When To Push Through And When To Hold Back?

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I teach a lot of movement-based work with a specific focus on the nervous system, and periodically the question comes up, how do I know when to “push through” and when should I listen to what my body (or mind) is telling me and take it easy, or keep it at the level I am?

The idea of pushing through is an interesting one, and it’s something that comes up in relation to many different things; we might try to push through a lack of motivation, push through when we are trying to do something that our body finds challenging, push through the pain point, push through mental resistance. The list goes on.

From my point of view, I’m not looking to push through anything. But what I am looking for is what action it’s possible to take within the range of potential available in that specific moment in time.

Let’s cycle back a bit and consider it from a slightly different perspective. Our unconscious brain is always making the most functional choice as far as our body and behavior based on the information that it has available to it. What that means is that if I feel low energy, or my body is giving me feedback that I perceive as painful, these experiences are occurring for a very practical reason- a reason that may lie well outside what we are consciously aware of.

If I then ignore those cues and “push through”, I only end up going to war with myself. What I am essentially saying is, I’m going to ignore how I am in this moment in time and choose my actions based on what I *think* I should be doing. And what I *think* I should be doing is usually motivated by a variety of external factors that we are trying to match ourselves up to; a wholly intellectual and cognitive decision that we are layering on top of our actual experience.

Working to increase nervous system adaptability and responsiveness means we first must honour the position we are in and then find the range of possibility within that. We make active choices to take action, but how that action looks is informed specifically by that range.

For example, going for a run is not a supportive action for someone in collapse, or conservation of energy mode. Your nervous system is in that place, again, for a very functional reason and consciously overriding that only drives you deeper into the sympathetic response.

Action, in that instance, would look very different. It would be moving in ways that support your sensory nervous system. It would be finding ways of supporting the body to move out of any “stuck” places and re-find its equilibrium.

Pushing through involves pushing the override button on what is. And even if it “feels better” in the short term, it has long term ramifications physiologically.

Instead, find what’s possible within the range that your body and mind present and start there. Choose action but choose supportive action.

Find what’s possible within the parameters that your body and mind present.


❤️ Jane

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