Emotional Wellbeing: Learning How to Listen to My Body

Author: Shamis Pitts

My body has a voice. It shouts at me when I am nervous, anxious, excited or afraid. It whispers at me when I am peaceful, calm and relaxed. The funny thing is that it has been talking to me for YEARS and somehow, I simply did not listen.

How I Feel at this Very Moment

Right now, even as I am writing, my chest is tight and I feel like there is a weight on it. The feeling: anxious. Why? Well, one of my best friends was admitted to the hospital. I am worried and scared for her. However, I know that worry and fear negatively impact my body. So my intention as I write this article, as I sit and wait to hear from her husband so I can take her personal items to the hospital, is to reconnect with peace. When I operate from that place, I am more focused, patient and creative. Skills I require to support my friend’s family in the best way I know how – from a place of compassion.

Emotional wellbeing, the ability to practice stress management techniques, be resilient and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings, is a foundation of mental health. An important component of my stress management is getting my thoughts and feelings out of my head and into the world. I have always spent significant time evaluating my thoughts. However, my feelings were not receiving the same amount of airtime.

Ignoring My Feelings: The Consequences

When I used to bottle my feelings inside, no good came from it. I lost weight, hair and sleep. At the extreme came panic attacks. By ignoring my feelings, I was missing so much juicy data that could help me figure out the source of my challenges.

BEFORE: I don’t like doing X…No one cares…Just do it anyway.
RESULT: Exhaustion, frustration, stress

I am now able to evaluate my feelings and incorporate that data objectively into my assessment of a situation.

NOW: I don’t like doing X…How do I know that? Well, my stomach knots up and I feel pain. How often does that occur?…etc.
RESULT: Learning, positive change, renewal

Developing Resilience

Most days, I share my thoughts and feelings with my husband and with myself via my journal. Other times, it is with a trusted friend or family member. Biweekly, it is with my coach. Weekly, it is with my therapist. (Lots in my head, no? heehee) Bottom line: I ask for and receive a lot of support because that keeps me operating at my best.

I have come a long way, learning how to listen to the language of my body. My nervousness, anxiousness, excitement and fear used to live in my gut. Over time, as I integrated stress management practices into my daily life, the nervousness and excitement still lives there. I feel butterflies. A good thing! My anxiousness and fear has moved into my chest. It is not buried so deep inside me.

Being able to make that distinction of where feelings live in my body has been so empowering. I am much more efficient at processing and reconciling my feelings.

Moving Forward: Maintaining Emotional Wellbeing

These days, my body talks and I stop and actively listen to it. I name the feeling and then I ask myself, “Where is this coming from”? I may or may not discuss my feelings or concerns with one of the aforementioned folks to get an objective perspective. Once I am satisfied, I ask myself, “How can I move forward?” Staying forward focused keeps me in a positive mindset.

These days, in this time of coronavirus, we are all enduring a tremendous amount of stress. Giving yourself a moment to reflect on how you feel to figure out how you want to move forward can be a powerful tool. Pause, rest and reflection comes before renewal.

We all have different practices that help us relieve stress. I have learned that my previous practices are not sufficient in the time of COVID-19 so it is important for me to create more space for them rather than less. Easier said than done. I know. But we get to move forward one moment at a time. Do our best. Let it go. Focus on the learning.

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