When I left my job, I knew I was feeling burnt out, angry, and overwhelmed. I could name the mental health imbalances I was feeling. At the same time I knew that working my full time job, which was mostly sedentary, meant I was out of shape. However, it was less apparent how deeply my physical body was out of balance as well.
My Innermission started with work on my mental health, but my body seized the moment and also spoke up to let me know that the patterns of computer use, quick meals, too much coffee, and not enough movement, let alone the stress I was holding, were all contributing to a physical breakdown as well.
The first indicator was a relapse of the Epstein-Barr virus, which left me without energy, emotionally unstable, and with a strong desire to sleep my days away. This not only hit me at a moment when I felt like I needed energy to figure out my next step, but it also meant that my only “job” in taking care of our family became a dreaded chore. Making dinner seemed like an insurmountable ordeal. I’m embarrassed to say that even tucking my kids in at night felt like something I had to rally to do. I hit rock bottom.
It took a while to diagnose, but once a doctor could name what was going on, I began to shift my focus from fighting my body, to nurturing my body to fight the virus. It took several months, but I came to realize that the stress had taken a much larger toll on my well-being than I had once assumed.
At the same time, in those months of recovery I found a new meditation practice. I ate with intention to make sure I was feeding my body foods to truly nourish it. I listened to my body and slept when I was tired—even a mid-day nap when necessary. I took up daily walking and restorative yoga. All these practices helped me slow down—not just in service of kicking the virus, but in slowing down my movement, my thoughts, and my priorities. My to-do lists were gone. I led with the question, “What does my body need today?”. And that practice has stuck with me even when the virus was gone.
In the current uncertainties of 2020, I have found myself returning and recommitting to this practice. Taking the time every day to check in with my body and recognize where the stresses are held, how my body is responding to the demands of the day, and how to slow my mind and listen to the constant of my heartbeat.
Innermission is an open invitation to slow down. Hopefully, you are a better listener to your body than I was and it won’t take a major virus for your body to get your attention. But our bodies will find a way to get our attention. It is common to think that a professional, relationship, or personal identity change is about our brain’s thoughts and plans, or our heart’s desires, but let’s not forget that our bodies are comprehensive. If we feel stress in a busy brain, our shoulders, our digestive system, our hormones are all effected. If we can find a way to restore the balance of our whole bodies—brain, bodies, beings—then we can prepare to look ahead and face our next steps.
Innermission Invitation—Set a timer for 5 minutes while sitting in a comfortable spot. Focus on your breath. As you take deep breaths, start at the top of your head and slowly check in with different parts of your body from your scalp to your toes. If you encounter tightness, use your breath to focus on that area and try and relax it. If you encounter soreness or pain, use your focus to bring awareness and kindness to that area.