Category Archives: self care

How to connect with your body rather than demand from your body

How does one “connect with his/her body”?

I talk all the time in this blog space about connecting with and listening to your own body rather than listening to all the cultural rules, diets, and programs geared toward changing your body. But how do you do that? And what if you don’t like your body or certain parts of your body… why would you want to connect with something you don’t even like? Shouldn’t you change your body into what you do like so you want to connect with it?

First off, no. You don’t need to change your body before you learn to connect with it or even learn to love it. In fact, it’s the other way around. Learn to connect with and love your body as it is right now and watch change happen.

Second, I’ve learned in recovery that journeys happen one step at a time. Part of my anorexia disease came with an element of body dysmorphia, which means what I physically saw in the mirror wasn’t even close to the reality of what my body actually looked like. I saw flaws in my body that weren’t even there. So not only was I disconnected from my body and its cues, I was also disconnected from reality. Learning how to reconnect with reality and my body took slow, careful baby steps starting with the most fundamental body function I have:

Breathing

And that, my friend, is where we can all start learning how to connect with our bodies. We rarely notice the one thing that keeps us alive… what it feels like to breathe; how our body moves when we breathe in and how it moves when we exhale; how the new air going in and down feels in our belly and nose, how the muscles in our shoulders, neck, and spine relax as we cleanse through a breath out. Connecting with our breath connects us with being alive inside our bodies.

We ask a lot of ourselves, don’t we? We expect much from our minds and bodies in the mess and stress of living. Not only do we ask our bodies and minds to stay tough and strong and capable through the expectations of daily living, but we require that we look good and be healthy doing it. So we run ourselves through the ringer of diet and nutrition and exercise trends, demanding cooperation and results from our bodies. When the diets don’t work or we’re too tired for the exercise regimens, we blast our minds with negative self-talk and self-blame.

I am suggesting we let go of all the requirements and learn to connect with what our bodies are saying rather than telling our bodies what to do and abusing ourselves when our bodies don’t listen to us. The best place to start listening is in the quietness and simpleness of breathing.

///

Confession: In preparation to write this post today, I did the breathing practice that I am going to share with you in just a minute. As I laid on my yoga mat with my hands resting with love on my belly, the gentle rhythm of my breath made me emotional. I began to cry as my body softened. I didn’t realized how disconnected with myself and my emotions I have been these past weeks. While my recovery is strong, life was both stressful and tragic in August. I rode the waves of emotion as they came through the month, but I hadn’t taken the time to truly connect with myself–mind, body, and heart–to understand my body was both taking the brunt of my feelings and still taking care of me. My neck, shoulders, arms, and back were grateful for the breathing cleanse as they were finally able to relax with every exhale; my brain was able to rest with its only focus on my most fundamental need… breath.

///

The video below is all about breathing and connection–no scary yoga shapes. Keep an open mind and try. Yes, this is a yoga instructor but don’t be intimidated! Yoga isn’t always (or rarely is it) about twisting your body into inhumane shapes. The Yoga with Adriene mission and motto is “find what feels good” and she caters to beginners.

Two things to think about:

1) There are no rules about how this is supposed to look or work. I have a cranky knee, so even just sitting on my knees isn’t available to me, but I modify movement as needed and will even come to a simple seated position. Be kind to yourself and do the same for your body if you need to.

2) Body connection takes practice! Breathing takes practice. Have grace for you if you find yourself distracted or frustrated. Baby steps, remember?

3) I would love to hear about your experience if you try this! What did you notice about yourself and your body as you connected with your breath? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Much love to you all!

Namaste.
 

 

 

 

 

Two basic ways to take care of yourself

My family is going through a challenging season with our kids’ mental health. Between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, meetings at the school, researching, and writing countless emails, I am TIRED. While tired I still love, support (e.g. help with homework, listen to the social adventures of 3rd and 4th grade, answer questions about the universe, etc.), and snuggle my kiddos who are feeling their challenges first-hand; motherhood knocks me from tired into exhaustion.

One thing my friends and family keep saying is: “Take care of yourself.” I confess when I hear that I do an internal eye roll. In what time-space continuum do I have the opportunity to take care of myself? What does that even mean on a practical level?

However, once I set my bad attitude aside I remember there are two basic ways to take care of myself, both of which make up the foundation of self-love: eating and sleeping. In doing these two things for myself first, I can then take care of my people so much better.

Same for you, my dears. Eating and sleeping are human things, not just Leanne things. If you can’t find any other way to love on yourself, then at the very least consider doing these two things.

///

Eating

The most fundamental way to love yourself is to eat! And I don’t mean eating according to a diet, cleanse, or perceived “good” or “healthy” way. Diets, cleanses and rigid eating are all forms of restricting nutrients that feed you. If you’re restricting then you aren’t feeding your body, you’re controlling it. And control in any relationship, especially with your body, is not love. 

Listen to hunger cues and ask yourself what sounds good. Don’t question or judge what your body says. If your body is asking for something you (or culture) have deemed “unhealthy” or “bad,” I encourage you to throw that judgement out the window and eat the food. Body love trumps cultural rules.

When the challenges of life are pulling your body into fatigue, stress, or worry, eating becomes imperative for brain function so you can think critically and make appropriate decisions in whatever you’re dealing with. Hard times are demanding on the body; love your body–take care of yourself–by eating. Not restricting or starving.

This is not to be confused with eating to cope with your feelings. Eating as a way to avoid hard feelings is just as unloving as starving your body. Feel your feelings. Listen to your body; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

Sleeping

One of the most annoying experiences is to be exhausted yet not be able to sleep. When you’re anxious or worried or angry, sleep can be elusive, but it’s the best and most loving way to calm down. Sleep also restores energy and keeps your body cues accurate (which is important for eating!). In fact, if you’ve ever labeled yourself a “sugar addict,” I’d encourage you to take an honest look at your sleep habits. If you aren’t sleeping well then your body lacks energy. The body’s natural biological response to low energy is to ask you for fuel that has quick, efficient energy. The most efficient form of energy is sugar. Tada! Be nice to yourself. You aren’t a sugar addict; you’re probably tired.

It’s also important to understand that your body can be fatigued without you noticing or feeling tired. Anxiety has a way of tricking you into thinking you have energy, and thus getting plenty of sleep. This is called an inaccurate body cue.

So how do you know if you need a nap or need food? This can be tricky and you have to tune in to your body to learn the difference. Sometimes you might need both. It’s going to be different for everyone, but a couple of clues might be:

~If you’re not eating much and find yourself thriving on a mere four hours of sleep. This could be a clue that you’re running on anxiety. You’ll need both good nutrition (which will help you sleep) and sleep (which will help reset your body cues).

~If you’re constantly feeding your body yet always feel tired. This is a good clue that you might need more/better sleep.

~ You’ve slept great but have low energy OR you’re extremely tired and calm yet can’t sleep. This could be a clue you need more nutrition. Your body will not sleep or sleep well if it’s hungry.

One last note about sleep. Good sleep hygiene is part of loving your body. This means doing simple things that prepare your body for good sleep like:

~ Meditation to calm the mind and body. (Click here for my favorite bedtime practice.)
~ A hot shower to rinse off the day, soothe tense muscles, and calm your nervous system.
~ Massaging lotion into your feet and toes as an act of gratitude for holding you up all day.
~ Deep breathing to relax shoulders, gut, and butt (common areas that hold stress).

///

Take care of yourself. If those four words cause you irritation or panic because you don’t know what that means or you think you don’t have time, remember the two basics: eating and sleeping. Start there. Listen to your body and honor what it needs.

 

 

What does self-love look like?

Self-love does not look like self-centeredness. These are two very different things, and I am learning how to do one without feeling like I am being the other. The last couple of weeks have been stressful in our household, to the point where I haven’t been sleeping through the night for nearly two weeks. The less I sleep, the harder it is to do life well, especially when it’s stressful. I realized that in order for me to cope the stress and maybe even sleep better, I needed to take care of myself. Self-care is self-love.

///

I was starting to feel sick. Normally when I start feeling ill, I simply state “I don’t feel good” and keep moving full speed ahead until the sickness bullies me onto the couch and holds me there in a death-grip for several days. This time, I decided to let myself take it easy before I was actually fully sick. I didn’t go to Taekwondo class; I didn’t clean the house; I made super easy dinners with no side items; I watched movies with my kids on school nights; and I laid down for an hour or more. A lot. For two days, I let myself rest how I felt like it and by the weekend, I was feeling great. Sickness never hit.

Resting when we’re not feeling well, even though we aren’t technically sick= self-love.

///

My daughter, Haley, and I went to Taekwondo class on Saturday morning. When we got home I said, “Hey, let’s go wash our feet.” I filled the tub with warm water and mixed in some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. We sat together on the edge of the tub with our feet soaking; we both let out a satisfied sigh. Haley said, “Ahh. My feet feel like they are melting. Feels so good.” We talked about how much we demand of our feet–we shove them into shoes; wrinkle our noses at them; we walk, jump, run, kick, bend, tromp on them. Oh my, how much we stand on our two feet. They work so hard to hold us up all the time! What a treat to show some love to the two things that keep us moving forward in our life.

Gently tending to the body parts we ignore, don’t notice, or don’t like= self-love.

///

I was watching the Taekwondo black belt class train the other day while waiting for my class to start. A fellow teammate approached me and said, “That’s going to be you soon! You’re testing in April right? Then you’ll get to go to the black belt classes.” I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know. Yes, I am testing in April, but I don’t know yet if I will continue on.” He looked at me with furrowed brows and wide eyes. “What? You aren’t going to quit are you?” I explained that my knee and hip have been swelling up and experiencing severe pain since I moved into level 4. I’ve been working with my sports medicine doctor to prepare for and endure my black belt test without injury.  “I’m not sure Taekwondo is the right sport for me long term,”  I said. He shrugged, “Yeah. We all have hip and knee problems, though.” I looked at him in the eyes and replied, “I love Taekwondo, but I have to be kind to my body.”

Quitting a sport that’s hurting your body= self-love.

///

Self-love looks like taking care of yourself–body, mind and heart. I think it starts with taking care of our physical bodies, though. And I don’t mean diet and exercise. I mean listening, noticing, and understanding what our bodies are asking for. Self-care feels counter-cultural; culture says it’s not okay to quit because then you’re giving up on yourself; it’s not okay to rest if you aren’t “really sick” because people are depending on you; it’s not okay to spend time acquainting yourself with your body parts (and maybe even loving them as is) because it’s weird and self-centered. I disagree with culture.

This week, pick one part of your body that you typically ignore or maybe even don’t like–then tend to it. You don’t have to fall in love with the body part, but I want to find a way to love on it– you can say something  nice to it in the mirror, or get really into it and find a way to physically show care and compassion to it. There are no rules… tend to yourself however it feels right for you.

Much love! <3