One day you put on a favorite pair of pants and realize the button won’t close. Or, you’ve gotten injured and can’t do your favorite workout for a while. When this happens, feeling sad, confused or angry is normal. Taking time to process these feelings and re-evaluating your relationship with your body can leave you mentally stronger and better able to handle changes the next time they happen.
When a change happens, you may feel like you and your mind are battling with your body to get it to do what you want. Rather than thinking in terms of a battle, however, it may be more helpful to think of the relationship as a partnership between your mind and your body. They have to work together, so that you can do the things you want to do. Your mind has to give the body what it needs to be healthy — food, water, movement and health care, for example. Your mind needs care, too. For example, your mind can’t work without a constant supply of energy that your body provides through food.
Considering this mutually beneficial relationship between your mind and body, how can you accept the changes happening to your body? Or even renew that relationship? Below are seven steps that can help you renew your relationship with your body, so you can be even stronger partners in the future.
Seven Steps to Renew Your Relationship with Your Body
- Give your body some grace. It can be easy to start catastrophizing about the change. Stop, take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Whenever your mind starts racing about how this change spells gloom and doom for your life, stop, breathe and recenter.
- Ask, “Is this thought true?” Our minds can easily start running wild about how this change will destroy our lives. After centering yourself, ask, “Is this true?” For example, you may be thinking if you can’t practice yoga your body will fall apart; you’ll not be able to keep everything together; eventually, you’ll lose your home and be on the street. I know this is extreme. And, sometimes our minds come up with the most extreme things that could happen. By asking yourself “is this true?” then thinking through a realistic answer, you’re challenging those thoughts. You’re asking your brain to stop and re-evaluate the situation.
- Work on accepting your “here-and-now” body. Yes, this can be difficult. Your “here-and-now” body is the body you have right now. Fighting your body, trying to get it to do things it can’t, reinforces the feeling of being in a battle with your body. You may yearn for your “old” body. Coming to terms with how your body has changed takes patience, time and forgiveness. Remind yourself that you have a new, “here-and-now” body that is different from what it used to be. Be gentle with yourself and your new body.
- Get curious about your new body. Find out what it can and can’t do. What does it like now that it didn’t used to like? Being curious opens your mind to new possibilities that may not have existed or you may not have been open to seeing before.
- Honor your body’s needs. Your body still needs nutritious food, water and movement. It may take some time to find foods that work for it and movement that it likes depending on what has changed. This is a process, and your body will tell you what it needs to be healthy as you get curious and explore.
- Get your body clothes that fit. If your clothes, especially your underwear, don’t fit, you’ll constantly be thinking about how your body has changed all day, every day. Having clothes that fit allow you to think about things other than your underwear crawling up, falling down or your bra pinching every time you move.
- Embrace your here-and-now body. The other six steps add up to helping you get to a place where you can embrace your here-and-now body. This is the body you have right now. It is where you get to live. Being content in it will ripple out to other areas of your life.
As you go through life, your body will continue to change, often in unexpected ways. Learning how to renew the relationship with your body will help you move gracefully through all the changes that are coming.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2022 issue.