Why You Need to Listen to Your Body When It Says "Slow Down"
If you stop pushing your body so hard, surprisingly good things will happen.
Posted April 30, 2014 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
How has your body been feeling lately? Are you tired? Has it been asking you to slow down?
What is your typical response when your body lets you know that it's tired? In our society, it's very common for people to habitually push through fatigue. Just have an extra cup of coffee, eat something sugary to give you a temporary kick, or drink a high-voltage energy drink, rather than slowing down or resting. After all, getting things done is more important—or at least that's what almost everyone tends to think.
If you're like many people, even though your body is tired and begging you to slow down, you're afraid of what will happen if you do. After all, you're not even able to manage all your responsibilities going full speed—wouldn't it be disastrous, and ultimately even more stressful, to take a significant break?
My coaching clients frequently tell me that they feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and are wracked with almost constant anxiety and tension. They feel desperate to stop, even just for one full day, but they don't because they are afraid that if they do that the whole house of cards will come crashing down around them. Do you feel this way, too?
One of the questions I ask people who tell me that there is no area in their overpacked, insanely stressful life that they can trim (particularly women, who typically feel over-responsible for others) is this: What would happen to everything that's on your to-do list if you ended up in the hospital?
Sadly, this isn't even a "crazy" question, as if you push your body for long enough without rest, there is a high probability that you will get sick or have an accident.
Write a list of all the different responsibilities you have. Now, next to each, write down whether it would matter if you missed this if you were hypothetically in the hospital.
Would that committee fall apart? Would your friend who needs you to look after her kids find someone else to help? Would someone else pick up the groceries, or make dinner? Looking at all your various demands/commitments from this perspective will help you gauge how critical your perceived "critical" involvement really is. Many of us don't make a practice of delegating, it may not even cross our minds. We simply say "yes" to way too much.
The world will not end if you take a break, or take a small vacation, or end up sick. Yes, the solutions might not be easy, and you truly may be key to the lives of a handful of people, but I would bet that many of the things you currently "have to" do could be done just as well or better by someone else.
Not only that, but if you listen to your body, your real life—your best life—might actually have a hope of finding you. When your life is spent rushing from one thing to another there is very little time, space or energy for creativity, inspiration, or truly useful problem solving and planning.
A Swedish client, Lena, gave me permission to share the following story with you.
Like many of the people I work with, Lena has been developing some exciting writing projects and has been making many other positive changes in her personal and professional life. Recently, she had set a schedule for herself to get some writing done but found she was feeling very tired. She was also having a very hard time getting herself to write anything at all.
Instead of pushing herself, she decided to listen to her body (I emphasize this frequently in my work with people) and took a leisurely walk in nature instead. She felt guilty—as busy, productive people often do anytime we respond to our body's signals to slow down. Like most of us, she frequently feels more comfortable "doing" than "being."
While out on the walk, Lena was surprised to feel deep emotion, even grief, welling up. The space she had created in her life and her body with this walk slowed her down long enough to allow something to come up, something which clearly her mind and heart had been needing to process. She allowed herself to go through the emotion, and felt deeply cleansed and healed afterward.
She returned home and found herself suddenly flooded with inspiration. She sat down and wrote for two consecutive days. Instead of feeling blocked, the writing came easily, and what she wrote surprised and delighted her.
As Lena's story so beautifully illustrates, we really shouldn't be concerned about what we'll miss out on by slowing down. Rather, we should worry about what might we miss out on by continually pushing, pushing, pushing.
You need to stop for long enough for your body, heart or mind to tell you what they are longing to communicate. It's usually far more important than any random item on the eternal to-do list.
What might your life and body long to tell you, if you'd only stop long enough to listen?
Don't miss out on what's most important by being afraid to slow down. Please, listen to your body. Truly, you won't go wrong if you do.
Copyright Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. 2014.