Help Me Get Out of My Head and Into My Body.
February 4, 2020 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I live in my head and always have - I think, over-think, ruminate, dwell, ponder.. and being physically present is a huge challenge for me. I'm in my mid-40s now and for a variety of reasons, I'd like to reconnect with my body - but how? I start therapy tomorrow and I am looking forward to it, but any personal experiences you can share would be both inspiring/motivational and helpful, I think. Like, this CAN be fixed, right?

I have always been at-war with my body to varying degrees - eating disorders, obsessive body image issues until my mid-20s - with avoidance of thinking about my physical presence being the best option most times. The disconnect got worse in my mid-20s, after both parents died suddenly of physical illnesses - my awareness of my physical self caused full-on panic attacks. My discomfort increased again after some chronic pain and gastro issues (that are now mostly resolved) that made my day-to-day life uncomfortable.

At this point, physically, I am an overweight mid-40s person with occasional physical issues, but am generally healthy. I'm not an athlete, but everything is functional. There is no need for me to be avoiding/escaping my body regularly.

I have ADD with the joyful symptom of hyperfocus - making it easy for me to stay in my head.

Anything that drags me out of my head and makes me feel very present in my body almost always makes me uncomfortable (at best). Recently, in conversation a friend gently touched my arm and I was instantly irritable and anxious while simultaneously recognizing that it was an overreaction. I don't want to be flinchy about touch.

I often find myself sitting in ridiculous positions for long periods of time without realizing it (until I'm in pain that I can't avoid feeling). Exercise that's even moderately strenuous feels intolerable and, even when I persevere through it, the resulting muscle soreness makes me more aware of my physical self again.. and nope. Not good.

There are physical things that give me pleasure - usually because they relax me to the point that I am no longer aware of my physical self. Of course. But if I concentrate on something that's giving me physical pleasure it becomes uncomfortable. So I avoid those pleasurable things because the initial part gives me anxiety and it's hard to push through the anxiety to the part where it feels good - and then when it feels good, it's likely I'll snap back to feeling unpleasant when I realize I'm physically present.

I have a partner who is willing to work with me on this - he is kind and gentle and respects my boundaries/needs.. and he's also frustrated.

I live in a place where cannabis is legal - it helps me relax and sleep, but it doesn't shut off my brain. I don't drink alcohol or take other drugs. I have taken antidepressants/anxiolytics in the past and didn't find them particularly helpful.

I want to be able to shut off my brain and just feel. I want my brain and body to work together. I have a lot of hopes that this therapist will give me some great ideas/homework - but I would really, really appreciate your advice, experiences, etc. for how you got out of your head and into your body... and how to stay there, too.
posted by VioletU to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Being in body is hard for people who are in the habit of not. It is a hard concept for many providers to understand, and the degree of disconnect can vary dramatically between people.

You will need to build tolerance, being in body is a skill. You have used not being aware as a way to cope, so I suggest finding a good example of what you can and can't do right now to start with, and how long you can maintain awareness (if you able to at all right now). Then you can start exercises to litterally practice. Some things like physical excersizes, or mediation, or movement therapy might be helpful. Mindfulness techiques may be applicable, focusing on the texture of your clothes, of your breath or hundreds of other details may be useful.

Also a list of specific goals of what you would like to tolerate. I would like to not be flinchy about touch is a great statement.

You may find that focusing on these issues brings up lots of feelings, and that's normal. Therapist can help sort why being out of body is a tool that has worked for you, and what being in body means for you.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:24 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Fellow ADHD stuck-in-head person here. Two completely different things helped me become more comfortable in my body. 1. Kinky sex. 2. Hanging in hammocks. Memail me if you have questions.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

The best thing for getting me out of my head and into my body is honestly, singing. But not just like messing around in the shower - it requires other people counting on your general accuracy (though not necessarily in a judgmental way!!), so a band, a choir, or even karaoke in your living room with your best friends - so you have to pay attention to where you are in the song, and what note you're hitting. It doesn't require talent, just focus. Songs to which you don't know every word cold are the best!

I go to therapy, also, and work on mindfulness techniques, but nothing for me is as immediate or satisfying to this point as singing - you feel your body doing this thing, and your brain is focused on making that thing happen in a specific way, and there's no rumination or dwelling which I am totally prone to.
posted by wellred at 7:33 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mindfulness meditation is the most obvious thing that springs to mind. For all that it's become a meaningless buzzword when applied to magazines/colouring books/whatever else people want to sell by printing the M-word on the cover, there's actually a lot to it which can be incredibly useful. One key element is learning to experience the world through your senses rather than just through your thoughts, so sounds like it might be a good fit for you.

The plethora of resources available now makes it hard to pick between them, but if you can find an 8 week MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course near you, I found it really beneficial to explore in that kind of depth rather than just attempting the odd meditation at home. It was only after several weeks that I felt we really started to uncover the meat and drink of what it was all about (it's one evening a week plus practice meditations to do at home, not 8 weeks full time!). MBSR is great even if you're not particularly stressed.

Meeting with a class also deepened the experience because it makes it clear that many things we think are unique personal failings (like not being able to pay attention; struggling with the emotions that arise from physical sensation) are in fact part of the universal human condition to a greater or lesser degree, but can be worked with and developed to a point we're better able to handle them and the world around us.

If you can't find a group, this book is the one my course was based around, and I think should contain audio recordings of the key meditations - perhaps you could work through it with your partner over a similar period of time.

All that said, there are people for whom mindfulness isn't a good fit, and if you find you're having really intense anxiety when you have to place your attention on any part of your body, maybe be gentle with yourself and explore a little at home with your partner first to see how it feels, rather than diving all the way in. You could try the three minute breathing space and see how that takes you. If it feels OK, step it up and have a go at the longer body scan meditation (a staple of MBSR). It might require some gentle persistence - part of the challenge of mindfulness meditation is learning to deal, over time, with unpleasant sensations that arise from placing your attention in particular places (like on various parts of your body), so observing the anxiety you feel might be a productive part of the process. But if it instantly sends you into deep panic, that might become such a distraction that it's hard to do any real work, in which case maybe start somewhere else and revisit mindfulness further down the line.
posted by penguin pie at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

My brain works somewhat like yours, and even though it's a cliche by now, yoga really does help with this. There are ways to get started online--Yoga With Adriene is very beginner friendly, and her 30 Days of Yoga is a really good start. But for you, I wonder if in person classes might help keep you focused on your body better than being alone with a video. Look for classes called "restorative yoga", which is much more about feeling good and improving your mind-body connection than it is about great feats of flexibility and athleticism (unless you want those great feats, of course).

I also love wellred's suggestion of singing in choirs, which is another one that really works for me. I think it especially helps if you can find a really good director who will talk about what you should be doing with your diaphragm and mouth, giving you even more body things to be focused on. I've been singing in choirs most of my life, but I'm still amazed at how I can keep learning new things when there's a good director up front.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Do you get along with dogs? I used to have issues very similar to yours. While I have realized, I will always be an "in my head" type of person, due to some life circumstances, I ended up having to help take care of a couple dogs for a while, which due to some more changes, eventually ended up becoming my dogs. Having to deal with running, walking, playing, sniffing, cuddling, etc. with them really helped me develop the parts of myself that are now much better at being physical and in the moment. I'm not suggesting you adopt a dog but there are volunteer opportunities at shelters to play with dogs for a half hour a day to help relieve their institutional stress.
posted by caveatz at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yoga +1. Find a local studio that's not core power. Outside of trend-yoga, there are all kinds of personalities and body types leveraging yoga for this very thing.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:42 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just as a data point, I have literally worked on being in my body for years and can still not tolerate yoga. My issues are far more severe than most peoples, but I wanted to warn you just in case.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:49 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Once you start therapy, ask for a referral to a psychologist. If you are open to medication, Xanax would be a good resource for you to help reduce rumination. Your psychologist can also address the panic attacks and other things you've been dealing with for so long.

PS: I admire you. This is hard. Hang in there.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 7:55 AM on February 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am a huge fan of the Yoga Nidra. There are some good guided ones on youtube, you might try it out.

I also really like Headspace for a daily meditation/mindfulness practice. It really does help, although you really need to do it regularly, I think, to see the benefits.

I have just been on quite a long journey of health anxiety and a lot of it has been kicked up by my efforts to get more comfortable in my own skin, and out of my own head. It has been really hard. My inability to connect with my body was also triggered by similar things to yours: body shame related to my appearance and eating, and also health anxiety related to family illness. Your experience is very, very relatable to me.

Singing, dancing, snuggling and being physically affectionate with my partner, preparing delicious food, hot baths, jogging, doing squats and planks all help me a lot. A long walk without music can help. A yoga class or a massage, also very helpful. But sometimes I am laid too low by the anxiety and depression to really do any of that - when I am triggered or overly stressed or exhausted.

When I am in that space, one thing that helps is narrating to myself what is happening in the moment. "My feet are on the floor. My skin feels itchy. My neck is tense." etc - and allowing myself to be OK with those physical feelings. I try not to change them. I tell myself it's absolutely fine to have a tense neck. This is because my itchy skin, my tense neck, they were causing anxiety in me, sometimes panic attacks, because I decided they were evidence of my impending doom.

The regular meditation, the yoga nidra, the therapy -- they actually don't always "help" in the sense that help is ending suffering. I see them more as tools that help me see how hard it is for me to stay in the moment because of trauma. They sometimes show me my suffering. And then there is some suffering, and then I have to learn the coping mechanisms in a safe environment.

I practice self love. I practice self-forgiveness. I lean on my doctor, my therapist, my friends and my loved ones for help when I am beating myself up or struggling.

It is good you are going into therapy. I am super proud of you for going on this journey. I hope you have immense kindness and patience with yourself as you go on it. You deserve it!
posted by pazazygeek at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2020 [9 favorites]

For mindfulness meditation - here are some guided meditation .mp3s from UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, ranging from 3 to 20 minutes in length.

Or skip about 23 minutes into the Youtube video in this decade-old FPP for another ~20-minute-long session with more exposition which I like very much, led by Jon Kabat-Zinn (a medical stress reduction researcher) at Google. (And you can listen to the rest of his hour-plus presentation, too, but the chunk starting at 23 minutes is the guided meditation portion.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

For me, the answer is 1) dogs (because their physicality is so opposite mine, because they have no disconnect, because sometimes they push their head against your leg so you pet them and it is Right and Good) and 2) swimming (because being ensconced in something is safe and I can feel it without feeling threatened). I like yoga but not for this; it makes me super anxious when I am trying to be mindful or whatever. I can't handle pushing myself to be mindful; I have to get there slant.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am lucky enough to live in Toronto and to be able to afford seeing this amazing person on the regular:

Jane has online workshops that may be helpful for you, which can be done at a distance.

Otherwise, personal dance parties are highly recommended. I DJ myself a bunch of tunes and dance to them alone, and I really try to just think about the movement I'm doing and what movement I'm going to do next.

And nth-ing MBSR.
posted by girlpublisher at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are types of therapy (or therapy-adjacent practices) that might be more helpful to you than the usual psychodynamic, sit-down-and-talk-it-out style. Somatic experiencing and Feldenkreis both might be worth looking into, as a start. Yoga as well, but if that's not for you then Alexander technique, or qi gong, or tai chi all might be a better fit.
posted by spindle at 8:01 AM on February 4, 2020

I think you might enjoy tai chi. It's like a moving meditation, and it's not very physically demanding. If you focus solely on the movements I find it easy to get out of my head and just be in the moment.

The other thing that helped me was indoor top rope rock climbing. It did make me a bit sore for the first month or so of weekly visits, but since then I dont get sore much unless I really push myself. It's all self paced, and when youre climbing you really have no room to think about anything but the next move. It also helped me get stronger and trust my body more.
posted by ananci at 8:11 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

Maybe a low-key martial arts? I do tae kwon do at a local place that is very mellow and accommodating, and it's great for me as a) someone who had a hard time finding regular exercise that kept my attention and b) is pretty anxious and ruminative at baseline. The classes are ~45 minutes long, pretty engaging and varied and keep my attention, and all the stretching and conditioning exercises are great.
posted by caitcadieux at 8:33 AM on February 4, 2020

Get into maker culture. Silversmithing, electronic soldering, etc are things that bring me out of my head and into my hands. Also hammocks, hammocks put your in your body, as does water based activities like swimming or jaccuziing, they like being touched all over but not by anyone.
posted by J.R. Hartley at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

+1 for yoga and rock climbing.
posted by somanyamys at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2020

Some good suggestions here. Meditation was the first thought that sprang to my mind as well, and it's worth a shot. Even 5 minutes a day makes a difference for me. It's hard though! I've had luck with online apps/recordings, but there are differences, so search around for one you like with a soothing voice that doesn't grate on you. I'd also recommend searching for a local group, many do free weekend sessions, and can be really helpful. But as someone said above it's not for everyone.

My other suggestions would be dancing or connecting with nature. These are highly personal but those things help me connect with my body. Ballet, for me, or hiking or biking or skiing in the woods. That being said, it's going to be different for everybody, so I'd start with the physical exercises you said you do sometimes like, and try similar things. The key for me sometimes is keeping it easy and/or short. If I push myself too hard it becomes very unenjoyable, and our culture seems to always be pushing to do more! and the best! and harder! I like the more moderate approach for many things. Go easy on yourself.
posted by sillysally at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2020

Concur that rock climbing, no matter how easy, really keeps me out of my head.
posted by suelac at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2020

+1 for yoga and rock climbing, and also adding a plug for *any* activity that involves both physical movement and creative problem solving. This includes most team sports, most mountain sports (mountain biking, skiing, climbing, etc) and anything else that involves both movement and having to reflect on movement to get better. Racquetball and tennis are two that might be helpful and are pretty generally accessible.
posted by cirgue at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2020

I’ve been you! I’ve got a much better mind/body balance these days. Your journey might be different, but I didn’t get there by focussing on my body.

What’s helped me is thought work, learning how to recognise and accept my ruminations and anxieties. And slowly but surely, calming and quieting my mind, slowing down and making space for other stuff. Like, the whole rest of my being.

I suspect that your mind is so overactive that it immediately sweeps into any situation and takes up all the bandwidth. It knows how to navigate around anything you throw at it and keeps on going.

There will be no space for pure body work, or even mind-body work, until the mind work is better managed and can make some room.

What that means to you is all part of the journey, but I don’t think throwing yoga or other physical activities is gonna get you there. Yet.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am not a particularly active person and I also find myself in my head a ton. When I do exert energy, I am keenly aware of my body and the physical space around me to a degree that sometimes causes anxiety. Everything is just... too real.

There is a breathing exercise that I have discovered to be helpful when I need something really gentle. I find a peaceful place to sit up straight comfortably (during the summer it's a chair on my front porch to listen to the birds and get fresh air):

-Take a deep breath in for 3 seconds, fill your chest and belly.
-Hold it in for 6 seconds.
-Exhale completely for 3 seconds, push all the air out.
-Maintain empty lungs for 6 seconds.
-Then repeat the cycle for 10 minutes.

The first few rounds have me feeling like I'm not getting enough air, but then it regulates and I get a rush of calm and clarity.

Also, journaling and reading tarot. The journaling helps get my thoughts and my dreams out of my head so that I can see my patterns and cycles and intuit what I need to address. The tarot cards prompt outside perspective and thought experiments to analyze.

If you are interested in taking something internally, I have read about the skullcap plant being an anxiety reducer, particularly around connecting mind to body. You can take it as a tincture or a tea (avoid capsules, they can be over-processed and lose potency). I'm still in the research stage and haven't tried it yet, personally, and definitely do your own research for any contraindications. If you do decide to try it, make sure that it is not mixed with any other plants or active ingredients.

Lastly, what you've already mentioned: therapy. Especially when you find someone you really click with. I bring my journal with me to sessions and always have a particular thing to talk about. That helps make the most of that short hour I have with her.
posted by E3 at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yoga, weightlifting, and sex, IME!
posted by jgirl at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2020

I like walking meditation for this - here’s one description.

I also like walking and focusing on the senses - 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can touch and so on.

These are gentle activities that help me feel more present in my body. Headspace has some good walking meditations too - may be worth subscribing for just a month to see if they are useful to you.
posted by hilaryjade at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2020

I am a therapist who works primarily with the body. I’ve also had to do this work myself, including moving myself through intense anxiety/panic that I used to get when doing exercise (my heart rate getting higher used to really freak me out.)

I hugely recommend looking into various progressive muscle relaxations, yoga (maybe not in a class at first because some folks find it triggering, but maybe on YouTube), and really any kind of activity done with the body in which you’re paying mindful attention to what your body is doing. The key is to do it just long enough that you are *slightly* uncomfortable, but not overwhelmed, and then use your breath and other skills you might have to regulate yourself in the moment through that slight discomfort. When we do this, it widens our window of tolerance to stress so that we are able to then tolerate just a bit more of the discomfort, and then we regulate through that, and can tolerate a bit more, and so on, until we’re able to tolerate it all and our bodies no longer start to freak out. Strategies to regulate the nervous system are best for this, and you can find lists of them online - I would recommend finding a few different lists and then just trying things out to see what feels the most tolerable or even good to your own body and nervous system. The things that work for me might not work for you, but they include: deep pressure on arms and legs, long slow mindful breaths, checking in with all parts of my body to see how they’re feeling in the moment and naming that experience, running my fingers down my quads and shins, sex with self or others, singing, connecting with nature, so touching trees, feeling the texture of flower petals, gardening, being with animals, massaging the back of my neck, inversions (I hang upside down on a yoga ball for 1-2 minutes.) Good luck in finding what works for you!
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

First, start slowly!! This situation didn’t develop overnight, and it won’t resolve overnight.

Things that work for me: applying lotion (with a scent you enjoy, if you can tolerate scents); swimming and/or playing in the water; stretching gently; masturbation; brushing my hair; progressive muscle relaxation; walking in the cold.
posted by epj at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2020

Working out (with the understanding that it will *suck* for the first 2-4 weeks. It’ll probably hurt and you’ll be bad at it at first, like everyone else, so walking into it with determination and a forgiving attitude is important). Basic dumbbell/calisthenic workouts, many are on the Fitness Blender site. After a period of being sedentary, I find that soon enough (maybe a month in?), my (sedentary baseline **poor**) coordination, balance, and posture improve dramatically, as do reaction times, and I start feeling my muscles working (that “mind-muscle” connection), and find it pleasant.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:17 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Practicing tai chi worked for me. I recommend trying to find a school or studio that has classes for older folks, even if you're not older yourself, because the instruction will be slower, and not focused on martial applications, which I'd presume you're not particularly interested in at this point.

The underlying premise of tai chi (again, apart from martial applications) is to learn to feel your body moving from the inside. It's a long process.
posted by qurlyjoe at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I talk all the time on here about ACT, which focuses quite a lot on this, is evidence based, can be done solo or in a therapeutic context, etc. There's a great workbook from one of the co-developers of ACT that's a great starting point, and the same person has a new book that expands on the workbook (plus dozens of YouTube videos, resources on his website, and so on). If you have any questions, I'm happy to share my experience with ACT in the last year via memail--it's been very, very helpful.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Exercise that's even moderately strenuous feels intolerable and, even when I persevere through it, the resulting muscle soreness makes me more aware of my physical self again.. and nope.

I'm somewhat similar. Would exercise that is not particularly strenuous, but requires a lot of brainpower, do the trick? It does for me.

I do pilates (on a reformer, not a mat, but I've had good experiences with mat classes in the past). Pilates is very customizable; almost every movement can be made easier or harder, depending on your needs. So it need not feel particularly strenuous, probably won't leave you sore if you go with easier modifications, but does require a lot of concentration. I've been doing it for years, and still have to focus on keeping my alignment right and my form good. I find it hard to think about anything other than what my body is doing, which is hugely relaxing for over-thinkers like us.
posted by shb at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2020

I was also going to say reformer Pilates. I just started a beginners course and I can’t believe the how much I like it. The classes fly by. I don’t really like yoga.
posted by catspajammies at 2:35 PM on February 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

May seem like jumping into the deep end, but hear me out-- a chubby and not particularly coordinated lady who just turned 50 and is a hugely cerebral overthinker:

Consider Crossfit.


It has a reputation of being over-the-top and for elite athletes--but a good gym scales every single exercise, to every single person, to something within their capabilities. This is expected and respected. I'm the slow kid in gym class and have gotten nothing but affirmation from the rest of the people at gym.

You will get coaching and warm up for about 40 minutes, and then work out really hard for about 20 minutes.

The coach will help you set it up so that the time or repetitions or whatever are well defined and *not your job to worry about*. The workout will be challenging for you, so much so that it'll be hard for you to mindfuck anything beyond what your body is doing.

You'll be really sore for the first few weeks, but then you'll start to notice some remarkable changes in your physical capabilities--which is a pretty exciting thing to notice, as your awareness grows.
posted by Sublimity at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

You've gotten a lot of good ideas here, but as a person who is ALSO ADHD and who ALSO struggles with living in my head and has been trying to become more at peace with/connected with my body - are you being treated for the ADHD? I ask because when I started meds for mine, a lot of things all throughout my life became easier/less stressful, and it was like I had some mental/emotional bandwidth open up to deal with other things.

I will second those who have suggested choral singing - the deep, controlled breathing you need for singing is almost meditative in its own right.

For me, finding physical activities that have some level of thought required but also demand a level of attention to the body (form, position, breath control) has really helped. Archery and weight lifting are two of my favorites.

I do think it sounds like you may need to do some targeted work with your therapist/at home in the first stages. You don't need to jump straight into something necessarily and try to do yoga for an hour or whatever - you want to start out slow and build your tolerance, as described above. You don't want to push yourself into a full on trauma response. Start out with something that challenges you but is still doable, and work up in tiny baby steps so that you build a chain of successes.

We ADHD folk are more sensitive than others to feedback in the moment, so it's hard to motivate us with things being better in the future when they feel bad NOW. I actually give myself praise when I did something hard - like, if I'm alone, I'll say it out loud to myself, and if I can't do that I will write it in my notebook or text it to a supportive friend - something like "I made that phone call I've been avoiding. I did a good job." Even better if the friend can reply with "GOOD JOB!!!" or similar. Sometimes I put stickers in my notebook, even. It can feel a little embarrassing at first (like, what, am I a five year old who needs a sticker chart?) but honestly, it's nobody's business but mine what kind of tools I use to motivate myself.

I hope it's encouraging if I let you know that I used to really struggle with feeling disconnected from my body, to the point that I needed both a therapist and a body-positive nutritionist to help me get to the point where I would not just... not eat for hours and hours because it made me too anxious and I had trained myself not to feel my own hunger cues. But I am doing much better now! It can totally happen. Just don't try to push yourself too hard right from the start, because you'll just reinforce the negative feedback loop. Start small and build in baby steps, and celebrate even tiny amounts of progress - not just in your head but either writing it down or saying out loud, so it feels "real".
posted by oblique red at 9:36 AM on February 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo switch.

on day 12 myself, really helping with decades-long depression, anxiety, late-diagnosis ADHD.

not expecting a cure, but the gaming elements (i'm not otherwise a gamer) keeps my head busy enough that I don't get lost in it. And I have to make my mind and body work together without pondering about it.

the exercise is extremely adjustable - you can start off super super easy and there's no shaming involved, of performance, weight, anything. It's all positive reinforcement.

i've tried fitness games before and the only ones that have worked for me previously are the Nintendo boxing games. i'm very uncoordinated and they were simple enough for me to follow. Unfortunately I overdid it and gave myself tennis elbow! Ring Fit is far more varied and I think harder to injure yourself with.

i've been fortunate enough to have been given the game as a gift, as it is quite expensive (as is the system), but I think compared to a gym membership/trainer/therapist it's pretty good value. (I am also having therapy and taking meds but that is never enough).

Anyway, just my 2c. Hope you find something(s) that helps.
posted by LetticeLeaf at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2020

I use massage and CrossFit and running for this.

Massage once a week and I think about each body part as it’s being touched. CrossFit as described above—helps me think about not just what my body feels but also what it can do.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:19 AM on February 6, 2020

You say that you don't drink or "take other drugs" - would you consider taking them one time? You could find a therapist who works with MDMA and/or psilocybin and would support you through a guided experience (as is being done in multiple FDA approved trials). Both of these are known for increasing/heightening one's felt connection to one's body, sense of being in one's body, physical awareness, etc. MDMA more innately so, and a psilocybin trip can be loosely directed by your questions/intentions and can definitely nurture this exploration.

The science is pretty clear that one experience is enough for most people to reap significant psychological benefit, and that you would not expect to use these substances in an ongoing way.

Other ideas:
1. Get regular professional massages. Consider going to a chiropractor or a reiki healer (reiki is endorsed by Johns Hopkins and Harvard, or seeking out an acupuncturist or acupressure practitioner.

2. Go to yoga classes 1x a week. Start with a vinyasa class that is described as appropriate for beginners. It's totally normal to not know all the terms and just follow along by looking at the people next to you at first.

3. Do a 1-minute "body-scan" meditation once or twice a day.
posted by amaire at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

+1 to Alexander technique. I started lessons in order to improve my presentation voice, and my teacher ended up identifying a lot of areas of tension I wasn't even aware of. If you give this a try, the teacher should ask about your comfort level with touch before your first lesson and check in with you frequently during every lesson.

Knitting and playing mandolin meant I was learning to do progressively more challenging things with my fingers, which helped build confidence that I could train the rest of my body to work with my brain too. Eventually I got into rock climbing and trail running - reading a climbing route or trail is like solving a puzzle and there's no space for your mind to wander.

I spent most of my life feeling like my body was just an unwieldy vehicle for my brain to clumsily pilot around. I used to have no clue where bruises came from because I hadn't noticed the pain of presumably walking into things, and once nearly passed out at work after ignoring hunger cues all day. These days I feel a lot more connected to my body, now that I know what it can do. I think this is definitely something you can change!
posted by kiripin at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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