OUR ACTIVE CULTURE
Am I going to make that deadline? What am I going to eat for dinner tonight? How bad is the traffic? What is my password again? How many likes did I get? And the numerous other thoughts that run through your mind on a daily basis. Newsflash: you are not wired to be constantly wired.
Add on to that a busy schedule, keeping you going from sunrise to sunset, that leaves you very little time to pay attention to anything else.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
By staying constantly active, you don't allow yourself the time to mentally scan your own body and notice the beginning symptoms of imbalance. This constant state of activity is impacting how well you are "body aware" and it is body awareness that we need to catch the early signs of symptoms before they become chronic conditions.
WHAT IS BODY AWARENESS?
The traditional interpretation of body awareness is the knowledge of where our body is in space, especially as it relates to movement. This is the physical component of body awareness, the sensory information that our brain receives from our muscles and joints. But there are health practitioners who are taking body awareness to the next level by encouraging people to become more aware of their body's internal dialogue - yes, I am one of those health practitioners. This is a more introspective approach - actually taking time to mentally scan your own body and understanding what is normal and optimal (for you) and what is not. By paying attention to your body's expression of internal activities, you will begin to recognize when the body is sending signals of distress.
A really easy example to understand is pain, most people understand that when something is painful, there is something wrong. A more overlooked example, and one I see in my practice often is fatigue. It's normal to be tired after not getting an adequate amount of sleep the night before but when that fatigue is constant and continuous no matter how much sleep you get, you should recognize that is not optimal or normal and seek help in determining the root cause of the fatigue.
HOW DOES BEING "BODY AWARE" HELP IN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE?
Functional medicine uses science-based diagnostic testing combined with a detailed, comprehensive exam, that utilizes your input to look at the root causes of your symptoms. There are often times that I work with a patient and when they start to feel better, they begin to notice all the symptoms that were there from the beginning but discounted them as "normal". Please don't mistake common for normal. These are things such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, pain, complaints related to menstruation, concerns related with aging, bloating, acne and the list goes on. It's not that the symptoms were not there, the patients were just not "aware" of them.
If you are body aware, you may recognize these symptoms and be able to detect problems before they become chronic or critical.
TIPS FOR DEVELOPING BODY AWARENESS
Becoming body aware starts with taking time to be still and quiet, without distractions and movement.
I recommend meditation to many of my patients. For some it sounds difficult, boring or even scary, especially if you have never tried meditating before. If this is you, I highly recommend Headspace - an app that will take you through 5 - 15+ minutes of meditation utilizing breathing, visualizations and noting techniques. Headspace also has specific meditations for sleep, motivation, creativity, and other life challenges which may be disrupting your ability to find calmness.
Know Your Body
Begin to learn what your body needs for adequate sleep/rest, movement and energy. Every body is different - some people need more sleep than others and some people need to release more energy than others. Movement, rest and energy are fundamental needs for the body and learning what specifics your body needs will help increase your body awareness.
Learn about nutrition and how it impacts your body. I'm not saying go and Google search nutrition, I'm referring to learning about what you are putting into your body and the effect it has on you. I recommend patients keep a food diary for a little while and record what they eat and how they feel after each meal. I also have them record sleep patterns, bowel movements, mood changes and other observations specific to them. By doing this, they often realize foods that are not optimal for their body. Try keeping a food journal for a week or two and see if you notice anything.
Depending upon the state of your health, you should periodically and regularly perform a body scan. It's easiest to do this in the morning. Sitting still with eyes closed, visualize your body from head to toe and make note of how you feel. By doing this regularly, you will begin to notice changes and how those changes may be affecting you physically and emotionally.
Lastly, of course, I recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner or naturopathic physician. One who will sit and speak with you about your concerns and health related goals. One who will perform an in-depth consultation and exam then make recommendations for diagnostic tests that are specific for you. You and your health care practitioner will then be able to use this information and work together to find what is best for you to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.
In Health and Happiness,
Dr. Erin Stefanacci