The funny thing about wake-up calls is that they keep calling until we answer. Each call gets louder and louder. If we wait too long, sometimes we get a wake-up call that can’t be ignored.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2006. This was the wake-up call I couldn’t ignore. Doctors suspected I had MS for almost 10 years before I was diagnosed, but because the symptoms (wake-up calls) trickled in instead of happening all at once, they were easy to explain and ignore.
When my hand would be tingly for days, I’d chalk it up to a pinched nerve. Vertigo? Must be an ear infection. Fatigue? I’m busy, of course I’m tired. When all of it hit me at once, I answered my wake-up call. I was so sick, so tired and so scared that I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
Answering my wake-up call was a little scary, but it was also a huge relief. For the first time in my adult life, I gave myself permission to rest, nourish, simplify and be well. The changes I made took years, but I began to feel more confident and hopeful as soon as I decided to stop and answer the call.
Before you can answer your wake-up call, you need to make a little space in your life so you can hear the call. Often, our lives get so busy and chaotic that we can’t hear, or dismiss the calls because we don’t have the time, space or mental clarity to take care of ourselves.
Think about every time you catch a cold, have a headache or feel completely depleted at the end of the day. Do you slow down, listen and take care of yourself or do you figure out how to mask the pain and get back to your busy life?
The reasons we don’t answer our wake-up calls
We can’t hear them. Busyness, chaos, clutter, stress and all the things we’ve added to our already full lives are noisy. We think the minor annoyances of pain, anxiety, exhaustion and other wake-up calls are just part of the noise.
We’re afraid to acknowledge that things have to change. The answers to our wake-up calls feel too uncertain and change is scary. That fear tricks us into thinking that staying the course, even if it’s uncomfortable, is better than what might happen if we choose something new or different.
3 simple ways to answer your wake-up calls with more love and intention (and less fear)
Instead of facing your wake-up calls with dread and fear, use these steps to answer your wake-up calls with more love and intention. You’ll be gentler with yourself and everyone around you.
Listen to your heart every day
When we’re more in touch with our hearts, we become more aware of how we’re feeling, how our outsides are aligned with our insides (or how they’re not), and we can make subtle shifts instead of drastic changes.
Create a few minutes each day to sit quietly with your hands on your heart. Don’t expect to feel anything or hear answers every time. Just keep coming back. Keep connecting. Let your heart know you’re there and paying attention.
Write your heart down
When that nagging wake-up call appears, instead of ignoring it, answer it with a letter. Write down how the wake-up call presented itself and how you felt when you heard it. Don’t worry about editing, just write your heart down on paper.
Fear steps in when you’re in a place of inaction. Shut it down by taking action and writing a letter.
Once you get it all out, write three small things you can do to address the call. Fear isn’t in taking the first step but, instead, fear lies in thinking about the first step. Fear steps in when you’re in a place of inaction. Shut it down by taking action and writing a letter.
Ask for help
Change is scary and sometimes we don’t know where to start. Instead of continuing to ignore what you’re feeling, ask a friend for help. They might not have the answers either, but they can be there for you while you figure things out. A support system gives you power and courage to do hard things. Chances are, by sharing your story and asking for help, you’ll encourage other people to answer their wake-up calls too.
Wake-up calls show up in different ways
Wake-up calls come in many forms—health scares, natural disasters, harsh words from a loved one, an article like this and even the simple feeling we get that something isn’t right. We don’t know what’s wrong, but we know it is.
By connecting with our hearts, shutting down fear and creating a support system, we can step into action and make the changes we need to live a happier, healthier and more peaceful life.
Read more from Courtney Carver by visiting LESSONS FROM THE MAT: 7 truths that apply to a Yoga practice and life itself»