I have a few unusual nicknames. In college, I earned the name “No-Pants Sara” because I mainly wear dresses and didn’t wear pajama pants around the dorm. I’m “Mesmerizing Macadamia” in my friend group chat, where each of us have a nut-related nickname because, well, we’re a little nuts. And at home, I’m “Cyclone Sara” because of my boundless energy and tendency to bulldoze anything that gets in my way. (Also because my mom’s nickname is “Hurricane Helene,” and, well, like mother like daughter.)
I like to do things. Just being is harder for me: meditation has historically felt like a torture sentence, and I can barely handle a natural pause in a conversation. The last year of my life has been focused on learning how to find the balance between doing and being; and, after years of knowing that this was ‘something I should work on,’ I’ve actually gotten somewhere with it in a surprising way: body awareness.
How Body Awareness Helped Me This Year
In 2018, I learned to code and changed careers; I prioritized fitness and physical health; and I read, as of writing this, 70 books. But I also paid more attention than ever to slowing down, listening to my body, and being myself without shame or embarrassment. Incorporating my body’s natural (and occasionally annoying) need to rest was key to achieving many of the things I did. I know, because this is the first year in my life that I’ve completed a New Year’s resolution — and actually, I’ve crossed them both off, and it’s only November.
The main way that achieved this work-life balance is by reconnecting to myself, my body, and my surroundings. I don’t think all the answers to our modern problems can be found in the simplicity of the past. (Sure, they didn’t have FOMO, but when was the last time someone you love contracted polio?) That said, there are some things that our predecessors knew that we’ve forgotten, or ironed out of our day-to-day lives. One of these is listening to nature’s cues, whether in the outside world or within ourselves.
Body awareness is one way to do this today. Tuning in and engaging with different practices to honor my body has been transformational for me. I am more confident, happy, and present. And, because my mental health is in a better place, I’m also better-able to achieve my goals.
How I Use Body Awareness For Work-Life Balance
There are a lot of ways to reconnect to your body, from the typical ’15 ways to do self-care’ list items like meditation and yoga, to the unusual and eccentric. Let’s just say mine would not be on that list.
If you had told me two years ago that I would identify fertility awareness tracking, strength training, and a curly hair routine as things that have changed my life and my relationship to my body, I would never have believed you! But these practices have been incredibly helpful for grounding me. They have reducing feelings of body shame and made me feel strong and confident. Whatever you can find that helps you do that is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.
My Favorite Method of Body Awareness: Fertility Awareness Method
What the heck is fertility awareness tracking? Well, it’s basically tracking your body’s natural fertility signs (for cisgender women, that means your temperature when you wake up, as well as cervical position or fluid for those who want to). Some people do it to prevent or achieve pregnancy, but I don’t use it for either. I started learning about the fertility awareness method last summer, when I wanted to get back in touch with my body after a bad medical experience. First, I ordered a $10 Basal Body Temperature thermometer and the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility on a whim. I was surprised to find that I absolutely loved the book. Previously, I had never known much about my body or its natural rhythms, and learning about it in this grounded, scientific way was strangely empowering. I now continue to track for self-insight, and find it to be a great way to listen to my body and focus on my health.
Another Way I Practice Body Awareness: Fitness
Working out and difficult strength training has has similar impact. My body wasn’t designed to sit in a chair for fifteen hours a day, so I find that when I use it to engage with the world — by walking, biking, working out, or dancing — I feel strong and present. I’ve struggled with a variety of health conditions in the past, so finding ways to move my body that feel good has been really empowering for me, as well.
Body Awareness In Unusual Ways: Accepting My Hair’s Natural Pattern
Another unusual way that I’ve engaged with my body is by embracing my hair’s natural texture. I have naturally big, wavy hair, which can be anywhere from straight to wavy to curly to frizzy depending on the day. In the last year, I’ve learned more about how to care for it well and let it do its own thing. While at first, I hoped it would become curly like the beautiful examples I saw online, I eventually realized that the whole point of this process is letting it be the way it is: not curly, not straight, but something in the middle. Again, this seemingly normal and simple part of my life made me feel confident and empowered in ways that took me by surprise. But, like with fertility tracking, it’s changed my life for the better.
Other Ways to Practice Body Awareness
These methods of body awareness work for me, but may not work for you. Here are a few other methods you can consider.
- Guided meditation through apps like Calm
- Yoga at home (I love the YouTuber Yoga with Adrienne for this)
- A fitness class that gets you out of your head (spin or Zumba, for example)
- Intuitive eating
- Adding physical steps to your self-care practice (for example, moisturizing your body after a shower)
Listening to, accepting, and encouraging my body’s natural patterns and abilities has been profound for me. It’s improved my confidence, reduced anxiety, and helped me develop a stronger sense of self. I’d love to know if and how you listen to your own body — please comment below with your own practices!