Listen to your body. I’m sure you have heard this advice many times. For such a common phrase, it is very rarely elaborated on. If you are anything like me, you’ve probably wondered why you aren’t able to do this. Maybe you don’t think you are in tune with your body very well, or just aren’t sure how to discern what it is your body is trying to tell you. Well, I am going to share my experience with this, because I believe that I have gotten pretty darn good at it since becoming a mom.
We Have Instincts for a Reason
During pregnancy, we get a LOT of practice listening to our bodies. We have to make a note of every little thing that is going on with us to ensure that our baby is safe and healthy. We prepare for the birth of our little bundle of joy by trying to learn as much as we can about the birthing process, but when the time comes, the only thing we can really be 100% sure of is that we will have to trust our bodies to do what they were created to do. As new mothers, we have to rely on our bodies to provide nourishment for our little babies and use our instincts to navigate the scary world of first time parenting.
Being a mom has taught me so much about following my instincts and how to listen to my body. Before this phase of my life, the only part of this I really had experience with is trusting my intuition — you know, that anxious feeling in your gut when something is off. Otherwise, maybe if I had some pain or got hurt and thought it was serious enough to get checked out I would listen to my body as well (usually after I went too long without listening). Nowadays, I can’t afford to neglect myself, because my parenting skills and capabilities depend on me being at the top of my game both mentally and physically. We have instincts for a reason — to ensure our survival, which includes that of our offspring! This helps us regulate our physical and emotional health. After having learned so many ways to listen to my body through the experience of motherhood, I would like to pass on what I have learned.
How To Listen to Your Body
There are many different ways to listen to your body both physically and mentally. Sometimes this involves routine actions or thoughts concerning yourself so that you are able to notice quickly if something is off. Other times, there are situations that come up where we need to assess our well-being in the moment, such as a dizzy spell or overwhelming emotion we didn’t foresee. Some of these practices will take time to get used to or implement if you aren’t used to considering them, but here are a few ways you can start to listen to your body right away:
Schedule a Routine Check-up
Yep. For no reason other than that is what doctors/dentists recommend. As a mom, this one easily gets lost on me. I don’t remember the last time I went to see my primary care physician for no reason. Usually I will force myself to call and go if something has been nagging at me for a while, because it is so difficult for me to make appointments for myself and bring my toddler along when I could be scheduling my son’s or my mom’s appointment instead. That doesn’t even make sense, right? But sometimes I can really get caught up in not doing things for myself because of the mom guilt that tells me I should be focusing on everyone else. I am going to make a point to schedule with my doctor & dentist this week, and I hope you will do the same if you haven’t been in the last 6 months! It is impossible to learn how to listen to your body if you aren’t sure whether what you are trying to listen to right now is even healthy or not. Go get checked out, make sure that you are in good health, and it will be easier for you to recall how you are supposed to feel when you start to notice something is off.
Start Taking Mental Notes
Start trying to pinpoint how you could tell you were starting to feel tired, thirsty, sick, bloated, in pain, or anything else. Make a note of how your monthly visitor affects you in those weeks leading up, during, and after. The more you get to know yourself and what you can expect from your body in common situations, the better! You will be able to discern what you need more quickly, and even may be able to take preventative measures in certain cases (things like changing up your diet, or stretching more/at certain times, etc). Taking physical notes may also be beneficial until you get in the habit of recognizing these things regularly. A bullet journal would be perfect if you are into that! I have always wanted to start one but I am SO not artistic, so that’s been on the back burner for a while (plus, I am so stuck in my ways that I’m not ready to give up on my BlueSky or PlanAhead planners just yet)! There are some great bullet journal “habit tracker” examples on Pinterest you could try out to help you keep up with these things though, whether you do it or not!
Start keeping track of how you feel (and when), what caused it, and what you can do to make sure that you are properly taken care of. In order to be more in tune with your body, you have to really take out the time to listen to what it is trying to say. It will tell you when something is wrong or when everything is just fine! Your body will absolutely communicate your needs to you in real ways that you can feel. You just have to make sure that you are noticing the signs.
Prioritize Your Physical Health
Piggybacking off of our first to points, if you notice something (say you are having some minor pain in your knee that lasts a few days) don’t ignore it! Prioritize your health and get it taken care of before things get worse. These are the ways that your body talks to you, if you really want to learn to listen to your body you don’t get to pick and choose what you want to listen to! I know how hard it can be to put yourself first, especially when it is something you don’t think is a big deal, but you will never know how serious it is or if it will cause you problems later in life unless you get it checked out now.
Prioritizing your physical health doesn’t always include doctors. There are many simple ways you can listen to your body and respond with self-care! Rest when you are tired, eat when you are hungry, take the time to heal when you are sick. Don’t push yourself too hard and don’t wear yourself out — ask for help when you need it. These are all such simple things that we overlook as mothers because we are so focused on the kids, our significant other, the house, or any of the hundred other responsibilities we somehow took on for ourselves. Make sure that amazing, caring woman is taking care of you, too!
What About Mental Health?
Above I talked about many ways to listen to your body and take notice of your physical well-being. Guess what? Your brain is a part of your body! Your mental health is just as important (if not more important) than your physical health. How do you listen to your body when you don’t always have a tangible sign?
Emotional Health Check
As a stay at home mom, it is easy for me to get frustrated or overwhelmed when I haven’t had a break in a while or my son is going through something that is causing him to act out. As much as I have to remind myself of things like “he’s not bad, just sad,” I have to remember that my emotions affect me just like his affect him. I’m just bigger and have more mature ways of handling them (most of the time). Give yourself time to deal with your emotions rather than just pushing them aside all the time. Of course you don’t want your children to see certain emotions you are experiencing, but make sure that you do allow yourself a safe time and space to walk through them later. Take note of what caused them and if there is anything recurrent that you may need to take a closer look at or begin working through. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break. When you are angry, make sure to release it in a healthy way rather than letting it eat at you and cause problems in your life or relationships with others. Your feelings are valid and you have them for a reason — they are telling you something about yourself. Listen to your body!!
Mental Health Check
Proper mental health will ensure that you can handle everyday situations as a rational human being. You want to make sure that everything in your brain is properly taken care of and working right. I think that everyone has accumulated some terrible ways of thinking throughout life — nobody’s brain map is perfect. Especially challenging is the fact that tons of new moms struggle with postpartum depression or anxiety.
Listening to your body in this area is a little more challenging, since your brain tends to trust itself (in my opinion). It is easy for us to overlook or doubt these struggles in ourselves, but you may notice a thought or feeling that something isn’t quite right. One great way to combat this is having someone to talk to — both professionally and non-professionally. This will give you a clear sounding board to be honest about your thought process with someone you trust who only has your best interest in mind. Also, make sure that you take some time to clear your head and decompress frequently (I’m sure you’ve heard before how stress can affect your brain). Remember, whether or not you need to be–or have been–diagnosed with anything, everyone needs a mental health day once in a while!
What Are You Waiting For?
Start listening! Go ahead and make some notes about what was going on when you last lashed out or ate too much or welled up with tears. Get to know yourself through the signs your body is giving you! You will be so glad that you started today and are able to better understand your body. Being in tune with yourself in this way will bring enlightenment in many areas of your life and you will be healthier and happier because of it!