When was the last time you checked in with yourself? I mean truly checked in and listened to what your body is telling you? So often we try to make change happen through brute force alone. We strategize, create to-do lists, and attempt to solve our problems and life challenges cerebrally.
I’m here to provide a loving interruption to tell you that if you are hitting a wall with whatever you are facing in life right now — listening to your body and building gentle awareness of what’s going on may be the best way to understand why stress is arising, where you store it, and how to release it.
We tend to live life from the neck up. When I lead a meditation, the first few minutes are always an invitation to drop into the body. Rarely do we become present to the sensations of the body and notice where we hold tension and store our trauma. I invite everyone to check in with the major platforms of the body — the pelvic floor, abdomen, shoulders, and upper back, and jaw. These are areas we unconsciously tighten when we’re in a fight or flight mode — which today arises daily for up to 70% of us. When we go about our lives without acknowledging when our body is telling us to slow down, we end up suppressing and storing emotions such as stress, anger, and anxiety. When we bottle things up, we bring the stress of today into tomorrow, the next day, and so on.
One of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve been given through my yoga & meditation background is to be gentle with myself and my body. The human body is an absolute marvel — it knows exactly what we need at any given moment. We have important signals such as hunger and thirst to keep us healthy. We have our sympathetic nervous system which keeps us safe and away from danger. Our circadian rhythm knows exactly how much sleep we need and when. When we become disconnected from our body and suppress the emotions, sensations, and guiding signals that come up, we miss the important signs that are meant to keep us functioning at our best.
Meditation is an amazing opportunity to drop in and listen to what the body is telling us. When we have a chance to quiet our mind and get present with the breath, we’re fully brought into the present moment. When dropping in, ask yourself these important questions —
What do I need more of right now?
What do I need less of right now?
Where in my body am I feeling stress or tension?
What am I holding?
What would it look like to let go of this tension?
We all hold stress in different areas in the body that are unique to us. For some it’s the solar plexus, others the stomach, others the shoulders. Awareness of stress & tension is the first step to letting them go. Once you become aware of what you’re storing you can begin to question where it came from, how long the tension has been there, and what letting go would feel like.
Most importantly, once awareness is present, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and listen if the body is telling you to take the foot off the gas pedal for some time. Taking a break and taking time away for self-care is not selfish. It’s, in fact, a necessary and productive part of life to prevent us from keeping stress stuck and bringing it with us into the future.
Next time you find yourself under prolonged stress check-in with yourself, and without making yourself wrong for whatever might come up, gently listen & honor what your body is telling you is the right path forward!
Marina specializes in working with busy professionals to help break the cycle of stress and find more peace and joy every day. If your team could use a masterclass on stress management during these difficult times, you can book a PepTalk with Marina today.