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Listening through all the noise of life

07 October, 2019

Life is very busy these days. Thanks to the internet we can fit in about twice as much as we used to be able to do, but still feel guilty about what we haven’t done. Busyness makes us exhausted and also means we don’t prioritize our own self-care. We literally stop listening to our bodies!

We let things like sleep slip – going to bed to late, going to bed with a busy brain and being too tired to get up and write that amazing idea down which then means you lie awake hoping it will be locked into your memory, which further delays sleep and of course you wake in the morning oblivious to that amazing thought.

We can’t find time to shop for healthy food, so we eat on the run and often too much of the inflammatory foods like sugars which then make us feel terrible (and probably result in unwanted weight gain).

We are often dealing with family stresses and pressures and this can result in a sympathetic nervous system which is chronically switched on releasing adrenaline and cortisol which are detrimental to our body’s metabolism.

We never get to play and have fun – we have to say no to a movie night or the simple pleasure of reading a novel because the housework has to be tackled because we are working so hard through the day

We never get time to feel bored and just do nothing which is a useful activity to let the brain and body regenerate and relax.

We let things like general exercise slip which is critical for maintaining good muscle mass, bone density, cardio-vascular fitness and good brain health.

We don’t prioritize specific exercises such as our pelvic floor exercises or pelvic floor relaxation exercises or pelvic stretches whatever may be required to help any pelvic health problems we may have.

So take some time to listen to your body, hear what it’s saying.

Do you have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or do you snore? The answer is to review your caffeine intake (caffeine is a stimulant and can affect your ability to get off to sleep); seek help from a sleep physician who will assess whether sleep apnoea is contributing to your sleep issues; have a notebook and pen beside your bed to write down that amazing idea; and assess what best sends you off to sleep – is it reading a light novel or is it using your phone. Whilst many advise not using screen time in bed, for many it is a way to get tired and fall asleep – after all for many this is their new way of reading.

Getting ready for my sleep apnoea test

Do you feel sluggish including with your bowels? The answer is find the time to buy healthy foods, prepare in a healthy way and cut down on the inflammatory foods – biscuits, chocolates, soft drinks and alcohol. Treat your body like a temple and worship fresh, whole foods, simple foods not fast foods. Add fibre to your diet and use the correct positioning and dynamics for defaecation to evacuate completely and without effort.

 

Bowel evacuation position and baked eggplant with humus and pomegranate

Do you have too many thoughts and no idea as to how to sort them out? With regard to stresses and pressures – ‘control the controllables’ (1). There are some things that are under your control – like many listed here in this blog, but there are many that are reliant on the actions of others and are out of your control and these are the ones that are often the cause of the constant release of cortisol and adrenaline that actually stuff up your (calm, clear) thinking. Write lists of things you can do that may help the things out of your control, but come to terms with the reality that many times others have agendas that you could never predict and there is no solution at the present moment. Try not to dwell unduly because this is having an effect on your health – particularly your mental health.

Always schedule some play and fun as this is the way into your parasympathetic nervous system which helps to release the calming hormones of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. If you are twenty something it might mean a coffee date with some girlfriends or (safely) jumping off some rocks; if you are thirty something with kids it might mean a date night with your partner (and no kids); if you are fifty something it might mean discovering the joy of hiking in the mountains; if you are sixty something it might mean minding the grandchildren and totally immersing yourself in their conversations and delightful innocence that is so rare to see in grown-up life. And if you are seventy something it may be joining a club (bridge, bowls, book) and having that regular commitment out of the house. If you are older, it doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy pleasures – it often means your pleasures are simpler, but you must never stop trying to pursue them.

Some twenty and thirty somethings having some fun and play

 

Hiking and grandchildren – the joys of the fifties and sixties

And as for feeling bored and just doing nothing (without guilt) that is a tricky one- particularly if you are a woman, we seemed to be wired to use every moment, of every day, otherwise we feel like we are wasting time. But it is a skill I have no answers for because this is my biggest hurdle.

Do you have stiffness when you wake in the morning? The answer is keep moving and move more – not resting more and sitting more. Explore ways to fit in incidental exercise. Expand your horizons with exercise – think about new things to try that you feel are beyond you. Seek help from those who are trained in that activity to achieve your new goal or return to a much-loved pursuit after an injury or a birth. Remember, you are never too old/stiff/immobile/weak to start moving again.

 

Dance is a great new activity/exercise to start

Do you forget to do your specific exercises – such as pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), pelvic floor muscle relaxation or pelvic nerve stretches? If you start leaking urine again, recommence your exercise and behavioural modification programme to get you back on track; if you feel pain return – acknowledge it, be proactive with the strategies that helped your pain before and then let go of any fear about the pain. 

What that equates to is listening to your body through all the noise of living.

The hardest thing in life is being consistent with things – whether it’s eating healthy, sleep hygiene or commitment to an exercise programme. And sometimes your body is literally yelling at you, but you are not listening. You are using band-aid measures to keep stopping up the gaps and making do, whereas if you truly stopped and paid attention and implemented things that you have learnt, your body would respond and repair and revitalize and renew.

So if you can relate to some things in this blog, take the opportunity to assess what changes you can make and little steps – introduce them one at a time.

Post-script:

The idea for this blog came from two places. One was a lady who virtually announced to me the framework of the blog. She was doing well, then she got busy. She knew there were things going wrong, “her body was yelling at her”, but she felt she was too busy to do what was required of her (do her exercises, sleep better, eat better, exercise regularly etc etc). And so she made an appointment to come back so I could tell her (what she actually knew, but it made her accountable to someone which she said she needed).

The second one was from a segment on The Drum, an ABC Current Affairs show at 6pm weeknights about a new book called The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code: the Extraordinary Life of Dr Claire Weekes by Judith Hoare.  This new book about this amazing doctor, Claire Weekes, highlights her life and that she was perhaps the mother of Acceptance therapy – ACT which stands for Acceptance Commitment Therapy. She herself had problems with heart palpitations which she took years to understand what was causing them. If you read the link to the article you can understand more of the history.

When she ceased engaging so intensely with her symptoms, her heartbeat returned to normal.The keyword was “acceptance”.The turnaround was swift. If Weekes had been devastated by her lack of understanding of what ailed her, she now felt exhilarated, liberated by an explanation from what had been incomprehensible suffering. With this new understanding, she regained control. Here she learnt that panic and anxiety played a medley of dissonant bodily tunes, from breathing, swallowing and digestive difficulties to headaches, dizziness and muscle fatigue among many others. Weekes’ treatment protocol was just six words: face, accept, float, let time pass. She had a gift for discerning the relationship between the mind and the body – what was clinical illness and what were symptoms driven by fear and anxiety. Understanding fear and its relationship to physical illness had become a mission.” Read the rest of this edited extract from The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code: the Extraordinary Life of Dr Claire Weekes by Judith Hoare (Scribe, $40), out October 1 in the link above.

Bob off to crack the macadamias with his followers (Great Gma’s grass has turned brown during our Brisbane ‘winter’)

(1) Many thanks to Michelle Lyons for this – I am not sure where she got it from.

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