When was the last time you listened to your body?
I was once told an old Chinese proverb that in the West when we are young we use our health to become affluent but then when we are old we use our affluence to buy back our health. I laughed it off, knowingly but without really taking on board what was said.
I’m reminded of this proverb after recently cutting out caffeine. I’ve been over-caffeinated since my student days and coffee is something I love. But I was becoming increasingly cranky. I was finding it difficult to get to sleep, struggling to concentrate on work and — as my wife Peta will gladly testify — mornings were a real challenge.
One thing I quickly noticed after cutting out caffeine was how tired I was. All the time. This wasn’t just down to a lack of the steady stream of stimulant which had been a staple for so long. It was because my mind and body were exhausted and I’d been blocking it out. I couldn’t hear the things my body was trying to tell me because I was drowning it out with noise.
Our industry celebrates industry. We toil at things we love and very often when we’ve done a hard day’s work we toil further at the itches we want to scratch. Many of us — myself included — are incredibly fortunate to be working doing something we regard as a hobby. But our industry also never sleeps. Our curiosity makes it hard to switch off and we can all too easily celebrate burning “the midnight oil”.
I’m not going to tell anyone to give up coffee but I’m going to say that we need to get to know our bodies better. We need to rediscover our natural rhythms — both the peaks and the troughs — and learn how we can work with them rather than against them. Listen to your body and be sure you’re not drowning out what it’s trying to say.