stop for a minute.  I make myself some tea, while doing standing meditation.  I try to be really present and focus on my breathing for 2 minutes, or however long it takes for the tea kettle for whistle.  If you have more time a hard fast walk usually does the trick too. Whatever you choose, being aware of and listening to your body will make you healthier, happier and more successful at tackling the tasks at hand.

Good luck to you with practicing your own body check-ins.  I hope these tips help you prevent injury, reduce stress and avoid sickness.  I also hope this post about body check-ins, coupled with some of the other articles Jena and I have written about AM routines, (Jena on her AM routine) and saying no  (Jena on saying no) will match your own regular awesomeness and raise it to a new awe-inspiring level.  It’s your life, why not have as much awesome as possible?  Stay tuned because we have so many more thoughts and tips for tapping into the best of you!

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