When poo and puke speak: how loud do our bodies need to scream at us before we listen?
8th November 2021
Yesterday I was completely slapped sideways by my own body. I spent the whole day in bed unless I was sat on or throwing up into the toilet. Yep, pretty grim and apologies!
Normally when I am ill, which thankfully is rare, I chill out on the couch and watch TV. Yesterday I could not keep my eyes open and just dosed in bed all day, very rare for me. However, as I lay there, although my body was completely devoid of any energy, my mind was not quiet, and I was able to take time to reflect. The main reflection was how amazing our bodies are, perhaps a counterintuitive when mine was playing up. Let me explain.
I must have had a tummy bug of some sort and my mind/body did what it could to sort itself out, albeit not in the most pleasant of ways. But how my mind/body went about cleansing and repairing is quite special and in my opinion incredible.
The mechanism of vomiting is certainly intense and today my abdomen really aches from those intense contractions. Vomiting is usually experienced as the finale in a series of three events - Nausea, Retching and Vomition (or Emesis). “Vomition results from a highly coordinated series of events: A deep breath is taken, the glottis is closed and the larynx is raised to open the upper oesophageal sphincter. Also, the soft palate is elevated to close off the posterior nares; the diaphragm is contracted sharply downward to create negative pressure in the thorax, which facilitates opening of the oesophagus and distal oesophageal sphincter; simultaneously with downward movement of the diaphragm, the muscles of the abdominal walls are vigorously contracted, squeezing the stomach and thus elevating intragastric pressure. With the pylorus closed and the oesophagus relatively open, the route of exit is clear.”1
As I think about this cleansing mechanism it got me thinking about all the other ways our mind/body works to keep itself well and running smoothly. For some time I have been very aware that when I am run down my body gives me clear indicators. Usually a headache, a mouth ulcer and sometimes a cold sore. In the past, when really stressed, I would have nausea but thankfully I don’t get that these days, which I think is a direct result of ensuring I don’t get so stressed.
As I mentioned already, yesterday I literally spent the whole day in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. In the past I would have felt a strong sense of disquiet or frustration about this, but instead I chose to embrace the fact that my body needed it and I should not fight it. I do not feel it was a wasted day, rather an important day of recovery and rest. Sleep and rest are so essential to our well being and rather than seeing it as unproductive time I choose to see it as productive recovery.
Why do we so often feel we need to be busy doing stuff? Learning to rest is important for us all and we need to be tuned in to what our mind/body is saying. This is key reflection for us in this brief post.
Think about it. How much time do you take for sleep and rest. Humans need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day and interestingly we are naturally not mono phasic sleepers - i.e. its natural for us to sleep more than once in a day. We switched to mono phasic sleeping quite recently in our history with the advent of the industrial revolution. Taking a siesta is how we are built, and I have been so much more open to taking a short nap in the day if I feel tired and my schedule allows. And it is so refreshing - anything from 7-15 minutes maximum. For me longer than that and I don’t feel refreshed but rather groggy. I treat this “power nap” as a mini meditation. I sit comfortably in a chair, legs uncrossed, hands relaxed in my lap and head slightly reclined and supported on a wall or headrest (I do this often in my car when feeling a bit sleepy - of course, when stationary!) I then close my eyes, focus on my breathing and stare through my eyelids, all the while clearing my mind. I then somehow (I believe this is my mind/body in control) wake up just before drifting in to deeper sleep. It works every time and is a key part of most days.
To sign off therefore I just challenge each of you to think about how much you pay attention to what your mind/body is saying to you each day. And when it speaks, listen and act.