In this post, Coach, Trainer and former sufferer of ME/CFS and fibromyalgia Simon Pimenta shares a simple technique to encourage listening to your body and intuition.
It is all too easy to get caught up in what you are doing- and in the process ignore your body and the signals it is giving you.
We have all done this at one time or another; we try to get things done and when we finish the task, realise that we feel tired, hungry etc.
If you have ME/CFS, then you have probably experienced all too often the impact of not listening to your body: you pay for it with excessive exhaustion and symptoms.
I believe that continually doing this can hinder your recovery.
I also believe that listening to your body and conserving your energy can support your recovery.
It may be that your body needs rest, or food, exercise or the loo!
One client* said she would literally ignore her body and have to run to the bathroom as a result.
Her body would be saying “I need to go to the bathroom.”
It was as if she was responding by saying “Not right now, I’m busy writing an email.”
Her body would reply “I really need to go to the bathroom, pretty soon.”
“In a bit.” She would be saying to her body.
Then when she finished the email, she would realise she needed the loo urgently!
A Simple Question To Ask
Get into the habit of pausing and asking:
What do I need right now?
The reply might be “Rest.”
I recall a practitioner (I can’t remember who, let me know if you know) saying that if your body is saying that you need to rest, to then ask:
How long do I need to rest for?
You may find it interesting to note your response to this question.
Let’s say your response to this question is ’15 minutes.’
If you don’t have any pressing commitments, note what time it is and have a rest, without setting a timer.
When you feel rested enough to get up, look at the time. If you rested for around 15 minutes, then you were accurate in your assessment of what you needed.
If you rested for longer, then it suggests that your head was giving the answer to that question, whereas your body had a different answer.
I remember doing this exercise and the answer to the question ‘How long do I need to rest for?’ was 15 minutes, but I fell asleep and rested for 45 minutes and felt properly rested.
So my head wasn’t giving me the same answer as my body!
If your answer to the question ‘What do I need right now?’ is “Exercise.” then consider:
‘How long do I choose to exercise for?’
‘What kind of exercise do I need right now?’
It may be that some days you need very gentle exercise in small doses. Other days you may feel that you will benefit for longer amounts of exercise.
This approach throws the notion of sticking to your baseline activity, that is maintaining a level of activity regardless of how you feel, which is one of the principles of Graded Exercise Therapy (GET), out the window.
I think that sticking to a level of activity when you feel that you cannot do so and that doing so is going to result in symptoms, is unwise.
When I had ME/CFS, sometimes I couldn’t walk for a minute. As I got better, I could tolerate riding on my bike for increasingly longer periods.
I have mentioned before that at one point, I could not tolerate swimming in a pool; being in cold water was too draining. Again, as I improved in health, I found that I could go swimming.
My morning routine used to be that I’d get up, make a smoothie and exercise.
I would often be very hungry by the time I had breakfast.
A nutritionist friend told me that if you allow your blood sugar to drop too much, it can take all day for your body to recover.
I now realise that I usually need to eat soon after I get up and it is better for me to exercise a bit later in the day…
Obviously that doesn’t suit everyone. Some people don’t feel like eating soon after getting up and waiting a while works for them.
However, bear in mind that it is really important to maintain your blood sugar levels to keep your blood sugar steady.
So don’t wait till you are feeling weak with hunger!
That may seem obvious, but people do let their blood sugar drop. I’m guilty of that.
When it gets too low, this is putting your body in a state of stress.
So find out what works for you.
It may be that you have a need for fun, stimulation, human contact or something else.
Explore ways of getting these needs met without ignoring the other needs, mentioned above.
Asking the simple question ‘What do I need right now?’ may help you tune in to what your body needs and follow your intuition, which in turn may benefit your wellbeing.
You can read Part 1 of Listening To Your Body here
*Note: When I share a client story, it is with the client’s permission.
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After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.
He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.