June 19, 2024

What I Learned from 1000’s of Hours Working with Sensitive Bodies

For thousands of hours, I have worked with people who have very unpredictable, sensitive bodies.

From hypermobility to POTS to anxiety to inflammation, my clients’ conditions make enjoying their favorite activities very challenging.

And although each person’s body is unique and (seemingly) unpredictable, my high-level perspective has allowed me to see patterns–patterns that are very different from your down-low, in-the-weeds, daily experience.

In short, senstive bodies are strong, resilient, and have lots of potential, despite their habits of acting out and flaring up.

Why should you believe me?

For the last 7 years, I’ve taught for thousands of hours, watching people move, observing what does and doesn’t work, and listening to people describe their lived experience.

I’ve had a client whose body was so unstable that they often subluxed (dislocated) their collarbone when they reached up to put a glass in an upper cabinet. I’ve had a client whose Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is so sensitive that we often do sessions entirely lying down. I’ve worked with people who are just starting to understand their sensitive bodies and people who have been managing them for years.

I specialize in invisible diseases in general, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Hypermobility spectrum disorders (HSD) in particular.

With so many hours working with cranky, tweaky bodies, I’ve seen them at their worst and their best.

What I’ve learned from working with sensitive bodies

Emotional support is as important as physical

When your body flares up, it’s obvious you need support. It’s not brain surgery to understand that pain, fatigue, inflammation, brain fog, anxiety, digestive issues, and circulatory issues all need attention.

But what often gets ignored is that when you live in a sensitive body, emotional support is just as important.

I’ve observed two types of emotional support. The first type is the most common. A loved one gives you empathy and kindness because you’re in distress.

The second type is harder to find: it’s the support of someone who understands. When you live in a sensitive body, you develop an uncomfortable relationship with physical sensation. You might push through too hard (often resulting in injury) or back away (often leading to a restrictive life).

In either case, you spend a lot of time hiding, masking, and disguising your discomforts and physical needs.

When you have the kind of support that believes you, doesn’t gaslight you, and supports your own journey, that fosters a sense of being truly cared for.

Relaxation is as important as strength

Managing a sensitive body requires a lot of energy, both physical and emotional.

Physically, your body grips and grabs to support itself. It's not uncommon for really bendy people to feel tight because their body is working so hard.

Emotionally, people with sensitive bodies are often stressed and anxious. Their nervous system is up-regulated. There are many reasons for this (it’s a topic on its own) but the short answer is that it takes a lot of attention to manage an unpredictable body. 

Unpredictable bodies are usually more predictable than it seems

Sensitive bodies often have a range of symptoms (sometimes dozens) that come and go at seemingly random times. Sometimes flare-ups can be linked with an event and other times not.

It all leads to a sense that it’s random and hopeless.

And once it seems hopeless, the problem gets worse. Some people go to war with their body by ignoring it and pushing through (often to injury). Others retreat from their body and are afraid of moving.

But in either case, you distance yourself from sensation. You plug your ears and sing “La La La”, hoping the unsolvable problem solves itself.

Usually, this doesn’t work. However, there is a different solution. 

When you begin to reacquaint yourself with sensation in an open, kind way, you’ll find that your body is sending signals. Yes, sometimes they’re vague and capricious. But once you open to them, they’re there.

And these signals can help you (softly) predict your flare-ups. 

As an added bonus, this sense of proprioception (awareness of your body in space) and interoception (awareness of your body’s internal processes) soothes your nervous system. It helps you move more confidently and holistically.

The right support is critical

Many clients come to the studio after having tried everything. They’ve been to doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and personal trainers. They’ve tried yoga, acupuncture, swimming, and different diets. They have closets full of exercise balls, elastic bands, foam rollers, and kinesio-tape.

Nothing seems to work.

That’s because all of these therapists and therapies are well-meaning but they don’t understand sensitive bodies.

Most therapies are too intense for sensitive bodies. They don’t take into account bad days. They don’t offer guidance for understanding the right amount of challenge to promote well-being without causing a flare-up. They don’t help you to understand when your body is saying stop and when it’s just having a harmless conversation with you.

People with sensitive bodies need support and they need the right kind of support.

You need someone who:

  • Gives you feedback about what’s safe and what’s inflammatory.
  • Sees what you can’t see about your body and its patterns.
  • Has experience beyond your own.
  • Supports you through ups and downs, when progress is fast and slow.

Finding the right support can be tricky. Many people don’t have access to professionals who understand. To give you a leg up, here are some places to start with:

The right kind of support is key for everyone but especially important for people with sensitive bodies.

You’re stronger and more resilient than you realize

This last lesson is the one that makes my heart sing.

You are strong. Your body is resilient. You have super powers that you have yet to uncover.

Over and over I see this.

People arrive in the studio after having suffered medical trauma and gaslighting. They don’t trust their bodies and they’re used to masking their discomforts.

But when they begin to find stability and reveal their body's wisdom, they blossom. So many people discover that they are stronger than they thought. They begin to move with confidence and pride. 

Of course, their body is still sensitive. They still have to manage their ups and downs.

But when they make peace with their body, they realize that their body has done a pretty good job under the circumstances.

What’s your next step?

Find support. Find someone who can support you and help you build a plan to discover your true strength. 

I offer in-person and 1-on-1 online sessions to build a well-being plan tailored to your goals, resources, and circumstances. I help you to connect with your body so that you can be more comfortable and confident.

Depending on your goals, I can help you:

  • Increase your stability so you can do the activities you love (with physical exercises)
  • Understand your body to better manage pain, inflammation, and predict flare-ups
  • Decipher your body’s signals so you challenge yourself while minimizing the risk of flare-ups
  • Make a plan to manage daily activities or special events

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