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In this post, I wanna talk about a really important skill I built up in the last couple of years:
To be more self-aware by listening to my body & mind.
“How do I feel?”
“How’s my energy level?”
“What’s my mood like?”
Self-awareness and -acceptance are still way too underrated in our society in my opinion. Being aware of one’s body and mind, of what we’re (not) capable of and being ok with that.
Why This Skill is So Important to Me
A Real-Life Example: Work
Here’s a real life example and probably the main reason why it’s so important to me to know my body and mind well – and it’s work-related:
I work as a freelance consultant for a variety of different clients. All these projects have a set timeline and most of the times, these timelines are reasonable and – most important – manageable.
Although I pride myself in being pretty good pushing back, holding my ground and setting healthy boundaries, there are times where I choose (unknowingly) to work with the wrong type of client.
Most of the time, I work remotely, but some clients and projects require my physical presence. This example is about the latter scenario.
Here we go: Everything starts off well, other team members are friendly and everybody’s happy at first.
Then Sh*t Hits the Fan
Suddenly, I find myself in a messy and overwhelming situation in the middle of a “high-priority” project with an (updated!) super tight schedule.
This is what happens next: All my healthy habits and routines fly out the window, one by one, because I cannot find the time to follow them.
As much as I’d love to stick to my healthy daily routine, (the messy work) life just gets in the way and I don’t have as much a say in those particular situations as I wish.
Projects get very sudden more time-consuming so my days look a lot like this:
Wake up overly tired –> run to client’s office –> work 14h –> come home late –> eat some delivery food let-overs –> work some 2/3h more –> go to bed –> try to get some sleep.
No time for cooking, no time for workouts, no social life, no me-time.
The only thing I keep on doing no matter what is meditating before going to bed.
Listening to my body – Examples
I can feel how I get weaker by the day.
My skin starts to break out like crazy, my digestion hates my poor food choices, I have trouble falling asleep and sleeping through, and am feeling like sh*t in general (no workouts = no strength or energy!).
Listening to my mind – Examples
When I’m too stretched and stressed for too long, my mind is constantly racing. It’s like having a million tabs open at the same time. “What if” scenarios from the past and future battle against each other.
It’s freaking mayhem.
I can’t focus properly and start making mistakes or forgetting things. Another annoying thing is my lack of enthusiasm. There’s no energy left to be passionate about the project at hand.
These are only a few signs of the many I learned to decode about myself over the years to become more self-aware.
Self-awareness – So What?
Learning to be more self-aware has a lot of benefits. When it comes to my freelance business plus long-term happiness and success, it helps me as follows:
a) To address individual problems as soon as I can or latest once the project is over,
b) to know to never work with that certain client again and
c) to “vet” a prospective client more thoroughly by asking the right questions.
But I’m not at the point, where I’d know how to get out of this funk gracefully DURING such a stressful period of time.
I mean, not finishing a project is definitely not an option (unless some major f*ck up happens from client side which I haven’t experienced so far). So I tend to power through promising myself to never work with that client again.
(Btw, these are not the type of clients, you could talk to to improve the situation.)
Thank God, these situations got a lot rarer because my BS radar had a steep learning curve – but unfortunately they still do happen from time to time.
Once I’m done with the project, I try getting back to my healthy daily routine as quick as possible, but even this takes some adjustment time.
2 Things That Helped Me to Learn Listening to My Body & Mind
Two things that helped me a lot on my journey of becoming more self-aware were and still are yoga and meditation (both links are playlists on Youtube with beginner friendly content and more advanced stuff of different channels I like).
Why yoga and meditation?
Meditation taught me to recenter myself, to press pause and to just be in the moment. It’s liberating and helps to regain perspective. And it helps me to find my inner calmness.
Yoga taught me to move my body according to how it feels. One of the breathing techniques called Ujjayi Breath helps me to focus on just that.
On some days, it’s easy to flow into the different asanas/poses, on other days the exact same asanas/poses are out of reach.
My very first yoga teacher told us before every class:
“Yoga is like a buffet, take what you want and can do. Leave the rest aside.”
Doesn’t mean to not challenge oneself, but to not push too hard, when something clearly is out of scope. It’s about being realistic and cutting yourself some slack if needed without judging yourself.
Sometimes, my energy is low, I feel powerless and moody. I don’t know why. Could be a cold, that I haven’t shaken off yet.
A few years back, I would have forced my body to function nonetheless. I probably would’ve gone to the gym straight away to power through an exhausting workout despite feeling unwell.
I might have even felt really really sorry for myself as in “Why meeeeee?” (worst question ever).
Today, I don’t do that anymore. I allow myself to listen to my body. And if I feel weak, I’ll skip the gym and do some gentle yoga and breathing exercises instead – or just chill on the couch and rest.
And you know what? That’s ok.
Now I only need to make sure others don’t interfere with my wellbeing (as in stressful projects).
What about you? How do you deal with your body on days that you don’t feel well?
Self-Awareness Content I Like
Here’s a list full of inspiring content to dive further into the topic- I hope you enjoy!
“Let me tell you a story” – Jorge Bucay. This is my second favorite book of the Argentinian author and psychotherapist.
The first one is called “Tres preguntas: Quien soy? Adonde voy? Con quien?” (in English: Three questions: Who am I? Where do I go? With whom?).
Unfortunately, it seems like it hasn’t been translated (for the German speaking readers: Yep there’s a German version with the title “Drei Fragen”).
This book is one of those, that I read at least once a year, and has been one of the hardest to go through. It challenges me every time and I often had to sit down to reread certain paragraphs contemplating them.
So if you speak Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian or German, please get it (really don’t understand why there’s no English version, duh!).
The book listed here now, “Let me tell you a story”, is a collection of short stories that also inspire and challenge the reader to think about his/her life to understand him-/herself better.
The short stories are metaphors for different situations and range from everyday problems, work issues, to relationship topics regarding family, friends and partners.
Feel Good INC. – Kyle Olthoff, Leah McVey. A beautiful acoustic cover of the Gorillaz classic. Perfect for cuddling up on the couch with a hot cup of Ginger-Lemon Tea on days when you feel like it.
Increase your self-awareness with one simple fix by Tasha Eurich. Super interesting and insightful TEDx Talk defining self-awareness and explaining how introspection works.
Tasha Eurich reveals how we all can move forward towards a much more positive future through being self-aware by asking the right question (hint: we need to ask WHAT instead of WHY) instead of getting caught up in negativity (about 17 minutes long).
Are you a person, who’s self-aware or who only likes to think so? As explained in the TEDx Talk, it is a good indicator, if a person close to you also thinks you’re self-aware.
So, let’s have a conversation with that person and find out, shall we 🙂