In our society, being busy, constantly on the go, and straight up burnt out is often seen as a badge of honor. We tend to think being “productive” is the only way to be and even feel guilty for declining invites or taking vacations. And while I’m all for juggling projects, making time for friends, and maximizing my output, deep down I know that sometimes I just need to chill.
With social media, it seems the pressure is even higher with a never ending competition of who can achieve more, share more, take better pictures, and hit up all the workout classes and brunches. If we really take a beat though, deep down we know that our bodies NEED rest to function at peak performance—and sometimes taking a break is the most productive thing we can do for ourselves.
But how exactly do you know if you’re just being lazy or if you really need to shut it down early and sleep in? To what kinds of feelings should you tune in to? Maybe physical like fatigue and sore muscles? Or emotional feelings like doubt and anxiety? The truth is, your body is constantly sending you important messages. You don’t need to understand them, you just need to tune in and act on them.
Here are 3 Ways to Learn to Listen to Your Body by Cultivating a
Stronger Mind-Body Connection
1. Slow down + Journal
How can you tune in to your body if you’re constantly distracted, on social media, and running from one appointment to the next? Intentionally remind yourself to slow down, even if it’s bookended at the beginning or end of your day. A great way to do this is to write out your daily intentions in the morning (for the day ahead) or before going to bed (for the next day). The simple act of writing these down will bring you clarity on what you (and your body) needs and unconsciously make what you desire more likely to happen.
2. Breathe Deep
Most of us are shallow breathers, meaning we don’t maximize the full benefit from taking regular breaths. If your breath is shallow, you can be left feeling anxious or in fight/flight mode. By taking deep belly breaths that reach all the way down to your diaphragm you will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system - the system in your body that is responsible for rest and digest.
The empowering part is that deep breaths can be trained since breathing is one of the only systems in our bodies that is both automatic and can be controlled. For training your breath, I recommend the box breath. You inhale for one, hold for one, exhale for one, hold for one and continue doing this all the way up to 5 (for each count). Doing this daily will ensure that your unconscious breaths becoming longer throughout the day creating a more relaxed sensation in your body.
3. Take Action
Your body is sending you messages ALL the time and it is up to you to listen to it.
Does your neck hurt? That means you have probably been looking at a screen for too long.
Are your hamstrings tight? Stand up, go for a walk or run.
Is your belly upset? Place your hands on your belly as a self-soothing mechanism.
When certain feelings arise, allow the action to come from that place inside of you that intuitively knows what you need.
So while you may have planned to work out before work, or go for happy hour drinks, plans can always change. If your body is telling you it’s exhausted, listen to it. Take rest. Be honest with yourself and the benefits will flow out to every aspect of your life.
Samara Zelniker is a yogi, wine drinker, pet lover and travel junkie.