What if your body was your refuge from post-traumatic stress but it’s not cooperating the way it used to?

 

If someone came to me and said, “I’m despondent because my body has always been my refuge and, as I age, my body is no longer as reliable a refuge. I don’t find the same joy in walking, swimming, weightlifting, or yoga.” I would say, “Lucky you. Thankfully, your body contains your mind and your mind is more powerful than your ability to swim a mile, lift a ton, or do power yoga.”

When the body is no longer responding to your commands in the way you wish it would, it’s time to adjust and adapt. What looks like a loss ultimately may be a gain.

The fact that your ego has always been intertwined with what your body has been able to do complicates things. Now, you can invite your ego to rest. Your ego will resist, but keep proffering the invitation. After all, your ego lives in your body and, as Bessel Van Der Kolk says, your body keeps the score. 

Any movement, no matter how different from what you used to do, can still provide you the same—if not more—joy. It’s all a question of perspective and reframing your thoughts.

Imagine you’re an empty-nester. After you adjust to the change in your home’s energy, you may start to think about some of the rooms differently. Perhaps you’ll take one and use it as a guestroom, yoga room, hobby space, or something else. In time, you creatively reconfigure your thinking and use the space in a new way.

It’s the same with aging, infirmity, accidents, or other changes that might limit your ability to enjoy your body the way you used to. It may require reconfiguring your thinking and practices to better serve you as you navigate physical changes.

In the same way that your house can suddenly feel different to you from the absence of children, an elderly parent, or a pet, this can be a slow, challenging process. Creativity, patience, and a boatload of self-compassion are necessary to see you through major life transitions. Your changing body and resulting sense of yourself is often a major life transition.

Whatever the cause of your emerging relationship with your body, like any new relationship, it can be full of excitement and discovery, not just anxiety and insecurity. It’s just a question of how you choose to look at it. Every loss opens up new opportunities—if you’re willing to seek them out.

That said, it’s important to allow time to grieve. (Grief is a shape-shifter. It can feel like any other emotion: sadness, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and anger.) When it comes to the body’s inability to perform the way it did in the past, or the way you wish it would, this can feel like an identity crisis. While it’s easy to understand attachment to people and material things, you can also be deeply attached to your self-image. That is not limited to the way you look, but also the way you feel in your body, and your body’s capacity to do what you wish it would.

If there was ever a time to use the most important muscle in your body, your heart, and lavish yourself with kindness and love, this is it.

Here’s some inspirational music to listen to as you reclaim your sense of self in your ever-changing body, try A House Is A Home by Ben Harper: https://open.spotify.com/track/1YYikTSCFdbivfd22fqGsX?si=jgHgQFpPTUSzE2uJzIWsrA

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.