How I Built Self-Awareness by Paying Attention to My Symptoms

It’s something I didn’t pay attention to for some time. I knew I didn’t feel well but didn’t associate the symptoms I was going through with my internal health. I assumed it was normal to get painful 2-week pimples with mild rosacea on my cheeks. To me, it was better than acne. Right?
 
It wasn’t until I reached college when I knew the hormones were at bay from the teen years. That meant all symptoms shouldn’t have been part of my everyday life. Aside for my skin, there was an arduous symptom presenting itself – allergies. A runny nose, itchy dry red eyes, a constant itch on the back of my throat (which made me make a weird sound to scratch it). Let’s say I was a walking, dripping, itchy gremlin walking the streets. All this gremlin wanted was to taste food again and not have toilet paper up her nose.
 
It wasn’t until the visit to the Doctors office made me wake up. In the appointment, he told me I had two options to make my gremlin symptoms go away. I could do what I was already doing which was keep taking Sudafed daily like the two previous months (don’t judge me I thought the allergies were going to go away). Or I could do steroid shots. Steroid shots? Plural! Why? Why should I have to get shots! It was a big deal as it would only help reduce the symptoms, not cure. Plus, I would have to get more than one because the shots wear off. I was desperate but not that desperate. So I said no to the Doc, went home that evening and reevaluated. I ended up observing and becoming self-aware that I had more than allergies symptoms.
 
I found my physical health issues were more than likely a sign for what was happening on the inside. Tapping into my self-awareness was key.
 
Looking at what I was putting in my body day in and day out was how I started building self-awareness around my physical health. My first attempt was googling “allergy helping foods” as this was my most pressing symptom. I ended up making a kale smoothie with various ingredients in hopes it would help kick-start some new habit. It did! As my google search grew, more ingredients added to the menu list while others came off. A lot of processed foods became eliminated. If you are looking to see how you can cut processed foods check out an article I wrote for Wise+Well: 4 Steps to Help You Quit Processed Foods.
 
I have to admit, one of the biggest attribute to recovery, for what I could control, is what I was eating. I am sure you have heard it before in the gym world “20% is the workout and 80% is the nutrition”. This goes for body composition as well as healing your body from inflammation. Now, I know nutrition can be obvious. Yet, it is often overlooked in society (speaking for America). Think about it, what we consume goes into our bodies at least three times a day. That is three decisions we are able to make about how we will feel in the next 24 hours. It’s future health because of a meal digest in about 6-8 hours. Symptoms can happen immediate depending on many individual factors of course (i.e. tummy ache or acid reflux) which is usually immediate/during a meal. Or symptoms can result a little bit later i.e diarrhea or constipation. Many symptoms are short term but can be long-term i.e. my allergies if unhealthy habits go unnoticed.
 
Food Journal 
I did this by doing a food journal where I wrote down the food as well as the symptoms I experienced afterward. This process can be tedious but it is not meant to be long term. It’s to help pay close attention to those pesky symptoms. It helps to look at what may be causing symptoms to then steer us towards change by building on daily habits. If a paper template seems too cumbersome, I have also used apps to help track eating habits. One app that I found helpful was MyFitnessPal. Again, I did not use it for long but it did help. I would say anywhere from a week to a month is plenty of history to look back on and see where improvements can happen. A simple google doc or memo notepad on the phone would work as well.
 
Meditation 
My second self-awareness method was something new I dived into years prior, meditation. Mediation made its way into my wellness repertoire and I am so grateful this practice exists. I first heard about mediation from none other than the infamous Oprah. She advocated for mediation on one of her TV segments back in the day. She was still doing her talk show back then and I was all ears. I mean it was Oprah letting me know what’s up! I ended up buying the book Deep Meditation – Pathway to Personal Freedom by Yogoni. It’s a simple yet effective read on how to get started on your practice. Of course, after finishing the book, my curiosity explored more books and classes. My practice progressed. Not at first attempt, not even on the fiftieth but over a course of years of practice my self-awareness has skyrocketed! It’s a daily-practice which flowed self-awareness into every part of my life. It’s allowed me to listen to my own body and gives me the strength to search for a root cause that could explain those horrid allergies.
Changing Environmental Stressors 
I am aware there is a flip side of painful physical manifestations created from external factors. Not from food but from outside stressors. I have come to experience that bad stressors can create physical manifestations so strong you can’t help but associate with poor health. So you try to fix the physical symptoms instead of your environment that may be causing them. My experience happened to me at a time when I was in excellent health. I had no other choice than to pay attention and look outside of myself to see how my environment was serving me. Observing and taking stock in my living situation, my friends, work relationships, work itself etc.was crucial for my self-development. The important part is to recognize and change what I could to find a place of peace for healing and growth.
 
It’s been a journey thus far and the story continues. We can all make the best choices for our progress for mental, physical, and spiritual health. But, the most crucial step is listening, paying attention, and self-reflection. Don’t be like me. Don’t wait to become your own gremlin to pay attention.

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