How did we get to September already? I’m not sure how that happened. But the days are getting shorter and I’m definitely feeling the impact on my energy!
I’m big on energy management as part of my coaching. Does your energy match what you’re trying to do? Is it too high or too low? Can you focus? Are you distracted by your body? Making sense of your internal feelings through interoception is crucial to these things.
Interoception is a lesser-known sense that helps you understand and feel what’s happening inside your body. People, kids, or adults who struggle with the interoceptive sense may have trouble knowing when they feel hungry, full, hot, cold, or thirsty. Much less knowing what emotion you’ve got! Having trouble with this sense can also make self-regulation a challenge. Self-regulation is important for success in your own projects and working with others. And understanding what you want to do or not!
Your sense of who you are is partially based on interoception. Your nervous system wants to be in balance. A small part of your brain is responsible for much of this. It takes snapshots of all your physical information, as well as learned social information, and your goals and informs your body and brain who you are approximately 20 times per second.
(It’s the insula if you want to get really geeky–the insula does all sorts of cool things including influencing how you experience time, etc. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33378655/ )
How does interoception help you regulate your emotions?
By understanding your internal signals, you can recognize the early signs of emotions like anger, anxiety, or sadness. Recognizing these signs early can allow you to implement strategies to manage them before they become overwhelming. BIt’s vital for working well, especially with ADHD, when our bodies can overwhelm us or we’re unsure of our signals. Learning to distinguish your own interoception takes time, but makes it easier to work with the body you’re in. For more info, check out this quick article: https://kids.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frym.2021.558246
Are there any ways to improve your own interoception?
Absolutely! Mindfulness practices, yoga, and focused meditation can all help enhance your interoceptive skills. These exercises train the brain to pay attention to internal cues. I like to sit and notice what happens in my body, kind of like people watching, but me watching.
My experience with my own interoception is mixed. I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of years working to become more consciously able to name my emotions when I feel them. I also have a hard time figuring out how much effort I’m putting into some physical tasks. If your high school gym teacher ever yelled at you to put in 80% effort, and you actually knew what that felt like, that’s amazing. I have been working with the resistance settings on the peloton bike for a couple months now to understand more what easy middle and hard things feel like to me. It’s been an interesting way to build awareness. Because of my lack of awareness, I learned to push my body to the point I didn’t even like exercise. Learning to do things at a much lighter level as an adult has been a revelation.
Here’s a self-awareness rating. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about my results, but it was interesting to see the various categories they divided awareness into.
One interesting exercise:
Since muscle tension is a common sign of stress building, it’s important to recognize this cue and learn how to relax.
These simple hand stretches demonstrate and help children recognize the sensations when muscles are tense.
- Sit comfortably and gently rest your hands on your lap.
- Lift your hands up, and stretch all your fingers open as far as they will go, holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Place your hands back on your lap
- Get your child to show you where they could feel the tension in their hands while their fingers were stretched.
Until next time!