Unfortunately I've had to learn this lesson the hard way. More than once...
You know how your car has a “check engine” light that comes on when something is wrong and needs immediate attention? When that light comes on, we don’t hesitate to stop and take action right away because if we ignore it, we know the damage will be worse in the long run.
What I have realized is that my body has its own built-in warning system, similar to my car’s “check engine” light. That warning is pain or discomfort. It’s that little whisper of a runny nose, fatigue, perhaps an achy joint or muscle. We tend to think of these aches and pains as a nuisance. Ignore them. Push through. Take an ibuprofen. Have a cup of coffee or something sugary. The longer you ignore it, the louder your body will yell. You can even keep it up for days, months, even sometimes years of pain or exhaustion.
You body innately wants to be well. Its natural state is one of balance and health. If something is out of balance, pain or discomfort is your body’s way of letting you know where it needs some attention. It’s a built-in protection mechanism. If you lean up against the hot eye of a stove, it hurts! The pain alerts you that something is wrong and you move your hand.
Your body has an amazing ability to continue doing what is asked of it, even when it’s being mistreated. But if you ignore the early warning signs, it has to eventually shut down in order to heal, rejuvenate, re-charge.
I know this cycle well. Several years ago, I designated myself as the primary caregiver for my father who was dying of lung cancer. I also had two small children and was working part time. I was determined to care for everyone else and in the process pretty much completely neglected my own needs. My battery was about as low as it could be. For stress relief, I would run, an activity I have always enjoyed. But it wasn’t enough just to get out of the house, get some fresh air and jog off some stress – I had a goal. I signed up to run a half marathon. Looking back I realize I was literally running away from my emotional pain.
My knees started aching, but only a little, and only after my long runs. I kept pushing. I signed up for lots of 5K runs and even some 8 and 10K races. The aching got worse but there was no way I was stopping short of my goal. Around mile 8 of the half marathon I tore my right meniscus (cartilage in the knee), although I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. It was a sharp, screaming pain every time my right food hit the pavement. Pride and ignoring my own body’s signals to stop kept me running to finish the last five miles. THEN I decided to rest. But by then it was too late. I had ignored all the early signals and the inflammation and injury in my knees required two surgeries to repair cartilage, months of resting and physical therapy and three years until I was able to run, jump or do anything high impact at all.
Because of this forced rest period, I took up yoga and swimming - both very meditative, restorative activities. I realized that body movement doesn’t have to feel like pain and punishment to be beneficial. I still LOVE, LOVE, LOVE hard core sweat sessions but I try to balance those with other activities and listen to the signals my body sends me when I’m doing too much.
What signal is your body sending you that you’re ignoring? Low back pain? Could be you need to get up from your desk and stretch throughout the day or schedule a massage or chiropractic appointment. Fatigue? Maybe you need to get to bed earlier at night or delegate some of your responsibilities. Upset stomach? Perhaps you’re not eating the right foods or you’re under too much stress.
Stop. Pay attention. Listen. Giving your body what it needs when it’s whispering is a lot easier in the long run than if you wait until it screams.
I would love to hear your stories. Please leave a comment below.
Wishing you vibrant health and abundant joy!
P.S. - If you struggle with stress and exhaustion or find it hard to do the things you "should" do to be healthy, I would love to support you! Contact me for a FREE Healthy Breakthrough Consultation.