Listen to your body

by | Jun 18, 2020 | Leadership

The other day, I went off-piste. I’d been feeling groggy all week and woke up tired again. However, after I did my usual 20 minute meditation, rather than just going up to my desk as I would usually, I curled up on the sofa with a blanket and closed my eyes. This is Unheard-Of.

After breakfast, I watched a film on Sky. This is Extremely Unusual and an occurrence likely to put my husband into a mild state of shock. Even when I’m tired, I Push Through – as I suspect you do too – even though I may be being unproductive and playing around the edges of what I actually need to do.

I know that I am not alone in having days or weeks like this during lockdown in particular.

Apparently, there are a number of reasons why we are having periods of feeling tired, foggy and demotivated. One is that the anxiety that we are all likely experiencing to some degree in relation to these unprecedented times affects our quality of sleep. Another is that the lack of variety in our routines causes our dopamine levels to fall.

Whatever the cause, we are subject to influences on our mood and our capacity to “perform” which we cannot control.

Yes, we can help ourselves to some extent, but you only have to talk to others to know that these symptoms are universal and unpredictable. Like weather but without the assistance of the Met Office forecast.

What we can control but I think we are often resistant to is not only to listen to our bodies but to act on the information we’re receiving.

We often see our body as the vehicle that carries our head around and gets us from place to place. Every now and then, if our body’s lucky, we take it for a walk or a run and, perhaps, allow it to rest in addition to some sleep every 24 hours – though we don’t like to give it too much.

The thing is, whilst the brain in your head is at the centre of your nervous system, that doesn’t mean it’s in charge. Your body is getting information all the time through your senses and sending it up to your brain to sort out so it will usually know stuff – for example, if you’re anxious or stressed – before you’re consciously aware of it.

I think the main blocker to us listening to our body and giving it a break is that we’re afraid of being judged.

For example, for being lazy or flaky. Or we’re afraid of losing control (A film in the morning? What next?). Even though The Judge is probably more likely the Voice in our Head than a real life person.

As for me, I made it back to my desk still a bit groggy but managed to write this blog which I wasn’t capable of 4 hours before.

A final quote for you adapted from a Cherokee proverb : “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.”

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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps senior managers and directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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