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Over the last decade working in hospitals, I was surprised by the number of times learning the skills to communicate helped alleviate my patients’ physical symptoms and even helped them get rid of a dependence on certain medications.

Research shows that communicating effectively helps us better cope with stress, nurtures our relationships, and enhances our health and self esteem. Those who have solid relationships where they can share their emotions and feel supported tend to live longer. Those who feel misunderstood report a higher rate of depression, which weakens the immune system and makes them more vulnerable to disease. If more people knew this, I bet they’d get serious about having courageous conversations, no matter how awkward they might feel initially.

Anyone can learn to communicate better, and a great place to start is with your own internal communication. When the internal signals you receive from your body match your values and the actions you take, you will likely feel calm, peaceful and aligned. When you’re not aligned (in other words, when you override your body’s signals and take action that is different from what you really want) you may feel overwhelmed, upset or disconnected. How could you possibly communicate effectively with others when you are ignoring what your own body is telling you?

Listen to Your Body’s Signals

Your body is sending you messages, whether you’re aware of them or not. These physiological signals are unique for each individual. For example, some people experience a racing heart because they’re nervous about having a tough conversation; others feel low energy for the same reason. Stress may cause one person’s stomach to churn and another to start sweating excessively. How does your body communicate with you and demand your attention?

For a long time, I didn’t recognize my own alarm signals. As a physician, I had learned to override by body’s signals to endure a rigorous training with 36-hour continuous shifts. My throat used to tighten up so much that I’d have to leave the hospital to get fresh air whenever our chief asked, “Who is going to volunteer to cover the night shift?” Still, I would often commit to the extra shifts even when I was exhausted, just because I wanted to be perceived as a team player. Physical signals from your body can mean that you need medical attention, so always make sure to get checked out by your health professional first. I consulted two physicians who verified there was nothing physically wrong with my throat. It was only then that I realized I was ignoring my body’s messages. When I said yes to the team, I was saying no to my own self-care.

Now that I can decipher my body’s signals, my throat constriction acts as a friendly reminder not to over-commit.

Whatever the signal, the message is clear. Your body is talking to you.
Are you listening?

To tune in to your body, consider these three questions:

  1. With whom or in what circumstance do you experience the most difficulty communicating?
  2. What physical signals from your body tell you that it’s challenging?
  3. What do you do with that information?

Recognize Your Numbing Strategies

Our body’s physiological signals (e.g. jaw clenching, stomach churning), can be uncomfortable. Rather than listening to these internal signals, we often use our own time-tested numbing strategies that work—temporarily, anyway. This is how we ignore the messages coming from our bodies, rather than taking the time to address the root cause. Do any of these common strategies sound familiar?

Whether you use sugar and caffeine, numb out with alcohol or simply avoid the conversation all together, these strategies all have something in common. They work—for a few minutes—to change how you feel. And if you’re really good at it, they work for months and even years. Call them what you will; the truth is they’re all Band-Aids. They are temporary strategies that don’t solve the underlying problem that our bodies are trying to alert us to.

Once you are able to recognize and decipher your body’s signals for the warnings that they are, you are better prepared to engage in effective communication.

To identify your strategies, consider these three questions:

  1. When you’ve agreed to do something you didn’t want to do, what brings you comfort? (That’s your strategy!)
  2. If you gave the strategy a name, what would it be?
  3. How long is the strategy effective?

Friend Your Self

To Friend another nowadays takes the click of a mouse. To Friend yourself is a much more difficult task. It means considering your own needs and wants as you engage with the world. It’s a delicate balance and a constant negotiation. It’s also learned behavior; because it’s not something we typically learn growing up.

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and our smart phones making us available 24/7, balancing work and home life is getting tougher every day. Yes, we’re mobile, but are we ever really off? As the world becomes more and more connected, isn’t it astonishing that many of us manage to stay current with the status updates of our 500+ Facebook friends? Yet, when was the last time you checked your body’s status update? It’s probably time to Friend yourself.

I’d love to hear what strategies you use to tune out of your body and also, what you hear when you start listening…The TalkRx Community thrives on your comments and it’s a great way to get support.

To tuning in,

Doctor Neha logo

 

6 Responses

  1. Dark chocolate chips are my go to. What my body really needs is exercise – yoga or Pilates in particular. I have a desk job that keeps me immobile for hours at a time. I need to make sure I’m taking care of me, not just the never ending to do list.

    1. Carolyn—you have great awareness of your numbing strategies and of what your body needs to feel good! What creative ways can you get your work done, but maybe also build in some movement? Because you’re so right, the never ending to do list is truly never ending. Thanks for joining the conversation…!

  2. This is so similar to what I teach and wrote about in my book, Find Your Rhythm. Listen to your body is a message that came to me several times until I decided to go ahead and start teaching it through my videos, coaching and books! Love the clarity and insight you’ve brought in with this article Dr.Neha! Way to go!

    1. Thanks Megha. I love getting feedback like this, especially from a fellow soul on the journey! Keep up your good work. There are so many people who need this information ❤️

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