Get cranky when you are overworked? So does your body.
Here’s a few ways your body may be telling you to let up already:
- Allergy season symptoms are really bad this year.
- I used to be able to eat anything.
- I have to lock myself in the bathroom to just get five minutes to myself.
- I am waking up exhausted after tossing and turning all night.
- It took me weeks to get over that cold.
Each of these “squawks” may be the body’s response to a particular kind of load:
- Fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine
- Some combination of overstimulation, worry, and neuromuscular pain.
- Some combination of chronic stress, chronic inflammation, and ongoing food, environmental and chemical sensitivities.
Our bodies are made to constantly scan and respond to our environment.
We each host a unique mix of continuous internal cross-conversations about what is going on. These conversations take place through messengers – neurotransmitters and hormones. Is there a mild or a major insult here? Outright danger? A life-threatening event? And how do we respond? What organs and functions take priority here? Who needs oxygen? Do we need to mobilize sugar? Which reserves do we get it from? Do we need to sequester this invader? We can’t seem to get this metabolic waste or this heavy metal out of our system – how can we sequester it, limit its capacity for harm?
Our resilience is greatly affected by our bodies’ capacity to respond appropriately.
A body on overload can lose that capacity to adapt, and respond to a small insult as if it is a major emergency. You may startle at the slightest sound or burn with irritation at every red light, “slow” cashier, and interruption. When that over-response becomes a habit, the body may exhaust its capacity to respond – as if one of those voices has cried “wolf” one too many times. We can lose this precious resilience, that lets us re-establish equilibrium and then down-regulate: wind down and shut down a healthy response to stress, inflammation, or infection.
Here’s a hint: unable to relax? I mean – really relax. Binge-watching your favorite show does not count. Beer, wine, Scotch malt do not count. Relaxed muscles count. Naturally slower, deeper breaths count. Gurgling sounds in the belly (signaling your digestive system is relaxed) count.
So, what to do?
First, enlist your considerable powers of observation.
What increases or decreases your body’s workload? What makes your symptoms better or worse? Season? Cold or heat? Time of day? Effects of a particular food or beverage? of a particular relationship, demand, or type of interaction? More or less of a certain activity? Care-taking responsibilities that can be both joy and burden? Grieving over a succession of losses? Perhaps you are not the only one in your workplace who is struggling with chronic sinus infections and frequent colds – maybe there is mold or some other air quality problem?
There are countless environmental factors that affect our health and are beyond our control. So – it makes sense to get a handle on the behaviors we can, choosing to lighten the load on our bodies as we can. This doesn’t mean we are taking binding life-long vows to become some idealized version of ourselves. Can you hear your own version of a pious and ponderous voice saying, “Yes, I will rise at 6 and meditate, mix up my green drink with fresh sprouts, get the kids off to school, and head off to the gym before work.” Or whatever form you take as your idealized health-conscious self! No!
Change (GASP!) can be simple. Truly. Try one thing. Your first response to a squawk can be pretty straightforward:
Use a neti pot to cleanse nasal passages. Once a day.
Cut out one provocative food for a week: not sure what that might be? Pay attention to what and how you eat at your next meal and how your body feels.
Get back to that one thing that nourishes you that you haven’t found time for in weeks: writing or drawing or running or gardening or volunteer work.
Create one wind-down routine for the end of your day.
Need a new mattress? Figure out how to move that one purchase up on your spending priority list.
Often taking just a few of these steps can calm your symptoms, improve your rest and resilience, and have you feeling more like yourself.
Already taken steps to lighten your body’s workload, and continue to struggle with symptoms?
Learn how an herbal consult can help: http://alifeofpractice.com/herbalism/restorative-approach-to-health/