I tripped on a flight of steps today. In an instant, my reflexes kicked in and my hands reached out for the handrail, my body jerked back and my foot made the next step. In the same instant, I noticed how sharp the edges of the steps were and how much damage I would do if I crashed into them. But I didn’t. My body, my reflexes saved me. With no time for conscious decision-making, my body took over and knew exactly what to do.
My heart was racing, so I took a few deep breaths to calm the fight or flight response that had been triggered in my body, and then I went on my way.
I started thinking.
In situations like these, we see the body knows exactly how to respond with our best interests at heart. It does so without any conscious, thinking input from us at all. So why do so many of us stop believing that the body knows what to do as soon as we fall ill?
In online health groups and forums, the most frequent plea you come across is: “My child has x, y or z. What can I do? What can I give him?” We seem to have a compulsion to do something. Anything. And do it fast. And yet, even when it does fall ill, the body continues to know what to do.
Our immune response is so complicated that much of it remains a mystery to modern medicine. But its reactions, the symptoms our body produces – fevers, chills, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, inflammation, pain – are all there for a reason. They are not the illness. They are our body’s attempt to rid itself of whatever toxins are present, to close down all unnecessary functioning and show you that you need to stop and rest.
Combatting these signals by suppressing them with medicines is rather like responding to the oil warning light in your car going on by removing the bulb. The problem is still there, only now you can’t see it. It doesn’t sound like a particularly clever idea, does it?
So my thought for the day is this: Learn to trust in the wisdom of your body. In sickness and in health. In many cases, what the body really needs is time to stop, rest and recuperate. If you still feel compelled to do something, take a keen look at why you became ill in the first place. It may have been something simple, like going out in a cold wind with wet hair or not getting enough sleep. Or it may have been an emotional disturbance in your life or you neglecting what you need right now. Whatever it is, be non-judgemental. See it and take steps to change what needs changing. Much better for you than things like painkillers, decongestants and antihistamines that all come with a nice little catalogue of side effects.
I’m not saying it’s easy. For me, it’s certainly been a tough learning curve. But I’m learning to be more gentle with myself when I get ill or find myself out of sorts. Because I’ve learnt that illness is always, but always my body telling me something in my life is out of balance and needs addressing. The body is wise. Let’s start listening.