I have faith in the human body’s potential for self-healing. The body will always strive for balance and health and has the wisdom to produce it under most conditions. ME/CFS usually results from a combination of difficult conditions which upset the body’s balance in many complicated and compounding ways. For me the aim of self-help is to optimise the conditions for the body’s self-healing; to little by little help it to redress these imbalances. I believe that the body will give us messages and tell us what it needs if we can only learn to listen. But sometimes it’s not just a case of listening; it can also be about learning how to interpret those messages. Occasionally the body is so thrown out of balance that the message that screams the loudest isn’t necessarily the most important one. Add to that, the fact that our highly developed minds can come up with all sorts of way of distracting us and the whole thing is nowhere near as simple as it might seem.
Listening to my body was something that I wasn’t very good at when I got this illness the first time. I was the sort of person who never stopped still; I was always busy doing something. I loved the dynamic activity of my life but I didn’t know how to rest and just be. I never had time to listen to my body until I was struck down. After a period of determined pushing myself to get better which only lead to me getting worse, I finally realised that I had to start listening. I found that finely honing this skill had great results. Little by little my body regained its balance, slowly leading to a complete recovery. It’s a skill I didn’t lose, but I deliberately ignored my body’s messages once at a crucial time, with the unfortunate consequence of getting ill again. The scales that I have developed are one ways of learning to listen to your body’s many different messages. But here are some other tips, maybe you can learn from some of my mistakes and won’t have to make them all yourself!
Recognising what can get in the way of listening
There are many ways that our mind can distract us from listening to our body. The best way to tackle this is to bring them into our awareness. If we are careful to look out for the things that make us ignore our body’s messages, when we notice them, we can make a conscious choice to listen; to give our body the best chance possible to heal.
Sometimes we ignore our body’s messages just because of how much we want to do something. The second time I got ill I was living in Spain, I had a week’s holiday in England to visit family and friends but I picked up a virus on the plane on the journey. I was aware of the warning signs but the symptoms weren’t very severe and I really wanted to catch up with all my friends and family so I ignored the symptoms and continued on my busy social schedule. In the 7 years since my initial recovery I’d never before allowed myself to ignore symptoms of an infection. After my first day back at work in Spain I started noticing the consequences of that decision!
Sometimes we can become distracted by how emotionally good we feel because we had such a good day yesterday. We can get such an emotional buzz from all that we were able to do, that we don’t notice how much it has drained us and can be tempted to try and do as much again today. Now if I’m feeling good because I had a good day yesterday, I make a point of paying attention to all my signs and symptoms before deciding how to spend my energy today.
Sometimes it will be negative feelings that get in the way. For example, Its not unusual to get demotivated when you don’t have the energy to take part in your normal social life, or when you just don’t feel useful anymore because you can’t work or do the things around the house that you’d like to. Emotionally feeling low, however can make us feel as though we haven’t got any energy at all, when actually we might have enough for some gentle activity or creativity, if we could only listen carefully.
Sometimes we just choose not to be aware because we’re worried about the financial or practical aspects of listening to our body. Even now I continue to work my part time shifts on a bad day, when if I wasn’t working I’d definitely rest more than I’m able to at work.
I’ve just realised that this looks like it’s going to turn into a marathon post so I think I’ll continue next week when I’ll look in more detail at reading the signs and when the body’s messages get really distorted.
What sorts of things do you have to watch out for that get in the way of you listening to your body?