I would like to possess more superpowers. Not fantastical superpowers like x-ray vision, but real-life human strengths like resilience or perseverance. And while I’m working to develop these, I’d say I already have one fully developed power—the power to stave off sickness. My immune system is kick-ass strong. I’ve thought a lot about how I developed this superpower. It may be good genes or perhaps it’s because I’m exposed to dozens of people every week and am therefore exposed to lots of germs. I’m willing to bet many schoolteachers and doctors have the same superpower. And maybe it is just good genes and overexposure to germs, but upon reflecting on it more this week, I realized I’ve developed one habit over the years to strengthen my immune system. It has nothing to do with special vitamins or exercises. I don’t use a humidifier or go to a steam room. I listen to my body. And while this may seem overwhelming, it’s really nothing more than asking yourself a few questions. These questions are the equivalent of eating superfoods, without the expensive price tag.
Growing up, the general rule in my family was unless I have a temperature or I’m vomiting, I’m going to school. I’m sure there were exceptions to that rule, although I don’t remember any. It was less about pushing through and more about practicality. Both of my parents worked, so staying home with me due to a stomachache or headache wasn’t viable. As a result, I created a mental checklist (surely due to the questions of my probing parents) to tune into how I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. The questions were basic: I asked myself if I was feeling hungry, anxious, or tired. If the answer was yes to any one of these questions, I would dig deeper to determine why. So, for example, if I had a headache, I would stop to ask myself the three questions. More times than not, the answer to at least one of the questions was “yes.” From there I would track back in time to determine why I was feeling hungry, anxious, or tired and could then remedy the problem.
By answering my three questions when I didn’t feel quite right, I was able to determine patterns. Usually, headaches were tied to hunger, anxiousness was tied to an emotional trigger, and lethargy (not surprisingly) to a lack of sleep. It was when I discovered my patterns that my superpower started to develop. Recognizing this, I created a protocol. If I was hungry I would eat, anxious I would move, and tired I would sleep.
It seems simple—ask yourself questions, determine patterns, and remedy the problem. But I know it isn’t as easy as all that. Being an adult gets in the way. We are busy and don’t have time to look inward to our body’s messages. And pushing past our feelings seems like a viable option. Sometimes we get by seemingly unscathed, but not always.
One of my clients told me this week about her father’s motto of “duty first.” She said she couldn’t ever remember a time when he stayed home from work. Her sister and she followed suit, never missing a day of school. But later, when she was an adult and doctors would tell her to go home to rest, she just couldn’t listen because “duty first” had become her mantra. She couldn’t understand why she would hold onto a cold or a cough for weeks at a time, or why she would feel below par for weeks in the winter. So this winter, after a hectic holiday season, she developed a cough and then some congestion, and instead of powering through, she stopped. She asked herself how she was feeling and the answer was tired. So she canceled plans and went to bed. And imagine, two days later she reemerged minus the cough and congestion. She said to me, “This sleep thing is a real thing.” I laughed and explained that indeed, sleep gives your body the opportunity to fight infection. It allows all your strength and resources to go to that fight. It took her 60-plus years, but she finally started to listen to her body—and it worked.
My three questions allow me to understand my body, and are my best preventative medicine. At the height of flu season, take this week to check in, tune in, and listen to your body. Our challenge of the week will teach you how. I promise it’s completely doable. In short, it’s never too late to develop your own superpower.
Make A Change Today,