It is that time of year: finals looming, papers bearing down, projects hanging overhead. You are probably neglecting your health, forgoing sleep, exercise and healthy eating as you gear up for the end. Am I right?
I could give you a bunch of advice about how to stay healthy, what to do and not do, and so on. This is a medical advice column, after all, and I am a medical expert.
But instead I’m going to suggest that you listen to someone much more expert on the topic of your health: you.
Nobody knows you like you do. You are the only one (I hope) who lives in that body. You know what it feels like when you are rested, tired or sick, when you need to move it, feed it or put it to bed. You are the world’s foremost authority on you.
If you can learn to really pay attention to your body’s cues, you can be your own best health advisor. A good way to begin is with a simple body scan. Try it. You can do it in less than two minutes if you want.
Sit somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes. Oops, now open them, read the rest of this, and then close them again and try it. Starting with your feet, pay attention to each part of your body for the duration of one full breath. In … these are my feet. Out … these are my feet. In … these are my calves. And so on. As you focus on a part of your body, just notice what it feels like. Don’t judge or analyze. Just observe. If you have time, take a few breaths at each
Move your attention in this fashion all the way up to the top of your head, dividing your body however it makes sense to you. Notice what each part feels like. What is the temperature of that part of your body? Is it cool or warm? Is it relaxed or tense? What other sensations do you notice? Just take a few minutes to check in with yourself.
When you’re done with your body, check in with your mind. What are you thinking right now? What thoughts are going round and round in your head? Again, don’t judge or analyze. Just observe.
Thoughts and feelings are closely connected. What are you feeling? If you aren’t sure, go back to your body and check in again. You will get some clues, I promise. Intense emotions are especially noted in the body, but even subtler feelings reverberate.
Why do all this? A body scan will help you relax your body bit by bit without trying. Relaxation is almost always a good thing. More than that, though, becoming more aware of your body will help you learn to trust it.
You have a lot of wisdom, and your body never lies. Your wicked brain may try to convince you that you are better off sitting in the library all night, skipping sleep and food, but check in with your body and you’ll know the truth.
I hope the school year winds up well for you. Have a great summer.