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Excercise

Listen To Your Body

“I learn how to listen to my body. I must listen or I will die. In the water, I must learn the difference between fear and danger.”

Sonya Renee Taylor

With all the new demands on your life during a divorce, it can be surprisingly easy to ignore your body. Listening to your body begins by focusing on stress. Stress is part of our daily experience: from facing a deadline at work to sitting in traffic to dealing with unexpected news to addressing conflict with a family member. But divorce adds an additional layer of emotional turmoil to the normal burden of everyday stress you’re already carrying. 

Think inside out

It’s well documented that stress and anxiety have physical effects. Stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, causing your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause physical reactions such as fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, nausea, muscle aches, and shortness of breath. As we rush around focusing on external concerns and circumstances, physical symptoms of illness serve as red flags to remind us to pay attention to what’s happening inside. 

Story

“I began practicing yoga when I was going through the divorce. My son was only a year old, and I couldn’t swing for childcare, so I just found an online program I could do after he went to bed. Doing yoga helped me feel like I was getting stronger physically at a time when I often felt weak emotionally. It also helped me wind down from the stress of the day so that I could get a decent night’s sleep - something that became more important than ever now that I was a single mom.”

-Alys

5 Steps to Better Health

When you listen to your body and give it what it needs, you’ll experience better health and happiness. Consider implementing the following:

  • Exercise regularly
    Getting regular exercise relieves stress and strengthens your immune system. It is also an effective way to improve your emotional state. If you’re out of shape, start small and give yourself credit for making positive changes, however small. Walking is one of the all-around best forms of exercise – and it’s free! Finding a type of exercise that you enjoy will help you stay motivated and consistent. Be creative! There are many communities built around working out like climbing gyms, kickboxing, yoga studios, and run & bike clubs that can add a fun social element to your workouts. Plus, a little positive peer pressure to show up doesn’t hurt! Do what you enjoy to get your blood pumping.

  • Eat foods that make you feel good over time
    Stress can trigger some people to eat mindlessly and others to not eat enough. Eliminate temptation by not keeping foods in the house that contribute to unhealthy habits. If the emotional strain of the divorce has diminished your appetite, set an alarm to remind you to eat regular snacks or meals. Try to eat more whole foods and plants.

  • Learn to relax
    Relaxation is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response and can quiet your mind and emotions. Relaxation techniques like breathing deeply, listening to music, or taking a walk in nature can counteract the physical effects of stress.

  • Practice mindfulness
    Meditation reduces stress response hormones and helps you move beyond negative thoughts. Practice being present by putting aside past regrets and future fears. If you are spiritual, make time daily for prayer to refocus your thoughts and give your anxiety to a higher power.

  • Talk to a professional counselor
    Counseling can provide you with proven, practical tools you need to cope with stress and anxiety. And talking with a counselor can provide an outlet for you to process the emotions of your divorce before they translate into physical symptoms.

Fortify your immune system

Stress doesn’t make you ill. Whether or not you get sick depends on how you deal with stress. Stress triggers a physical response from the major systems of your body. These systems are interconnected and are profoundly influenced by your mental health and coping mechanisms. When you take intentional steps to reduce and manage stress, your immune system will be better prepared to protect you.  

Invest in yourself

Everyone has different physical needs—different diets, different amounts of sleep, different levels of exercise. Some people also have a higher capacity for stress before it starts to make itself known in their body. Maybe you already understand what your body needs and have just been neglecting it. Or maybe your body’s needs have changed and you haven’t figured out how to adjust yet. Learn to notice what your body needs by paying attention to the signs it sends you. Try keeping a journal to help you correlate how you feel to what you are or aren’t doing for your health. No matter what, practice loving your body. Tell it thank you. 

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