Our Body Gives Us the Cues - It's Up to Us to Listen

Do you listen to your body when it says, "slow down," or "this is too much?" Or perhaps your aches and pains have become a normal part of life that you simply endure.

I used to ignore headaches, body aches, and sore throats, preferring to treat the symptom while I continued my life as if the pain didn't exist.

I recall procrastinating in my University studies, then cramming the hours in prior to a big test. During midterms, I would get a mild sore throat, then after they were over, my body would shut down and I would get the flu, bronchitis or strep throat. This happened like clockwork. For three years. In the fourth year I got smart and actually studied well ahead of time so that the pressure of cramming didn't manifest into a body illness breakdown.

A while ago I started to listen to my body as if it was trying to tell me something. By doing this, I've minimized sick days and had fewer painful symptoms.

I haven't eliminated all symptoms, but I catch them before they get out of control. Now I notice a sore throat when it first starts and examine what triggered it. While I figure out the trigger and what I need to do to get rid of it, I go to the cupboard and take out sore throat tea (I like the one by Traditional Medicinals) and make myself a cup. By doing this I accomplish two things: I treat the symptom with something more natural acetominophen or sugary sore throat lozenges, and I give my body time to slow down and rest, even if only for 20 minutes.

By listening to my symptoms I've figured out what they mean. I grind my teeth when I feel stress from a large to-do list, packing for vacation, or end of school year activities. A sore throat tells me I haven't been expressing myself fully, communicating clearly or have been unable to tell someone something I need to. A headache signals lack of control over some business circumstance. Breaking nails are the same but worse.

At this moment my jaw hurts from nighttime grinding. I also have a minor sore throat. We are on vacation. It is very busy as we fit in time with many friends and family members. And I find time slipping away quickly, as I try to catch up on news and connect after over a year's absence.

How do I know what each pain means and what to do?

First, I don't automatically assume a pain is related to the latest virus going around. Our family eats healthy, sleeps well and doesn't catch most of the viruses we see (mostly).

I ask myself, "what could be bothering me right now?"

Sometimes I ask, "have I not been my authentic self?" "When?" A lack of authenticity is a big source of people's stress these days. When one needs to restrain their comments for fear of offending or annoying a family member, or when they need to be careful what words they use because their beliefs are entirely different from their close friend, they cannot authentically express themselves. When I cannot be authentic, I get a sore throat, or sometimes a headache.

What to do with that sore throat or headache?

Treat the symptom holistically. Take care of the symptom, then take care of the whole self.

Sore throat? As mentioned above, I drink sore throat tea. If I don't have it, I drink a glass of cool water.Then I do something regenerating: a walk, reading a good book, writing. I do not force my voice into conversation, or force myself to be heard. I focus on listening to others.

Headache? A shoulder or neck massage loosens the muscles around the head. I bend my head forward and let the back of my neck stretch out. I massage my temples. Then I drink lots of water, for sometimes dehydration leads to headaches, and I take time away from whatever gave me the headache in the first place.

Stomache aches and pains are some people's achilles heel. Some suggestions? Eat less (so the stomache has less work to do), and eat natural foods: fruit, vegetables, whole grains. Drink more water. Reduce stress or move away from the source temporarily, even for 15 minutes. Distractions work for some too, as does a bit of extra sleep.

Everyone has their own triggers and their own solutions. I like the resources from Prevention Magazine, both paper and online versions.

It is up to you to decide how to reduce your own stress. But to cure your body's ailments, listen to it.

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