I don’t always work out, I don’t always eat perfectly, and I don’t always get enough rest, but I have learned to tune in to how I am feeling—how my clothes feel, how my head feels, what my thoughts and feelings are telling me—and trust these clues to tell me what I need. This tuning in has become an absolute necessity to my overall well-being.
In the past, I went through periods when I felt all I did was muddle through. At hyperspeed, I went from job to job, activity to activity, house to house. I could not settle down. Constant movement was the only thing that made sense to me. The turning point came the first time I hit a wall and felt like I couldn’t handle my life. Granted, I was young, still a teenager at nineteen, but my career had started to take off. I had started to get roles in films and begun traveling around the world—Ireland, Toronto, New York City. I was literally away from home for about eighteen months straight. I had not yet accumulated enough income to have my own place, so I lived out of hotels and with friends. When I had a few days back home in Los Angeles, I stayed with my parents.
I was having all these amazing experiences and meeting all sorts of interesting people, but part of me was becoming unhinged. One day I was on a Jetway, ready to take off on yet another flight to god knows where, and I just kind of lost it. As soon as I got to my seat, I called my mom, very upset.
I was homesick. I missed my parents. My family.
All of a sudden the whirlwind had settled and I was feeling insecure, lonely, and young—like I was in over my head and my feet were not at all on the ground.
As only mothers can do, my mom told me to take a deep breath and then squint my eyes.
“I want you to squint your eyes—I want you to squint your eyes really small and get your vision really fuzzy.”
“Mom,” I moaned. “How is that going to help?”
“Just do it,” she said. “Squint your eyes and imagine you’re seeing everything around you for the first time.”
So I squinted my eyes tightly and began to look around me. Everything looked really small and strange. I found myself staring at a groove on the seat, a hole in the leather on the back of the chair. I looked at the signs around the plane.
And then I started to calm down. I got what my mom was trying to help me understand: Sometimes we just need to slow things down so we can reframe—our situation, our thoughts and feelings, even our lives. And not to take everything so seriously. What she was telling me, and what she explained later on, was not to forget that you are good and that everything is all right. You’ve been working without a pause and your brain is on overdrive. The situation is what feels out of control. You are okay.
That was a huge lesson, one that really was the beginning of me taking responsibility for my own state of mind. I feel lucky to have a mom like that!
So now this process of tuning in, framing or reframing what is going on with me and around me, gives me the feedback I need to take care of myself. Sometimes the information signals that I’m out of balance somehow. Maybe I spent the day before eating junk food on set, or I’ve been traveling so much that I haven’t exercised in a week. Sometimes I tune in and I realize I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten enough. Sometimes the signals indicate that I’m anxious or worried. Sometimes I just need to take a long nap.
My point is this: I trust my body to talk to me. To tell me what it needs and what it doesn’t. I trust it to send me signals about whether I am eating well or not so great, whether I’m getting just enough rest and fun. If my body feels tight and achy, I need to carve out more downtime, relax, or try a different type of physical activity. (But if you have a persistent issue, you should seek professional advice or see a specialist.) Sometimes my body tells me very simple things, like that I need to drink more water. Really. These are simple fixes, but they make a huge difference in how I feel on the inside and look on the outside. When I tune in to these sensations and read the emotional and physical signals my body is giving me, I can then begin to process what it is I need, if anything, or what I need to stop if my body is telling me that something is not right. If I have a breakout on my skin, I know it’s probably from eating too much refined sugar or a change in hormones. If I feel bloated and irritable, it might mean one of two things: I ate too much sodium or starchy carbs, or my gut is out of whack. (Be forewarned: I’m going to share lots about healthy flora!)
Like a lighthouse at the edge of the ocean, your body signals information about how it is feeling and provides direction for where to go. When we learn to pay attention to the signals our bodies are giving us, we have a better chance of making healthier, cleaner choices about what we eat and what we do, and resisting the foods and activities that deplete us.
I also pay attention to the signals of my heart and mind. Am I so stressed that I can’t even focus on work or be patient with my kids? Am I so reactive that I seem to jump out of my skin when someone speaks to me?
Listening to my body and mind, learning to understand the cues and signals, has become the single most important way for me to take care of myself. It’s how I lose weight when I need to. It’s how I keep myself toned and strong. It’s also how I stay grounded and connected—in my head, heart, and soul.
From the book Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body by Kate Hudson. Copyright (c) 2016 by Kate Hudson. Dey Street Books/HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.